Annisa is a charming, intimate restaurant down in the Village. It is a pretty place, an island of light drawing one's tired (and hungry) soul in from the street. Once inside, one is not disappointed. Unlike so many places these days, Annisa is comfortable, spacious, calming and gracious. The food is imaginative, even speculative, with sure footed creative execution. The combinations may be wide ranging, even improbable, but by some magic they all work, and work well.
The meal started conventionally enough, with little onion crust cups filled with creme fraiche and caviar, but this was followed by our appetizers. There was a feather light sea urchin terrine, layered with slices of potato, to balance both the flavor and texture, served with a little daikon and bacon salad. Sea urchin can be a bit mild, but this rather potent salad set off the exotic ocean taste, rather than smothering it. We also had Shanghai soup dumplings, sort of a cliche by now, but not when served with a dry crusted foie gras, a preparation we associate with the heart of Gascony, not the Middle Kingdom.
Then came the roast chicken, sweet and redolent with its stuffing, and perfectly matched with a tender pig's knuckle with its little chunks of hiding dark meat. Skate wings, once cutting edge, have fallen back a bit, but here they come alive with the richness of chicken liver, and all of this, set off by the caramelized apples and braised endive. Once again, a perfect matching of flavors - in contrast and in harmony.
We were so happy, we split a further dish of smoked eel, a Japanese favorite, but served with a French standby, celeriac salad in remoulade, spiced up with horseradish.
All smiles, we finished our world tour with dessert, mint chocolate truffles, freshly candied ginger and their own amazing berry popsicles.
With all that variety of ingredients and preparations, one might wonder if the wine list is up to it. Quite simply, it is, with a broad selection of makers and varietals, but there is a distinction: the winemakers are all women. We were told that Annisa means woman in Arabic.
So, come to Annisa with an open mind and an empty stomach. Let the light in the window be your guide and lose yourself to a world of flavor.
New York Restaurants