The Cannibal Specializes In Quality Meats, Seasonal Veggies And Lots Of Beer
The Cannibal is a new Culver City restaurant that will surely please meat-eaters, but its vegetable offerings and extensive beer menu shouldn't be overlooked.
Humans aren't on the menu at The Cannibal. Let's just get that out of the way. The name comes from Eddy Merckx, a professional bicycle racer from Belgium who was given the nickname "the cannibal" by his teammate, Christian Raymond. Apparently, Raymond told his daughter that Merckx refused to let anyone beat him, and his daughter called Merckx a cannibal.
The Cannibal is part-butcher shop and part-restaurant, similar to Gwen in Hollywood, which opened its European-style butcher shop last weekend and will open its dining space later this month. It comes via owner Christian Pappanicholas, partner Cory Lane and executive chef Francis Derby, and it has its origins in New York, where the first Cannibal opened in 2012. Los Angeles' The Cannibal can be found within PLATFORM, the mixed-used concept from the Runyon Group in Culver City that also contains a Blue Bottle, Aesop and SoulCycle. You may be interested to know that Runyon Group is also behind ROW DTLA, which just gave us our own version of Brooklyn's Smorgasburg.
As one might expect, the menu has an extensive amount of meat offerings, beginning with snacks and charcuterie, tartare, carpaccio, pates and sausages, and shining with its impossibly large cuts of steak. While you might want to start your meal with one of their pretzels or a sampling of beef jerky, those looking to dig right in can ask for the off-menu Grand Tour. This epic board contains a variety of pates, salumi and other items, and will be offered to larger parties. (However, Derby says he has seen a two-top finish one off, so ask if you're feeling ambitious.)
Derby tells LAist that while they do not cure in-house at the moment, they do make their own pates, livers and sausages. For cured meats, they carefully source favorite products from all over the country. This includes a variety of country hams from the South, each from a different smokehouse; salumi from New York; and an incredible Woodland Back Bacon that is "a type of lardo that is smoked like bacon but treated like cured lardo." Lardo is made by curing fatback with various spices. They also do an interesting chicken liver mousse with matcha tea, which is unlike anything else you're likely to find around town.
"I think I had a green tea mousse or ice cream and it just kind of made sense," Derby said. "There's a nice earthiness to green tea that it brings to the dish. We pair it with bright plums that we just barely roast in the oven." The dish is finished with a crunchy almond granola.
Derby makes unconventional sausages, choosing to produce whole, composed plates versus plopping a sausage in the center of a roll. You can see this with his bulgogi sausage with sesame, beat sprouts and apple jang, or the chicken parm, topped with burrata and tomato, basil, lemon and olive oil.
If you're really hungry, The Cannibal offers large cuts of meat, which may be shared. They've got a 60-day dry-aged rib-eye that comes in at 96 ounces. It is a fatty, tender meat that has a funky, unique, but no less mouth watering aroma and taste. It's also $320. Eating something like this is "very communal," according to Derby.
"It's fun to roll a 96'er out to a table. It's a two-to-three bone ribeye that we've been cooking for five hours. And rather than everyone getting their own steak, [the table is] in it together." So much so that Derby has occasionally seen tables offer bites of their meals to complete strangers who happen to be sitting nearby. This has also happened with one of the restaurant's more unique dishes, the General Tso's Pig's Head. This involves thinly sliced and tender pig's head wrapped in a moo shu pancake with crunchy vegetables for a taste that Derby compares to picking up something tasty to eat from a Chinese corner shop.
But enough about meat, let's talk about vegetables. It's not just roast potatoes and seasonal greens here playing second fiddle to the meat. The vegetable menu is just as robust, which has a lot to do with Los Angeles.
"I've never seen markets and produce like I'm seeing out here in L.A.," Derby said. "Not to say that New York does not have phenomenal produce, but the timespan that the produce is phenomenal is kind of short. Our trips to the farmers market affected our menu. We let the market tell us what we need on the menu."
Desserts include cakes, tarts and pavlovas among other items. Some of those are mixed with the meatier side of the restaurant, such as a cherry tart with foie frangipane, but some will also be light, refreshing, berry- or citrus-focused options. Derby feels like a pavlova will be a constant option, and we must say we enjoyed their stone fruit pavlova—hard on the outside, but rich and creamy when cracked—more than their chocolate cake.
Drink-wise, you can choose from a list of wines, many of which are from California, or one of their cocktails (two on draft), but we might suggest paying attention to their very extensive beer menu curated by cicerone Julian Kurland. According to operating partner Cory Lane, The Cannibal offers as many as 500 beers, predominantly in bottles. The restaurant only has 10 or so beers on draft.
"A lot of the really great international beers are hard to get, or they're impossible to get in drafts, and there's also a ton of maintenance involved with keeping a 30, 50, 70-keg draft system," Lane says. "So, we went down the road of bottle and learned to work in that, and there's a lot of things we love about bottles and cans."
Many options are, of course, Belgian, but there's something for everyone on the list. As a nod to its namesake, if you're in cycling gear, your second beer is free.
And if you're not planning on sticking around, you can always pop in the shop side and grab a sandwich to-go or something to cook at home.
The Cannibal is located at 8850 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, 310-838-2783.