Before getting out of the car, my friend and I had promised each other that we'd be adventurous eaters that night, stretching the limits of our gastronomic comfort zones and trusting in the prowess of renegade chefs Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook. It turned out that night's menu at Animal had so many temptations that we had to make an effort to order some of the weirder stuff rather than navigating around it.
There was a pig's ear salad, headcheese, and some quail egg yolk unctuousness. No use of offal was too gratuitous at a restaurant that is known to celebrate its head-to-tailness. It's tough to recommend or describe dishes at a restaurant where the majority of the menu changes pretty drastically week by week, so the best advice I have is to share a bunch of plates, which will come out haphazardly as they are ready.
The un-staged staggering of courses is a testament to the casual but practical way Animal runs. Why let one dish dry out under the lamp while another one is being assembled? It's as efficient as the bare-bones interior: white-washed walls, bald lightbulbs, simple wood tables and chairs. I hate it when people describe anything but a novel as postmodern, but that's pretty much what it is.
Waiters are quick to give friendly, in-the-know advice, but a diner is far from coddled. It's not a plush, luxurious, or even atmospheric dining experience; it's a keen, clever, and edgy one that's meant to put the food center stage, and its main player performs exuberantly.