Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo---often referred to as the Food Dudes, owners of Carmelized Productions, the catering company recently featured on the Food Network's 2 Dudes Catering---will debut their first restaurant Animal on Wednesday, June 11 if all goes according to plan. They invited us in for a sneak peek over the weekend and we found a fairly raw space with cement floors, a small bar at one end, high ceilings, no art (yet), burnt wood tables and unfinished wood banquettes. Nothing resembling the former T on Fairfax. Being so full of friends, clients and family for dinner on Friday, the din was almost deafening---truly, it's loud---which may be fixed over time. For a couple of young guys doing their own thing, there's only so much money to go around: It was more important to get good stemware, plates and cutlery than sound-absorption panels for the debut.
Don't expect refined, but they are serious about food. The name "Animal" could easily describe the way Shook and Dotolo attack their menus---they don't hold back. When we met them last year, Dotolo described their food as rustic but not everyday food, which pretty much sums it up. There's a lot of beef, pork, bacon everywhere, even on the signature chocolate crunch bar dessert (they had to sign a "no kosher" clause on the lease since the owners also own Schwartz's bakery next door), seasonal, good flavors. The tempura soft shell crab with pancetta vinaigrette, pork ribs with a tangy glaze, and wilted spinach with poached egg were all hits at our table (then again, two out of three had bacon). We saw roasted marrow bones, baby halibut crudo, crispy sweetbreads, ling cod with chevril butter at the preview. The menu changes daily, and prices hover around $10-$18 for apps, $20-$30 for entrees. Ther wine list is tight, eclectic, by the glass, carafe or bottle; they even have a private label chardonnay and cab from the Central Coast. Front of the house still needed some smoothing, but it was only their second full-service night. The Dudes haven't worked in a restaurant since their days at Chadwick years ago, so it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. Then again, it might not matter: First-week ressies are already hard to come by. (435 N. Fairfax Ave, 323.782.9225)
· The Food Dudes: From Food Network to Fairfax [~ELA~]
· Freshly Shorn Food Dudes Shooting for May Resto Debut [~ELA~]
· Plywood Report: Crudo, Animal, More [~ELA~]