435 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Chef Kaysen certainly has a great deal going for him, having represented the US in the Bocuse d'Or and won both Food and Wine's "Best New Chef" as well as James Beard "Rising Star Chef". The California native studied at The New England Culinary Institute and headed El Bizcocho in San Diego before taking his talents to New York to be the executive chef at Cafe Boulud.
According to its website, the menu at Cafe Boulud draws inspiration from four sources: la tradition, la saison, le potager, and le voyage. Fittingly Kayson's menu at Animal consists of five classic dishes from Cafe Boulud, a chance to show the hometown crowd what we are missing in New York. Demand was overwhelming with reservations for the meal booking up within minutes leading to the addition of a second day.
Sweet Petits Pois Arancini - Bed of Pea Shoots, Coleman Farms Radishes
2009 Gruner Veltliner, Obere Steigen, Huber
For a dish heavily featuring peas in the name they were almost non-existent in flavor. The fried rice balls were nicely cooked with a crisp exterior and hot creamy interior tinged with an almost imperceptible sweetness. The pea shoots were equally muted though the radishes added a nice bitter counterpoint to the entire affair. Most of my companions found the Parmesan lacking in intensity and though I agreed with them initially; upon further reflection the shallow simple cheese was probably more fitting.
Hiramasa Crudo - Compressed Watermelon, Fried Garlic, Ponzu, Cilantro Flowers
2008 Vouvray, Demi Sec, Foreau
Hiramasa has been popping up on menus with surprising frequency of late. This was my fourth experience with the fish in a month and arguably the best so far. The fish possesses a pale semi-translucent color and an oily gelatinous texture. The ponzu provides a gentle acidity to balance the fish's inherent fattiness. The watermelon was especially effective adding a juicy sweetness while the fried garlic makes its presence felt through its satisfying crunch. The second wine of the night, a floral Vouvray reminded me of an off-dry Kabinett Riesling and tied in with the dish nicely via the sweetness of the melon.
Spaghetti Nero - Fra Diavlo, Prawns, Squid, Tarragon
2007 Barbaresco, ‘Loretto,’ De Forville
This was probably the best course of the evening featuring firm noodles streaked with squid ink and seasoned with a delicate brine from the perfectly cooked shrimp and squid mixed with a commanding heat and explosive herbaceousness from the tarragon. The sauce felt more like a pico de gallo than a true sauce; combining the freshness and levity of a chunky salsa with the savory depth of a marinara.
Caper Crusted Lamb Loin - Weiser Carrots, Fava Beans, Pearl Onions, Mint Infused Lamb Jus
2009 Domaine Gramenon, La Sagesse, Cotes de Rhone
The final course of the night, a lamb loin, came out a bit more well-done than I'd like. The crust of ground capers provides a palpable contrast the the steely game of the meat. The meat came with classic vegetable sides and a bowl of cheesy potato "risotto." A solid preparation but one completely overshadowed by the transcendent lamb from Bistronomics 2.0 the night before.
Mousse au Chocolat - Hazelnut Gateau, Blood Orange, Lavender Crumble
1999 Riveslates Ambre, Domaine Fontanel
The final dessert was a classic pairing of rich chocolate mousse and moist hazelnut cake. The sweet duet is further enriched with an overarching citrus tang, simple yet effective.
I wasn't really sure if I wanted to check out Gavin Kaysen's dinner at Animal as four dinners in a row can tax even the strongest constitution. In the end, I made my decision to come based on a coin flip and was glad that I did. Though nothing was particularly spectacular, on the whole, the food was poised, refined, and thoughtfully composed.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
435 North Fairfax Avenue