Lately, the only time I get to enjoy the nicer, fancy foodie meals that were so much more common in PPD (pre-parent days), is when I go on business trips. In truth, I always looked forward to exploring the best restaurants in cities like NYC and Chicago on the company’s dime. However, more so than with my previous teams, I’m surrounded by many more teammates who thoroughly enjoy eating and always up for a great meal. In fact, I’ve found a food-mate in one co-worker, RFotographer, who keeps up on the latest and greatest in the food world even more than I do, especially nowadays. Food photography credits for this blog entry go to him. So the last time, we were in NYC, he made reservations for a couple of us at Anissa, which is the signature restaurant from acclaimed chef, Anita Lo. As I mentioned, my co-workers really love to eat, so everyone was game for the 5 course tasting menu.
As with every tasting menu, we were offered a small bite to start the meal. These tiny pastry cups were filled with a creamy seafood mixture. I don’t remember much because I easily ate it in one bite and it was gone before you knew it but I do recall wanting more.
The first official course was the BBQ squid which I really enjoyed. The squid was perfectly cooked as not to be too chewy, and the BBQ flavor had more of an Asian slant than something you would expect from Texas or Kansas City. I liked the contrast with the deep-fried squid, but my only critique is I would have liked a little more crunch from the peanuts. Unfortunately, they were too soft and were indistinguishable from the peas in terms of texture.
Although a bit deceiving from what it was called on the menu, it was still one of the better dishes of the evening. The tiny piece of foie gras added a nice touch to the dumpling which was closer to a pot sticker than your traditional xiao long bao. The skin was a little too thick and the filling wasn’t that soupy, but if you threw any pre-conceived notions of a soup dumpling out the window, the execution and flavors were solid.
I wasn’t immediately excited when they brought this course to the table because the idea of a white fish wrapped in grape leaves did not sound very flavorful but it shows that you should never judge a book by its cover. The fish itself was juicy and well-seasoned, but the the lemon-anchovy vinaigrette did very little for the fish.
The meat entree was a pork belly confit with clams, chorizo and padron peppers. The meat was surprisingly dry considering it’s pork belly, but it was probably because of the preparation. I actually liked the addition of the clams in the savory broth surrounding it. It was an interesting combination of ingredients.
I was pretty full by the time the desserts came, and in truth, the few bites I took of did nothing to impress me. They were nice enough to bring a variety so that we could all share, but none of them were particularly satisfying.
Overall, the meal was just okay. It started out strong but slowly lost steam with each subsequent course. None of the dishes were awful as there were aspects of each dish that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, none of the good was enough to overcome the overall flatness of any of the dishes so in the end, the meal itself just left me feeling unimpressed. Given that Anissa first opened over 15 years ago, I wonder if her style of food may just not be as avant garde as it once was considered. The concept of French technique married with Asian sensibilities is definitely more common these days, but I think it has to be taken to that next level to give today’s diners the experience that they are expecting from this type of restaurant. I definitely would not discourage anyone from giving this place a try. For the untrained palate, I think this type of food can be interesting, but I think if you’re looking for a special place that would end up weighing on your pockets, I would consider finding another dining experience that would be more memorable.
13 Barrow St.
New York, NY 10014
PAFO Ratings for Anissa:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars