If you live in San Diego, you know the name Brian Malarkey. We sat down with the beloved chef and TV personality recently to chat about Puffer Malarkey Collective’s newest restaurant opening, Animae, a showstopping $5.5 million Pan-Asian American concept situated on the ground floor of luxury high-rise Pacific Gate by Bosa.
What is the story behind the name Animae? The name takes Chris Puffer’s love of anime (the robots at the hostess stand are from his childhood collection) and combines it with our interpretation of Asian cuisine. Puffer was also really inspired by the elegance of Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American actress in Hollywood, so the space is designed a bit like the theater, with the curtains and backstage area where the wine cellar is.
What is it about Asian cuisine that inspires you? It’s bold, flavorful and fun. When Joe Magnanelli (executive chef-partner of Animae) began working on the menu, I told him to throw out all culinary guidelines and just make what tastes good. Diners will be wowed by unexpected combinations of flavors, like the tom yum mushrooms with burrata. Joe also brings his expertise of pasta making from his 12 years at Urban Kitchen Group to Animae, where he is making all the noodles from scratch daily.
Which ingredients are you obsessing over right now? Anything Asian and finding unique ways to combine those flavors in nontraditional ways to bring out the umami in a dish. We are really exploring the combination of Asian and Mediterranean flavors.
When you aren’t on duty, where’s your favorite place in San Diego to take the family to eat? I live in Point Loma, so some of our go-tos are right in the neighborhood. Point Loma Seafoods is a regular stop for our family, as is Supannee House of Thai. Also, Northside Shack for smoothies, and their açai bowls have been a more recent discovery.
Best piece of advice anyone has ever given you? Learn to make money with someone else’s first before you try to do it with your own.