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'Carniwhore' Alert: NY Times Gets 'pork-selective' in LA, Butchers Palate

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Sappymoosetree via Flickr

Sappymoosetree via Flickr
The New York Times' Frank Bruni came to Los Angeles, and all he got was pork. Well, that's not entirely true, but he did get a menu's worth of pig-meat when he dined at Animal in West Hollywood, and deemed the restaurant so-so, unless you have a pork fetish:

[It] isn’t a great restaurant, or at least it wasn’t when I tried it. But it’s the epitome of a promiscuously meaty approach to cooking that might well be called the carniwhore school.

Bruni recounts the plethora of pork belly on the app menu ("pork belly with kimchi in an Asian preparation" or "house-smoked pork belly with lentils") then noted the pig-plenty on the entrees list ("a pork chop, pork ribs or a pork foot, also known as a trotter"), and even found a little piggy available for dessert (" the house-made bacon chocolate crunch bar"). Other pork names being dropped: "chorizo (with melted Spanish cheese), slab bacon (as an accessory for fried quail), veal sweetbreads, marrow bones or chicken livers," and "foie gras" that "comes on a biscuit that’s doused in maple syrup and gravy, and the gravy includes pork sausage."

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Uhh, okay, Bruni. So what's your beef with all this pork?Politicians are apt to point out pork in legislation, and Bruni seems rather pleased to point out pork in abundance--of course, at a restaurant named Animal, that seems rather the point. Angelenos' recent pork enthusiasm (typically relegated to the bacon category: bacon hot dogs, bacon donuts, bacon chocolate bars, et al) is a bit of a puzzler, since it is a bit odd to embrace the (pork) fat in a city of lean. Maybe that's the adventure Bruni hints (sneers?) at:

The carniwhore school holds that no beast bests the pig in its multifaceted pleasures, that offal shouldn’t be relegated to just one or two dishes on the margins of the main feast, and that if you think something might taste better fried, go ahead and fry it, arteries be damned. What it promotes isn’t so much decadent eating as daredevil eating.

He wraps up his review (not in bacon, pancetta, or proscuitto, alas) with some parting thoughts about Animal's young proprietors, the din of the dining room, the winning wine list, some dishes he actually enjoyed, and one piece of pork he was glad he didn't veto. That would be the pork ribs, of which he said: "if you’re going to be pork-selective at Animal, this is the pork to select."Bruni's other stops were Bazaar, which he dubbed an Outstanding Newcomer, and Glendale's much-lauded Palate Food + Wine, which he then proceeds to butcher today in a blog post called "The Lesser Los Angeles." Bruni had a classic bad experience (and perhaps being a fish out of his own NYC waters was easily unrecognized) and doesn't mind sharing:

The food at Palate — from a menu driven by the greenmarket and characterized by a bevy of salumi and cheese — was as utterly forgettable as the service was memorable.

Devotees of Bruni's assessments may well avoid two of the three places he visited when next they find themselves in our fair city, but in this age of the internet, will his NYT skewering of Palate and Animal affect how we eat out? Meh. Probably not. In the age of Yelp, most people have learned to take high profile critics with a proverbial grain of salt.

And speaking of Yelpers, they have mostly mad love for Animal: "When the Nine Inch Nails wrote, 'I want to fuck you like an Animal,' they must have been thinking of this place," opines one diner. Grrrrrowl! Definitely not something Frank Bruni would say.

435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles (323) 782-9225

SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles (310) 246-5567

Palate Food + Wine
933 S Brand Blvd, Glendale (818) 662-9463