Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Animal restaurant - L.A. Eats Part 1

I’ve always wondered what Wendy and her brothers felt when they first witnessed the great wonders of Neverland. Seeing the mermaids’ lagoon, fairies, and the vast forest full of magnificent animals, they must’ve been in awe. Same as when I first experienced the outstanding food at Animal restaurant. This is my favourite restaurant in the US to date. My wife and I loved it so much that we decided to return a few nights later that week.

Animal is located on North Fairfax Avenue, in Mid-City West, Los Angeles. It is also in close proximity to CBS Television City. The service and food was superb. Animal restaurant staff like Solomon and Victor were very friendly and knowledgeable of every item in the menu. Animal is a casual dining restaurant with a full bar. The candle-lit tables give this restaurant a touch of sophistication. But what I love about Animal most is that they offer fusion cuisine. It’s a fusion of cuisines such as Asian, American, Latin American, and European. The art of fusion in food always amazes me.

pig tails, “buffalo style”, celery, ranch

The pig tails, “buffalo style”, celery, ranch ($11) is one of my picks in the menu. The pig tail gives the dish the slight effect of having chicken wings but with a little more fat and juicier. The buffalo style sauce is slightly spicy and very flavoursome. The ranch is creamy and slightly tangy.

barbecue pork belly sandwiches with slaw

Our absolute favourite dish out of the whole menu is their barbecue pork belly sandwiches with slaw ($13). The crispy, tender and juicy pork belly was served in a fluffy brioche. The slaw and sauce adds to the awesomeness of this slider.

balsamic pork ribs, delicata squash, arugula, pecan

The balsamic pork ribs, delicata squash, arugula, pecan ($19) is another winner. Pork ribs are tender with Asian influenced balsamic basting that combines American and Asian flavours and cooking techniques. The delicata squash was bursting with freshness in taste and was very exquisite when eaten with the pecan.

ricotta gnocchi, mike’s liver sauce, black trumpet, green garlic 

The ricotta gnocchi, mike’s liver sauce, black trumpet, green garlic ($15) had a very flavourful sauce and perfectly cooked gnocchi.

crispy pig’s head, pickled vegetable aioli 

The crispy pig’s head, pickled vegetable aioli ($12) was delish. It is pulled pig’s face meat encased in crispy crumbed coating.The meat is also slightly fatty but very juicy. The pickled vegetable aioli tames down the richness of the dish.

Hamachi tostada, herbs, fish sauce vinaigrette, peanut 
It is all about fresh ingredients with the Hamachi tostada, herbs, fish sauce vinaigrette, peanut ($15). The fresh Hamachi fish is slightly cooked in what appears to be similar to Mexican tostadas but has a smooth surface. The tostadas add an interesting crisp to the Hamachi. The mix fresh herbs are dressed with delicate fish sauce vinaigrette. The vinaigrette has well-balanced salty and sour flavours.

bacon chocolate crunch bar with salt and pepper ice cream
One of my favourites and the most interesting item in the menu is the bacon chocolate crunch bar with salt and pepper ice cream ($7). It is an amazing marriage between bacon and chocolate. It also showcases the perfect harmony of salty and sweet flavours. The salt and pepper ice cream (yes, you read that correctly) on its own tasted weird. But when eaten with the bacon and chocolate crunch bar, it transforms the taste from good to epic! Also, I must mention that this dessert is a very popular item in the menu. I now understand why.

If you ever visit Los Angeles in the future, do include this in your list of restaurants to visit. I have found my Neverland in L.A. in the form of Animal restaurant. Our Neverland dining experience at Animal was very yummy for our tummies!

Animal restaurant
435 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90048, United States
Phone number: (323) 7829225
Sun-Thu 6-11pm
Fri-Sat 6pm-2am
Animal on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 20, 2012

Las Vegas Eats - Part 2 - Buffets

Las Vegas is one big buffet. My eyes feasted on so many fascinating and entertaining sights. It’s a big city buffet of hotels, casinos, bars, clubs and shopping. Shopping in the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets was also pretty amazing. But above all that, my taste buds feasted on a lot of good food. When visiting Vegas, one must visit a buffet restaurant.  Just like riding the Shinkansen train in Japan or visiting the “walk of fame” in Los Angeles. 

The buffets are massive and the varieties of dishes are numerous. Also, the prices are reasonably priced. We’ve visited a few buffets during our stay in Vegas. My favourites are Spice Market and The Buffet at the Bellagio hotel. I will let the photos do most of the talking for these two amazing buffet restaurants.

Spice Market

We went to Spice Market as part of a 24 hour Buffet Of Buffets pass ($49.99 plus tax). The pass gives you access to about 7 buffets within 24 hours. The awesome Spice Market is located within Planet Hollywood's casino. It features food from around the world such as Mexican, Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern and American. To top it all up, the big range of desserts are available.

I like both the American and Middle Eastern sections. The ribs (which is my favourite out of the whole spread) were so falling of the bones and smothered in tangy barbecue sauce. While the skewered kebabs & baba ghanoush dip were full of flavour.

Spice Market was voted #1 buffet in Las Vegas.

The Buffet at the Bellagio Hotel

This is my absolute favourite in Vegas. The Buffet is located within Bellagio's casino. I've got two words for this buffet, "massive" and "quality". For a gourmet dinner on Friday and Saturday, it's US$36.95 per person tax inclusive.

Beef Wellington

Racks of lambs

Maple seared salmon

Beef ravioli with wild mushrooms and sherry cream sauce

Five cheese tortellini with walnut pesto

Five spice pork belly

Pork ribs



Pistachio macarons

They have monster meats like roasted prime rib, racks of Asian inspired pork ribs, roast lamb and more. Everything you want from antipasto, stir-fries, pastas, gourmet pizza, paella, dimsums, seafood, sushi, and a wide range of desserts.

Even with the buffet spread being enormous, food quality does not diminish. It is definitely superb and a must in your list of buffets to visit in Vegas.

Spice Market
Planet Hollywood Hotel
3667 Las Vegas Boulevard  
Las Vegas, NV 89109, United States
(702) 785-5555

Spice Market (Planet Hollywood) on Urbanspoon
The Buffet
Bellagio Hotel
3600 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109-4339, United States
(702) 693-7111
Buffet (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon