Curtains Rise On Brian Malarkey’s Opulent Pan Asian Palace

by | Sep 23, 2019 | Eater San Diego

Animae Opens in Downtown’s Most Luxurious Building

Throw out what you think you know about Asian cuisine and prepare to be transported to a fantasy land where Asian flavors mix with unconventional preparations in a setting of velvet-cloaked decadence; Animae has arrived at Pacific Gate by Bosa, downtown’s ultra-luxurious condominium 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 pro 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 ground floor is a lush stage 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. With Lucien Conner (Puesto, Searsucker) on board as general manager/partner, the restaurant is open nightly at 6 p.m.

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