I was fresh from Michael Voltaggio's table, and his sous vide Wagyu short rib was so good it was blowing my mind. I finished the plate as I approached Animal's station, and I had an incredulous look on my face. Vinny Dotolo said, "I know. Amazing, isn't it?"
I said, "Yeah. Do you think you can beat that?"
He good-naturedly replied, "Well, it's not a contest."
Just then his assistant handed a guest a ballot and said, "Make sure to vote for us."
I hid my smile and walked away with their Poutine with oxtail, gravy and cheddar, unaware that the hinges were about to be blown off the door. Holy mother of God, going from the Wagyu straight to the oxtail may have been the best two bites I have ever had. In my life.
That poutine dish is going on my list of possible last meals. I have been lucky enough to eat so much amazing food I will have a hard time picking my last meal. They may have to kill me over and over again. It's on the menu right now at Animal, so I have got to get down there soon.
For anyone who doesn't know, poutine is like the national dish of Quebec, if it were a nation (and don't you dare tell them they aren't). Cheese curds and gravy on fries - the quintessential drunk dish. It's one of those things that can be made really, really badly and often is. It is an eye-rolling joke to the rest of Canada, but I will go to the mat for poutine now that Animal has elevated it to heavenly status.
The gravy was so rich -- first they made a veal stock, then used that to make a Bordelaise, then used that to make a foie sauce. All that hard work definitely showed. The meat, which braised for hours and hours, was flavorful and falling apart. The minor change to a quality cheddar cheese made all the difference. And it almost seemed like they magically worked out a formula so that every single fry had the perfect bite of cheese and meat instead of falling all over the place in a big mess. Let's give these boys a "Hell, yeah!"
Ryan Duval of the Cordon Bleu program, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook
Really, you have to love these guys. They are like the garage band of the culinary scene. How about this quote from Food and Wine when they were awarded in the category of Best New Chefs of 2009:
On the L.A. food scene:
Vinny: “People out here eat like kids: hamburgers, hot dogs, doughnuts. You can tell: So much fast food started out here.”
The two chefs met in culinary school in Florida, where they started their culinary career moving as a unit from one restaurant to another, then to Vail, and finally Los Angeles. After a short stint at the doomed Chadwick, they got an odd job painting Ben Ford's house, which eventually led to a job cooking for Ben's father, Harrison Ford (yes, that's why Ben Ford is such a babe). Then on to catering, The Food Network and finally Animal, where we can only hope we can keep them.
I first saw Vinny Dotolo at a panel called "Carnivore" where he proved himself to be knowledgeable and erudite.
Jon rocks the mic
Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook with Will Blunt, Managing Editor of StarChefs.com and Antoinette Bruno, StarChefs.com CEO and Editor-in-Chief.
Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook with Rory Hermann