The Cannibal Butcher & Beer: They've Got the Meat!
Years ago I found myself in a Biergarten in Munich Germany enjoying a pint of Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbierand and a blood sausage covered in sauerkraut. Though I had missed Oktoberfest by only a few days, the delectable Bavarian food I was enjoying—and the frothy beer that washed it down quickly expunged my disappointment. In honor of the season, I figured it was time to go all homosapien-sapien on ya’ll and check out The Cannibal Beer & Butcher.
Coming off the success of their New York location, owner Christian Pappanicholas and operating partner Cory Lane, teamed up with executive chef Francis Derby once again to deliver the meat to the West Coast. The restaurant opened earlier this summer at The Platform Project, a burgeoning enclave of luxury shops and foodie-approved restaurants quickly becoming my favorite LA hangout. With cacti and succulents lining the pathway to the next hip shopping or eating experience, it’s definitely a place to see and be seen—attracting a variety of interesting and artistic patrons. It was on such an exploration walk through The Platform, that I discovered The Cannibal.
According to The Cannibal website, the restaurant “specialize(s) in large cuts and group nose-to-tail dining with whole animal feasts,” from braised pig’s head to 96oz 60-day dry-aged ribeye. But even if your meat-loving sensibilities don’t go quite that far, the inventive menu with its seasonal vegetable dishes that are just as balanced and well crafted as the locally sourced pates and carpaccios', will make for one adventurous meal.
Whenever I go out to a restaurant I like to evaluate my experience on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the following 6 criteria: A)Atmosphere, B)Appetizer C)Cocktails/Beverage D)Dessert/Coffee E)Entrée and F)Service. I add up the scores from each category and divide by 6 to get the average.
Walking up to the restaurant I was immediately drawn to the richness of the honey wood that framed its glass windows. A geometric pattern in the same wood continued on the ceiling laden with rustic knots. Like butcher blocks, the tables outside are wood slabs—all seeming to possess a red tint, as if the blood of slaughtered animals had stained the wood after being wiped clean. To the left is the retail butcher shop that sells sandwiches and curried meats during the day. Front and center is the bar illuminated by copper pendants and a backlit wall of spirits that glows like amber. Overall, Studio Mai (who also designed Gjelina on Abbot Kinney) created an atmosphere with the perfect mixture of hard and soft natural materials. Everything comes together to create a modern and chic environment that is still relaxed and unpretentious. I gave it a 9.
At The Cannibal dishes are served family style. One picks and chooses from the menu categories: Raw, Terrine&Pate, Cured, Sausages, Cheese, Vegetables and of course Meats to create their ideal sharable feast. Our highly informed waitress provided a wonderful crash course of the menu which included a walk through their sizable beverage list that features 400 beers from around the globe as well as specialty cocktails and wines. She was friendly without being overly solicitous and you could tell she really loved the menu items she was recommending. Because the food comes out as its prepared, she was helpful in coursing our meal so it progressed naturally. Her service earned her a 9 in my book.
I’m not much of a beer drinker, so IPA’s and IBUs and whatever other fancy qualifications are somewhat lost on me. But for those of you that are beer connoisseurs, The Cannibal is definitely a restaurant bar you want to try. In addition to the 400 bottles of beer, The Cannibal boasts a carbon and nitrogen pressurizer for its 16 craft beers. Most bars have a system for pouring their draft beers but they are preset by the leading beer companies to offer the best pull for their product and can’t be adjusted. Alternatively, The Cannibal’s pressurizer features a tubing system to the right of the copper panel and red dials that’s specifically set for each individual beer; so if a beer is heavier or lighter, the amount of nitrogen and carbon is regulated when it is pulled. It preserves the integrity of the flavor, makes for a superior drinking experience and they’re only 10 in the world. After my craft-beer lesson and slurping down “The Samitaur,” (blanco tequila, pressed mint, citrus, fresh pineapple, lime salt) I gave it a 9.2.
My dining companions and I began our meal with a selection of 3 country hams from the Cured section of the menu. With grilled bread in hand, we quickly consumed the sweet, salty and smoky meats— some thick and some thinly sliced like prosciutto. Soon came the roasted beets on an avocado and pesto puree with crispy basil leaves and spaghetti squashed in champagne dressing topped with shaved goat cheese. We were all in agreement about ordering the brussel sprouts drenched in anchovy aioli and the grilled shishito peppers with black garlic and ricotta. I love country ham and will go to my grave singing its praises, but the vegetables stole the show. It was the disparate ingredients that somehow came together to create these explosive flavor profiles that were unexpected but delightful. As appetizers go, I was happy to give it a 9.4.
Like in real estate when people say “location, location, location,” when it comes to The Cannibal it’s “entree, entree, entree.” The hanger steak was tender and juicy, which was only enhanced by the carrot walnut romesco that accompanied it. Just when I thought the excellence of the Thai sausages laying on a bed of watermelon and cilantro couldn’t be topped, the crown jewel of our meal was placed before me. The Lamb & Gruyere sausage and its fennel salad dressed in lemon vinaigrette was mind blowing. The fennel’s distinctive taste and the citrus brightened up the earthy spices present in the gamey meat. It was a pleasure to eat and one that I admittedly didn’t want to share! The sausage carried the evening with a 9.6 on my scale of deliciousness.
Who doesn’t love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Well, ordinarily that would be me (I don’t dislike peanut butter but I could take or leave it)! However, when our waitress described the peanut butter mousse that’s denser than a pudding topped with a Concord grape coulis and North Carolina peanuts, I was game to give it a try (maybe it was the NC peanuts that appealed to my southern pride). For the peanut butter lovers out there (like my partner) you’re going to be puzzled by the consistency, but gobbling it up all the same. That was great for the people at the table who loved the lemon Pavlova. With its hard shell protecting the ooey gooey lemon center, a sugary zest complimented the fresh strawberries and pistachios that gave the dessert its crunch. Pastry Chef Kelli Nehls really did an outstanding job with these two. I gave it a 9.2
Adding it all up, The Cannibal scored a TBOT 9.2 carving its place in my mind (and hopefully the minds of those of you who go try it) as one of the best new restaurants in L.A.—proving that sometimes what’s sauce for the goose (NYC foodies) is sauce for the gander (LA foodies)!