I always surrender to the orange wine at Bad Animal, and last week was no exception. Carolyn and I both chose a peach-tinted Greek wine called Pleiades ($15), served in beautiful stemware. At the corner table of the wrap-around banquette we had a view of all the action at the reopened book/cafe. The shelves glowed with volumes of poetry and literature. The wine bar was filled with locals happy to be back out in this charismatic space. And the sidewalk cafe out front hosted diners at tables bordered with handsome Persian carpets. Great to be back, we told co-owner Andrew Sivak, who looked quite happy about the whole thing. Glad to be free of our masks, Carolyn and I caught up on the last year whilst shamelessly indulging in Bad Animal’s bread and butter plate ($5). The slabs of succulent sourdough are from Manresa Bakery! The soft unsalted butter is laced with crunchy flakes of sea salt. Yes, unsalted butter that is salted. Five dollars never brought so much pleasure. Carolyn went all Left Bank and ordered the creamy salmon rillettes that arrived along with more of the fantastic bread ($11). Packed into a white ceramic ramekin, the spiced salmon was especially good with olives (a little bowl of mixed Lucques and Kalamatas, $5). The Bad Animal menu offers a perfect short list of flavors destined for wine. Charcuterie with cornichons, cheeses with dried apricots, grilled cheese with pesto, an addictive kale salad with walnuts, parmesan and lemon, and that signature house schnitzel. I went for the schnitzel ($20), which arrived hot, aromatic and perfectly breaded. A squeeze of lemon and a slick of the sour cream with tarragon made each bite memorable. The roast potatoes on the side were a happy surprise. And yes, the orange wine was perfect with the thin pork cutlet, the wine laced with minerals, a bit of saltiness and some indefinable aura of bay leaves. Bad Animal’s eclectic wine list includes (by the glass) a Portuguese sparkler, a Provençal Chardonnay, Rhone reds, and another orange blend from Chile. The list of bottles is long and suggests that you join another couple and sample a bottle together. And they’ve got the sparkling water of the moment, the very bubbly Topo Chico ($4). The reawakened Bad Animal is a blend of Latin Quarter bistro, academic salon, and Viennese wine bar. Start with the wine and appetizer plates, stay for the endless delights that line the shelves. Bad Animal, 1011 Cedar St. Bar opens at 2pm, cafe at 5pm Wed-Sun. badanimalbooks.com.
Appetizer of the Week Grilled peaches at Gabriella Cafe. Meaty slices of ripe peaches, grilled into prime juiciness, topped with creamy burrata and a minty balsamic reduction ($15) proved one of the stars of our dinner last week. On a hot day the peach appetizer, joined by a Spanish Sauvignon Blanc, were exceptional. My dinner of rack of lamb—outstanding!— arrived glazed with a chili oil and raisin sauce. My companion went for the pan-roasted local salmon, a lavish portion topped with lemon fennel butter, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, and that terrific polenta that Gema Cruz’s kitchen does so well. Gabriella is serving indoors, patio, and out on the parklet, and the response has been vigorous. Dining with friends again is such a pleasure. And if you’re finding the spritz a welcome cocktail on warm summer evenings, as I am, be sure to get over to Bantam where the refreshing orange-infused cocktail made with cappaletti is done with style, and especially fine with a plate of burrata, peppers, figs, and rocket. Always bold flavor combos at this Westside beacon.