It seems as if every third restaurant that opens in L.A. can trace its lineage to Animal, that 9-year-old poster child of meaty chic and gluttonous cool. But the Animal vets at Here's Looking at You — Jonathan Whitener, the former chef de cuisine, and Lien Ta, a former manager — did something a little different than the others: They took Animal's more feral qualities and civilized them, to great effect. The dining room is more comfortable and intimate while retaining that high-spirited vibe; the food less riotous but no less exciting. Silky heirloom tomatoes rest in a bed of crème fraîche and hide under a blanket of pulverized Chinese sausage that calls to mind bacon bits — and the whole thing tastes like the world's most luxurious BLT. Sprouted broccoli is mixed with seeds and nuts and ginger and is crunchy and salad-y and heavenly. And oh my God the sunchoke and squid ink meringue dessert. If you're having a hard time imagining how either savory ingredient makes sense in this context, just trust that the whole thing comes out tasting like cookies and cream. This is a sophisticated creature indeed.
Credit: Anne Fishbein