Pop-Up

2009_8_animalchefs Love the pop-up concept which has taken off from retail to food.  Clever on so many levels.  Great marketing, quick turn-over, limited time so all interested customers make sure they get there, low overhead and lots of room for creativity.

Animal, a cooking duo from Los Angeles, took over the kitchen at Sole East for a mere week and so we went last night for dinner.

Out here ( Amagansett), I do stay close to home and go to a few stand-bys for many reasons.  I hate to drive, I hate traffic and drinking and driving don't mix.  It was nice to get out and see what's doing. Sole East is a groovy hipster boutique hotel/motel/spa/restaurant in Montauk.  The grounds and ambiance reminds me of Venice, CA.  Not surprising the Animal duo chose this location for their pop-up.

The service is abysmal almost comical so bad.   We began with a bottle of wine.  The waitress asked, how many?  Josh was the only kid and there were 6 of us with him.  We said 6, she said sure.  My friend noted, we were going European style.  The difference is the Europeans actually pay attention to how much they serve the kid.  I am pretty sure, after seriously bad service, that the waitress has no idea that Josh was 13.  Maybe she didn't notice the braces but serving him 2 huge glasses of wine was not cool as we weren't paying attention…I was across the table and Fred was next to Josh.  Josh got a tad hammered.  At least he was comical although an unfortunate incident hopefully to not be repeated again.

And so the meal begins.  First course out was deep fried hominy with lime.  Lightly coated grits that were crunchy and full of flavor.  A nice start, sort of like a good bowl of french fries.  This was a total family style meal.  The next appetizer out came in the dish it was baked in.  I love that.  Thinly sliced crispy chorizo over caramelized onions and covered with a tangy melted cheese that was browned.  Served on the side was crispy pieces of bread.  Super rich and quite tasty.  Later on in the meal they brought another one out that none of us ordered but we took it anyway.  It appears we kept getting served other tables orders.  Sometimes one thing came out and then the 2 we ordered came out later instead of it all together.  At one point we got something we didn't even order and sent it back.  The poor kid serving the food looked very confused.

The first order that came out on a couple of plates were the pig ear salad.  Conceptually clever.  Sliced ears, roasted with a chili lime sauce and a sunny side egg over the top.  Cut open the egg and mix it all up and serve yourself up.  To me, the dish is certainly innovative but the lime chili mix was so heavy handed that the dish made you pucker.  There needed to be something sweet in there to cut down on the bitter. 

Next out was balsamic glazed ribs, that literally fell off the bone with a side salad of arugula, green beans, a few golden tomatoes and a chili lemon sauce.  They love the chili kick here.  Pretty good.  I admit, I am funny about ribs.  I make them at home and I love my ribs, ginger and bbq.  It is something that I never eat out because for the few times I want to eat them, I want to make them. 

My favorite thing was next.  BBQ pork belly slider in a house made brioche with a nice sized scoop of cole slaw.  Really tasty, well cooked and a total treat.  The next thing is supposedly the house favorite but I didn't love it.  A large hamburger/spam cooked way too much and a slice of foie gras over the top and sunny side quail eggs over that.  Under all of this is a very crunchy grain and a sweet spicy brown sauce that is almost gooey.  Didn't do it for me. 

Loved the space, love the concept and really innovative.  A clever menu which would have been better suited to something that was more beach oriented for the hot days of August like a genius crab/lobster roll with chili and limes but they didn't.  Won't run back for another night but might check out the regular restaurant at one point except the service is scary bad.  I'd like to go Animal's restaurant in Los Angeles when I am there.  They are really trying to push the envelope, the menu changes daily and that part I really like.