Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sober Restaurant Review: Anella

Anella is a new restaurant that opened up in the old "Queen's Hideaway" space on Franklin ave. in Greenpoint. I was anxious to try it since they advertised that they were committed to seasonal cooking and would be trying to grow most of their produce in the backyard (currently made of concrete). Now I'm a sucker for "seasonal" cooking, and I know it's really trendy right now, but I was on this bandwagon in 2004, people, so I have some cred, OK?

Anyway, FREEWilliamsburg has already reviewed this place, and I agree with their assessment. Overall, it's going to be a good neighborhood spot, but they need to work out a few kinks.

Unlike whoever went for FREEWilliamsburg my friends and I were not treated to an amuse-bouche. However, you could chalk that up to the possibility that the server/owner knew who they were. Also, be forewarned that Anella does not have their liquor license yet, and, because of a recent crack down on places like La Superior and Motorino, new restaurants in North Brooklyn are no longer allowing BYOB while they wait for their liquor license. Le Sigh. My friends and I drank a lot of water at this dinner.

We started with the Terrine of the Day, a pork terrine with one of my favorite things ever (I'm just like Oprah!), pistachios. This was really great--except for the pieces of plastic wrap we found along the sides. Whoops. We just took them off and set them aside. No need to scream bloody murder. It's not a snake head. This stuff was producing such praise from the two of us that ordered it that even our minorly-sketched-out-by-terrine friend decided to have a taste, or four.

Pork Terrine with delicious fruit jam.

For our mains we all ordered fish. Pan-seared wild salmon with roasted pepper relish, oven roasted halibut with salsa verde, and I ordered the monkfish osso bucco in white wine, tomato and preserved lemon and thyme sauce. I guess they couldn't get the monkfish or something, so instead they asked if I would take scallops in the same sauce.

This picture of my scallops is kind of crappy. Kate has promised to be my photographer from now on.

The salmon was tasty..though I'm not so sure about the "pan seared" looked a little baked to me. The halibut was good as well, though we remember the salsa as "kind of meh," (i.e. a little too mild on the very mild halibut) but I really think I scored with the scallops. They were cooked just perfectly: crispy outside, just barely cooked center. The tomato sauce was just a hint spicy and I did get a taste of thyme at one point. I'm not sure about the "preserved lemon and thyme" description, since I didn't really taste anything more than a really good tomato sauce with some thyme and possibly lemon in it, but whatever. I also am unsure what it means that this was osso bucco--something the waiter claimed still applied to the scallop dish--I mean, osso bucco is usually veal in a tomato sauce with bone maybe there was some veal marrow in the sauce? I don't really think scallops have marrow...or marrow that would be usable, anyway. I could be totally ignorant though, so let me know if you have any ideas.

Now, here's my real beef. The entrees were, technically, pretty reasonably priced, all at around $15 (so actually quite cheap). They are served ala carte, so you need to order a side to go with them ($5). Ok, so we're at $20. That's fine. Here's the thing. There are two ways to do ala carte. Either the sides are family sized and served in a separate dish (which is usually the case at restaurants with a similar price point to Anella) OR really fancy restaurants will do ala carte the way it's done at Anella, where your side comes right on your plate and everyone needs to order one or two to complete the meal. If this is what Anella is going for, fine, then they should charge $40 for entrees, dress up their waiters, and essentially cue the diner in that it is that kind of place. As is, the prospective clientele might be off-put enough by the need to order sides at all (not that the $20 total is any more expensive than anywhere else), and is certainly not expecting to have them be so puny when they do order them. (And also, not especially good). My advice to Anella would be for them to ditch the ala carte, decide for us what side we get, and crank up the prices to reflect this.

In terms of service, it was a little awkward having the back waiter refill our waters every four seconds, but I think this will even out once they have a liquor license. Also, they kept bringing the dishes out one by one, for which the owner (?) apologized. I think it was just a matter of the kitchen learning timing. Our waiter was really friendly, and seemed to have a good grasp on the menu, especially for the second day.

I'll end by saying something nice: the desserts at Anella were AMAZING, especially the cheesecake. It was so soft and light, and the crust was just heavenly. We ordered all three that were available, Cheesecake, Panna Cotta, and a thick fudgy chocolate...something...and wow. Really, really good.