We were pretty excited when we heard that Christian Pappanicholas and Cory Lane were planning an L.A. outpost of The Cannibal, their New York beer and butchery destination, at Culver City’s new Platform complex. After a long wait (it was originally slated to open in the fall), and a teaser opening of its butcher shop last week, the full restaurant makes its official debut tonight. Even if you’ve been to the original, there are plenty of reasons to think that our version will be even better. Here’s why.
This Space Is Way Bigger
The place is gigantic compared to the original digs. Diners enter through the butcher shop, which sells lamb sausages, marrow bones, country ham, pork shoulder, and other fancy meats from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. It also functions as a deli with a menu of sandwiches and salads, plus snacks and pantry goods, from Heinz Ketchup and Pocky Sticks to Sqirl jams and the Cannibal’s own jerky and pork rinds.
Along with food, the shop stocks bike supplies, like chain lube and branded water bottles, for the cycle set they hope to attract—the free beer you get if you ride over will probably be a good incentive, too. It’s only right that they should get these perks as the restaurant’s name is a double-entendre tribute to Belgian Grand Tour cyclist Eddy Merckx, nicknamed “The Cannibal.”
The restaurant itself isn’t overly stylized or stuffy—cement walls and wood tables keep it stylish, minus the frills. There are two, four-tops, and a few communal tables along with patio seating that looks out onto Washington Boulevard and the Expo line. (Go ahead and have that third beer—the train conveniently stops at the Cannibal’s front door.) A full bar anchors the dining room and a semi-open kitchen allows for a peek at the action.
We Have Even More Meat
As with the spot back east, charcuterie is a centerpiece, with terrines (including an intriguing cochinita pibil pig head), pates, and cured meats splayed out on wooden boards. But for the L.A. menu, Derby has made a few additions. There’s a burger topped with a harissa-spiced onion soubise and provolone that the chef is excited about and a Flinstones-esque grilled short rib for two (possibly three).
The Kitchen Has More Toys
In New York, the cooks do what they can in a small space, working magic with panini presses and Easy Bake ovens. But thanks to Culver City’s expansive new kitchen, the food here will actually touch flames.
“We are able to cook with a range of different techniques from grilling, to roasting and frying,” explains Derby. “The grill brings char and smoke to dishes that we would normally roast in a pan. While both techniques are great, this is a new thing for us, and we are finding new ways to bring out new flavors every day.”
The fryer—also an L.A. exclusive—opens the door for chicken parmesan sausage that’s breaded, fried and served with tomato conserva and burrata. “We are just getting used to having all these tools to work with,” says Derby, “So there’s much more we will be doing as we cook in the coming months.”
California Produce—Enough Said
While the menu is most definitely meat-centric, California’s influence is obvious on the equally impressive veggie selection. You’ll find snap peas with dill aioli and crispy fingerling potatoes and a vibrant dandelion and wax bean salad dressed with dijon-marinated onions. Plums get play in a tomato salad and as a sweet topper on the green-hued and impossibly smooth Chicken Matcha Mousse
The influx of fruit and vegetables has been a little overwhelming, Derby admits, but he says it’s beginning to alter his perspective a bit. “I had a peach so sweet and juicy yesterday that made my head spin, and it’s May!” he says. “I can see my approach to cooking vegetables starting to change—it’s becoming about less manipulation of the product and letting the product just be what it is. Our approach to vegetables on the menu is to serve it either raw or grilled or fried, accompanied by a sauce that supports it and lets it shine on its own.”
The team hopes to bring the neighborhood feel of the New York locations to Culver City. The bar could go a long way in that regard. The goal is to get Angelenos to squeeze in and stand shoulder to shoulder while sipping draft cocktails and brews from a 500-plus beer list. Ten beers will rotate on the tap, which is kept in ship-shape order by a futuristic draft system they call the Flux Capacitor. Bar snacks like pork rinds, addictive (no, seriously) Cacio e Pepe chips, and skewers (think fresh pancetta and marinated brisket) go awfully well with the La Chouffe.
“My hope is that people will enjoy what we are bringing from New York to L.A., and there won’t be much of a difference,” says Derby. “From the people we have met so far that have dined with us, it seems that most are just excited for something new and different in the neighborhood, which is the best response we could ask for.”
Get a feel for it, and check out our full photo gallery:
The Cannibal, 8850 Washington Blvd, Culver City; 310.838.2783