Of the several new restaurants at Culver City’s new mixed-use Platform project — taco shop Loqui, Blue Bottle Coffee and artisanal ice cream parlor Van Leeuwen, for example — the Cannibal is possibly the most anticipated among them.
Take a look inside and it's easy to see why: The sleek, timber-clad venue boasts a butcher shop (which opened May 16), a marketplace and a bar-restaurant (which opened a week later and are modeled after the New York City flagship), all under one roof. The Cannibal is many things, and as such, there are multiple ways to experience it.
In the takeout butcher shop, cold cases and a stocked marketplace might entice shoppers to pick up more than what they came for. Veggie salads (rainbow chard with pickled raisin and red onion, broccoli rabe with cilantro and soy) are displayed next to a case of raw steaks, roasts and house-made sausages ready to be tossed on the grill.
A trifold menu lists hot and cold sandwiches available to go: There's a spicy meatball hero ($11) and an Italian combo ($12) made with mortadella, soppressata, capicola, provolone and cherry peppers. And amidst the shelves lined with sugary confections both local and mass-produced — jars of Squirl jam and boxes of Lemonheads, for example — is a wide window into the in-house butchery, where drying meats hang like holiday ornaments.
A stroll through a narrow, refrigerator-lined passageway connects butcher shop visitors to the bar and restaurant, but not before passing hundreds of international bottled beers on display behind the glass. Draft beers, a dozen or so cocktails and a solid wine list round out the drink menu.
Grab a seat at the counter if a beer and bar snacks are what you’re after — you can't go wrong with the fresh-made everything pretzel ($5) — or wait for a table either on the patio or in the bar-side dining room (both seating areas offer views of Expo line trains bustling in and out of the Culver City Metro station across the street).
As you might expect, the Cannibal is meat-focused (although the its name is actually a nod to Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx, who was given the nickname during his heyday in the 1970s). The bulk of the menu is occupied by charcuterie, terrines, pâtés and sausages.
The sausage menu alone demonstrates executive chef Francis Derby’s interest in robust and diverse flavors; options range from beef bulgogi sausage served alongside sesame leaf wrappers ($14) to a spiraled, breaded chicken parmesan version topped with tomato conserva and burrata ($12).
Large groups (with even larger wallets) might learn toward large-format plates such as General Tso’s pig’s head, which comes with broccoli salad and moo shu pancake ($90), or “The Old 96’er,” a 90-ounce, 60-day dry-aged rib-eye paired with veggies of the chef’s choice ($320, advanced order required).
But this is California, so produce gets its own section of the menu, too. There are baby beets with avocado pesto and basil ($9); charred carrots ($8); and grilled eggplant adorned with morsels of bone marrow, chopped kombu (kelp), almond and mint ($11). Derby's menu is dictated by seasonal availability, so diners should expect vegetable options to rotate regularly.
It's not just Derby's interests that are represented at the Cannibal. Cycling references in the decor pay homage to Merckx but also to owner Christian Pappanicholas and partner Cory Lane. Both are avid bikers, so it makes sense that they also offer a number of bike-friendly accommodations to fellow cyclists.
There's a bicycle valet at Platform, and if cyclists dine at the Cannibal in their riding gear, they’ll get their second beer on the house — a gift known as a “kit” in the cycling world.
The Cannibal, 8850 Washington Blvd., Culver City; (310) 838-2783, www.thecanniblala.com Butcher shop: Mon.-Sun., 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; restaurant and bar: Tue.-Sun., opens at 5:30 p.m.
Clarification: This post has been updated to remove mention of a few freebies Cannibal plans to give to cyclists; the restaurant hasn't quite rolled those out yet.