Throw out what you think you know about Asian cuisine before you visit Animae, which recently opened at the base of Pacific Gate by Bosa, downtown’s extreme luxury condo development. When the Brian Malarkey and Chris Puffer of the Puffer Malarkey Collective announced that the follow-up to their Little Italy megahit Herb & Wood would be an Asian concept, it was assumed that the restaurant would be anything but traditional — a premise confirmed by the hire of new executive chef/partner Joe Magnanelli, a wiz at Italian cookery and a vet of Cucina Urbana.
In researching Animae, Malarkey, Puffer, and Magnanelli visited a slew of popular Asian restaurants around the country but ultimately decided create their own genre, which blends the key ingredients and standard-bearing dishes of prominent Asian cultures with the chefs’ own culinary backgrounds.
The result is a menu where steamed Manila clams and kimchi are spiked with prosecco and Calabrian n’duja and Thai-style tom yum mushrooms are paired with burrata and leeks. Ranging from raw seafood crudo plates to small plates like honey-lime chicken and octopus skewers cooked on a Japanese robata grill, offerings also include noodle and rice dishes and large-format proteins, such as a pork tomahawk and 34-ounce dry-aged, bone-in rib eye seared on a coal-fired Josper oven.
Behind a wall of windows, the restaurant was designed by Puffer and Los Angeles firm Bells + Whistles (Jeune et Jolie, Lola 55) with stylized theatrical elements that include velvet curtains and fringed columns. A eye-catching custom mural backs the 15-seat bar, where bartender Adam Ono’s drinks, highlighting single malts and gin, are prepared with an attention to detail modeled after Japanese cocktail bars. Pastry pro Adrian Mendoza’s desserts include honey panna cotta with soy almonds, jasmine tea boba, shiso, and lemon ice and chocolate pavloa with yuzu mousse, concord grape, and chocolate cremeux. With Lucien Conner (Puesto, Searsucker) on board as general manager/partner, Animae is open nightly at 6 p.m.