In the midst of her strong showing on the first season of Top Chef Masters, chef Anita Lo's Annisa experienced a devastating July 4 kitchen fire that shuttered the restaurant, just months after she closed the failed Bar Q. Following several delays, the restaurant reopened earlier this month, with a menu featuring old favorites as well new dishes influenced by Lo's recent travels to Asia and Africa. But, can Annisa recapture what it had after being closed for so long?
The So-So News: The Food Doc notes that while the decor and noise level have stayed the same, there have been some improvements: "Little was done to improve the acoustics of the space: the noise level may not approach that of Momofuku Noodle Bar, but it can be a bit too loud at times. Service also seems to have improved...The seared foie gras chunks on top of the soup dumpling filled with foie gras mousse and jicama was surprisingly light and flavorful; however, the soup dumpling had very little broth in it, which was a disappointment...The final savory course of the night was also the one that disappointed me the most: veal tenderloin and sweetbreads with artichokes, and oyster and black truffle sauces." [Food Doc]
The Great News: Village Voice critic Robert Sietsema checks in and files a rave. "We found the food astonishing, all the more so because chef Anita Lo had ignored many of the fripperies of the modern menu, which somehow made us feel like adults. No locally sourced pig; no pandering to celiacs, vegetarians, or locavores; little seasonal produce or faddish ingredients. No fried chicken or hamburgers or pizza....Apps were very small, but totally on the money. We had a novel chawan mushi, the Japanese custard. It came in a tiny cup with a slice of crisp lotus root on top, and from the quaking pudding--enriched with sea urchin--we drew bits of morel and gingko nuts." [FitR]
The Boozy News: Spring cocktails and the introduction of a proper bar menu is a cause for celebration, according to JoonBug's Beth Montana. "The bar, along with some tempting cocktails, also has its own menu. Such options include crispy pig's feet with mustard, boiled peanuts with sansho salt, oysters on the half shell, fried squid with mentaiko mayo and scallion fritters with unagi. The little bites range in price from 3 to 12 dollars. The Spring options for cocktails vary from a light, refreshing prosecco topped with a ginger syrup to a classic Gimlet that receives infusions of cucumber and mint- perfectly refreshing for a warm day or night. The Juniper Sweet is made with gin, mint, lime and pomegranate molasses, to satisfy all three sweet, tart and savory (via the mint and gin) flavors." [JoonBug]
The Ecstatic News: One Yelper is blown away: The new Annisa is a distillation of Anita Lo at her best. Everything about the place is classy, refined and subtle, without ever approaching boring...New Annisa has one of the best appetizers in NYC right now for anyone who likes uni: the uni chawanmushi. This version of the savory egg custard is impossibly light and tender, studded with morels and lotus seeds and topped with a huge piece of whole, impeccably fresh uni...All of the fish entrees I've tried have been perfectly cooked and very fresh, served with expertly made sauces that were French in style, but concocted with non-French ingredients like mirin and dashi...I know Anita Lo ventures aren't always the height of wonderful...But new Annisa is a true winner and probably one of the best restaurants in the West Village at the moment." [Yelp]
The Not So Great News: Another Yelper is not so impressed: "I wanted to love this place- I really did...Intriguing cocktail menu. Juniper Sweet was crisper and sharper than expected - very nice. Chuwan mushi: interesting but overly salty. The custard broke up too much to be custardy...Lobster: perfectly cooked, as were the accompanying ramps. Again the sauce it was in...was too salty. However, the accompanying cheeky, creamy-crumbly sweet pea flan was probably my favorite part of the meal...Dessert: millefeuille with strawberries, pink peppercorns and balsamic. Sounds like a terrific combination, right? -- So a bit disappointing to see the latter 2 ingredients marooned forlornly off to the side almost as only a decorative element...Room: Corporate and impersonal, incongruously so with the tight spacing..." [Yelp]
The Mostly Good News: In a post laden with photos and sentence fragments, Always Hungry seems to give approval: "Steamers, three ways: tartare, braised, and fried. The tartare was mixed with puréed sunchoke, a pleasant foil. But strong clam flavor was full-contact in the second incarnation, clam belly braised in sweet soy...Pan-roasted veal tenderloin. Sweetbreads. Oysters in brown butter. And a truffle and Madeira reduction. Spinach draped over artichokes like unmade Rubenesque sheets in August on a Saturday afternoon. A landscape of familiar flavors and textures— a tad salty (sweetbreads), but no complaints." [AH]