Neighborhood: Los Angeles
Most of the time you end up at a restaurant run by someone on Top Chef, it's a sit-down, upscale affair (like say, the upcoming Shaw Bijou). What I certainly didn't expect from Ludo Lefebvre and the two dudes behind Animal was a small no-reservations spot in a strip mall that takes its decorative cues from a beach taco shack (this is not to say that it's not incredibly put together, because it is). Then again, what else could manage to hold a French-Mexican fusion place that only opens for brunch?
What a magical eye-opening brunch it is, that hits and keeps on coming. Most everything here is playful, and combines the taste points of high-end cuisine in approachable ways. Take the bean and cheese burrito, one that combines big cassoulet eans and a garlic brown butter sauce in a nontraditional manner. It's something you'd expect to side a filet of chicken or fish, but that here plays like a casual wrap.
Everything on this menu is basically great, especially when the menu plays with texture: the crispy-goopy hashbrown chilaquiles, or the galette of egg and chorizo are my recommendations. The former is lick-your-bowl good, while the latter is like a high speed collision of a buckwheat crepe and a Spanish breakfast. Double decker potato tacos feel like something that you'd see at Taco Bell, and satisfies the same base need for texture and mouthfeel. If sweet tooth brunch is more your thing, the crunchy churro french toast hits the spot. About the only thing that doesn't work is the grits with mushrooms and pumpkin seeds, which is forgettable.
A singularly unique and joyous brunch.
Food Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)