The common consensus seems to be this: rabbits are cute, not food. It’s not an animal people like to associate with dinner. In August, Whole Foods was heavily protested for starting to sell rabbit meat. In June, novelist Jeanette Winterson experienced heavy backlash for posting a photo of a rabbit she butchered after she caught it nibbling on her backyard parsley.
It's a shame, really. The long-eared mammal is not only edible, but one of the most sustainable cuts of meat out there. The amount of fodder that it takes to raise them pales in comparison to other farm animals. Five pounds of feed gains each rabbit one to two pounds, and in a single year one doe can easily raise around four to six litters containing up to a dozen rabbits.
Of course, it's also very delicious. Rabbit meat tastes like chicken but with a lower fat content, it’s leaner and arguably healthier. Cook it with white wine and fennel or simply sauté the meat with Sichuan chili paste.
Give it a try. You can buy the cuts yourself at select butchers around town, or just head to these four restaurants in Los Angeles that aren’t bashful about putting bunny on the menu:
Spice and peppercorn aficionados love flocking to Chengdu Taste for an authentic taste of Chengdu – the capital city of Sichuan. Owner Tony Xu makes his chefs read up on Sichuanese cookery and is set on representing as much of his hometown as he can in his food. His menu is an ethnographic gem; nearly every dish has a story behind it. “Younger Sister’s Diced Rabbit,” (erjie tuding), for example, is a popular Sichuanese snack that was, in 1990, named Chengdu’s dish of the year. It’s diced, bony rabbit cubes with leeks and roasted peanuts and its lineage can be traced to a chef affectionately known as “younger sister.” Her restaurant, located on Guluo Street in Chengdu (which is still there today), started serving the dish in the early 1980s. And while rabbit is no stranger in Chinese cooking, her particular rendition rose to popularity because of its addictive sauce, made from pureed fermented and salted black soybeans. Younger sister’s restaurant became so well-known for her rabbit that she eventually was forced to renamed her eatery after the dish. In Los Angeles, Chengdu Taste's version is attracting a similar sort of popularity. Just be careful of the bones. 8548 Valley Blvd., Rosemead; (626) 588-2284.
Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook’s Fairfax restaurant is an homage to all things fleshy. The carnivorous restaurant has all sorts of mammals on the menu: beef, chicken, veal, pork, lamb and of course – rabbit. There’s the fried rabbit legs, paired with gold rice and a sour cream sauce that tastes like an elevated version of your Eastern European grandmother’s gravy. They’re nice and moist and seasoned with the acidic kick of lemon pepper. Or, try the jack rabbit larb. Served in a lettuce wrap and mixed in with shallots and long beans, the rabbit is minced, spicy and crispy all at the same time. 435 N Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 782-9225.
The city’s main purveyor of exotic wieners, Wurstküche wouldn’t be so exotic without its signature rattlesnake and rabbit sausage. It's one of their most peculiar selections and is served accompanied with jalapeno peppers. The sausage is subtly spicy, intensely buttery, and tastes like, well, chicken. And if snake isn’t your thing, you can also get rabbit in a veal and pork sausage seasoned in white wine. All the sausages are enclosed in a pork casing. Wash it all down with a beer. 800 E 3rd St., Los Angeles; (213) 687-4444.
Chef Jared Levy sources his rabbit from Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Marin County, which also provides bunny to the French Laundry and Chez Panisse up in Northern California. At Eveleigh, the rabbit is served as a boudin blanc; a mousse of rabbit and pork stuffed in sausage casing and then poached. It’s then removed from the casing, sauteed in butter, and served with roasted garlic, baby carrots, pickled mustard seeds and fava greens. 8752 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (424) 239-1630.
Ladies Gunboat Society at Flores
Ladies Gunboat Society is Southern comfort food west of the 405. Though chef Brian Dunsmoor and partner Jonathan Strader have recently left the boat, chef Dave McMillen is still manning the kitchen and serving up rabbit the way Southerners do best — fried on top of a waffle for brunch and chicken-fried for dinner. The rabbit and waffle dish is served with blackberries, smoked maple and watercress. And for dinner, it's brushed with honey and accented with benne seed and cilantro. 2024 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles; (424) 273-6469.