Animae – Downtown San Diego

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During our time at home, I have been trying to get back into the flow of writing. My creative juices have run dry for a little bit, like an overcooked chicken breast. Luckily they have started to return with a little time, rest, and healing. Since we are not actively going out to eat right now, I am backlogging some of the blogs I have been meaning to write for the past couple of months. I will do my best to recall all the delicious details, so as not to disappoint our fantastic readers!

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As a special Christmas treat to ourselves, we went out to a fancy schmancy dinner with our friends Lashley and Andy (hi guys!). Think of it as a Treat-Yo-Self kind of day. After heavy researching, we decided to check out Animae. Animae is off of North Harbor Drive on the ground floor of the Pacific Gates luxury condos building. It is a part of the Puffer Malarkey Collective which includes Little Italy’s Herb & Wood. The menu is a unique combination of pan-Asian with influences from other cultures including Californian and Mediterranean. The decor is Art-Deco and opulent. Beautiful, plush booths sit under intricate light fixtures. The velvet curtains and funky floors give it a 70s chic. I felt perfectly in place with my suede and faux-fur lined knee length jacket, but that is besides the point. 

 

As I mentioned, the food is wood-fired pan Asian cuisine. We decided to all share a few small plates, rice, and noodles as a table. We asked our waitress for help deciding what to choose of their extensive, yummy menu. We started with some Ahi Tuna carpaccio accompanied by grapes and chilis and topped with white balsamic, scallions, and shichimi. It was cool and refreshing. Ian, of course, did not partake. Next we got the Tom Yum Mushrooms. Surprisingly delicious and simply. Basically, picture Tom Yum soup (hot and sour Thai soup) that has been cooked down so far it becomes just a sauce. They use that to cook up an awesome blend of mushrooms and top it was a big old scoop of melty burrata. Sounds odd, but man it was good. Really hit those umami notes. For Ian, we got some Wagyu Beef bulgogi skewers. They were tender and juicy. I saved the best appetizer for last though (although I know Ian won’t agree). This was probably one of the most interesting things I have ever ordered, but definitely top ten most delicious things I have ever eaten. That is a big statement I know, but very, very true. We ordered the butter dumplings. So you might be thinking, oh, that is not weird, right? Well, the dumplings were filled with hot butter and escargot, and then they sat on top of Waugyu beef carpaccio. These dumplings just melted as soon as they touched your tongue. They were rich, creamy, and unctuous. I could have eaten ten. I’d go back just for those! Ian was not a huge fan of the escargot portion, but enjoyed the rest. I mean, who can argue with hot, melted butter? The key is to let the hot butter rest on the carpaccio for a little bit and then eat it. It’ll lightly cook it and just impart all that warm, buttery flavor.

So you might think we were done eating then, right? No, no that was just the beginning! Ok to be fair though, the plates are not big. Just saying. So we split an order of Korean Fried Chicken. This is served with hot steamed buns. The sauce was sticky, sweet, and slightly spicy. The breading was crunchy and light. The chicken was juicy. Also, the pickles added the perfect touch of briny goodness. Another surprisingly good dish we got was the Ham Hock Fried Rice. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I always love a good fried rice, but this was something else. Very special. The smoky ham and mustard greens paired perfectly with creamy peas and runny egg yolk. 10/10 would recommend. We also got a pork belly noodle (I can’t remember exactly what it was), but we did not love it. There was a very strong use of fish sauce and furikake which is not high on our love list. 

 

While we were stuffed to the gills, I had heard that their desserts were incredible, so we decided to order some. Honestly, I kind of wish we would have left it at our perfect appetizers and mains ordering, because we did not love our desserts. We got a pavlova (which as you know, is one of our favorite desserts) and a semifreddo dessert. The pavlova was chocolate with yuzu mousse, huckleberry compote, and chocolate cremeux. Honestly, the tart, punch-you-in-the-teeth citrus flavor of the yuzu overpowered the rest of the dessert and the combination of flavors just did not work for us. The pavlova was good when you got it by itself, but it got lost in all the sour citrus flavors. I don’t remember what was in the semifreddo, but it had the same overwhelming citrus vs. sweetness factors.

While we were slightly letdown by dessert (and maybe it’s just because that is not our speed), we enjoyed our overall experience at Animae. The food was really great. Did we love how much it cost? No. But it was the right choice for a Treat Yo Self night. Unfortunately, we heard it is closed right now during the COVID-19 stuff, so let’s hope it reopens when everything returns to normal!

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