You know how recently I've been experimenting with healthy eating and lighter meals? This is not one of those posts. Taking a night off from my kind-of-diet, I decided to splurge on a meal at the L.A. outpost of NYC's The Cannibal, and it was SO worth it. A shrine to cured meats and seasonal cuisine, The Cannibal is a butcher shop and restaurant that believes in incorporating every animal part into their meat centric menu, from braised pig heads to huge slabs of lamb. But in case you thought this place was a one-trick pony, think again; their creative and seasonal veggie preparations are just as good as their carnivorous fare. And with a creative cocktail menu, plenty of beer and wine options, and a summer-ready outdoor patio, The Cannibal is shaping up to be this season's hottest new eatery.
Situated in the new Platform in Culver City, the whole space actually isn't that huge. However, the outdoor patio, large windows (with plenty of natural light), and semi-industrial feel really open up the space. With communal tables and wood accents, the whole space has a very casual, welcoming, and neighborhood-oriented feel.
From their expansive-yet-focused craft cocktail menu, I ordered the Aperol Spritz, one of the cocktails that they offer "on draft." A wine-based cocktail made with Aperol (bitter liquor) and a bit of soda, the cocktail was light, refreshing, and boasted a hint of citrus flavor. It's really the perfect summer cocktail, and it complemented our appetizers and snacks really well.
With our cocktails, we ordered a round of "Bar Snacks." We started off with the peanuts, which were served in a branded jar. The peanuts were great-- salty enough (but not overly so), and pretty addicting to munch on. We also ordered the Cacio e Pepe chips, which are modeled after the popular Italian pasta dish. The pepper and cheese flavor was definitely apparent and really tasty, but didn't overwhelm the chip or seem artificial (these aren't your typical "flavored" chips). Finally, we ordered a set of the skewers, which came with pancetta, halumi, and duck liver. Fatty but still crispy, the pancetta was definitely a highlight, and was great when dipped in the egg sauce. The halumi was also really nice, and I loved the crispy exterior with the melty, cheesy interior. Flavorful and rich, the duck liver was a satisfying and luxurious little treat. All together, the snacks were a really nice way to start off the meal, and with our group of 5, held us over without filling us up too much.
Of course, we couldn't miss out on their selection of cured meats and cheeses. The waiter kindly offered to choose for us, and we gladly took him up on this, as we trusted his expertise. He did not disappoint. The 3 cheeses were a Weybridge from Vermont, the Surfin' Blue from Italy, and a Cremont Cow & Goat from Vermont. They were all creamy, rich, and delicious. Served with a sweet fruit jam and honey, the combination of the cheese, jam, and meats was really hard to beat. The salty, meaty salumi and country ham were served in delicate slices that could be elegantly layered on a piece of sturdy bread or easily enjoyed by themselves. An exemplary selection of charcuterie that gently introduced us to the meaty flavors of the menu.
Proving that their formidable chefs can be as creative with vegetables as they are with slabs of meat, the restaurant's roasted carrot dish was an ode to seasonal, beautiful produce. The carrots were sweet and tender, while the puree at the bottom added a creamy element that gave the dish a bit more oomph.
From their sausage menu, we went with the Beef Bulgogi. The sausage itself was really flavorful and tender, and definitely had those Korean flavors you would expect when ordering anything beef bulgogi. The spice definitely wasn't overwhelming, though.
From their daily specials, we ordered the white peach salad. The whole dish was really light, while the white peaches were a bit crunchy and added a nice fruity element to the overall meal. Another example of how The Cannibal excels with light, vegetable-centric dishes as much as they do with meat.
Rounding out our vegetable selection, we had to get the eggplant. The eggplant was cooked perfectly-- tender, rich, and sweet. While the almond added a crunchy element, the bone marrow added another layer of flavor and richness, bringing in a meaty element that tied the whole meal together. This was definitely a highlight of the vegetables.
Obviously, we had to order some of the large slabs of meat! We opted for the Spring lamb, which was cooked perfectly. The large piece was tender and medium to medium-rare in the middle, while crispy little pieces were mixed into the accompanying peas and fava. Paired with the spicy vadouvan jus, the dish was light, meaty, salty, and spicy; yet, because of the simplicity of the dish, all of these flavor profiles managed to work seamlessly together. A real highlight of the evening.
Finally, we ordered the Grilled Chicken. I'm usually not a huge chicken person when I'm dining out, but this iteration was really tender, and the chili scallion oil added a bit more moisture and flavor to the execution. All together, it was another surprisingly light option that would be perfect for those of your party looking for options other than red meat.
Overall, our meal at The Cannibal was excellent. The dining experience was really fun, and there was plenty on the menu for everyone in our party (even those allergic to cheese and those looking for a lighter meal). I was both impressed and surprised with how well they treated their non meat-centric dishes, and loved the seasonality of all items on the menu. With their great cuisine, lovely space, and tasty cocktail menu, I'm predicting this space as the rising Hotspot Of The Summer.