N.Y. Scene is a monthly column that chronicles lesbian nightlife, and venues and events of interest in New York. Grace Chu has come out of lesbian scene retirement to navigate the vast and ever-evolving New York City scene, so you don’t have to.
Annisa Restaurant and short interview with owner and celesbian chef Anita Lo
Anita Lo (photo from Annisa Restaurant‘s website)
Sometimes a girl needs to take a break from the hustle and bustle of New York City lesbian nightlife and have some quiet time, so this month, a friend and I decided to take a trip to celesbian chef Anita Lo’s acclaimed restaurant Annisa. While Anita Lo has attained celebrity chef status, first by trouncing Iron Chef Mario Batali in Iron Chef America and then making it to the top 5 in Top Chef Masters, she comes across as more reserved than many of her more flamboyant celebrity chef counterparts. Rather than creating a cult of personality around herself, Anita Lo’s confidence shines through her food.
This is an account of our culinary adventure.
First came an amuse bouche called “hake brandade with chives,” which is Swahili for “excellent foreplay.” Google and Wikipedia tell you differently. They seem to think that it is merely an emulsion of salted fish and olive oil, but I think my definition is more accurate.
Then came one of her signature dishes, the foie gras soup dumplings – a decadent French-inspired and blinged out take on the low brow yet delicious xiao long bao found in Chinatown joints. The dumplings are stuffed with foie gras mousse swimming in a chicken, veal and pork broth and topped with a sliver of seared foie gras. Yes, they were as ridiculously succulent as they sound, but don’t be fooled by the foie that they got – they’re still dumplings from the block.
Scallops with loofah and sea urchin arrived soon afterwards. The scallops were cooked to perfection, and they were set on a bed of loofah – the cucumber-like gourd, not the bath accessory – and they were perched on a small pond of sea urchin broth.
Next came the miso marinated sable with crispy silken tofu in a bonito broth, which is basically an orgasm in a dish. The sable was buttery, sitting in a broth containing fish roe that popped in your mouth, like tiny explosive easter eggs. I realize that I’ve already made two allusions to sex in this segment about food, and while you may be reminded of that infamous scene involving apple pie in American Pie, rest assured that the comparisons are figurative and not literal. My dinner companion and I are ladies, after all.
Finally we sampled the pecan and salted butterscotch beignets with bourbon milk ice. A great ending to an excellent meal, but holy moly, the bourbon milk ice should be renamed “milk ice in bourbon.” You can probably light it on fire – and that’s a good thing.
My friend, a self-identified food snob, so this means something: “Annisa – definitely the best meal I’ve had in the gayborhood!”
Me: “Nom nom nom nom.” That’s four out of four “noms,” you homos.
After being rolled out of the restaurant on a dolly, I was able to chat briefly with Chef Lo about her restaurant and her plans for world domination.
AfterEllen.com: If you could describe the cuisine at Annisa to the uninitiated, how would you characterize it?
Anita Lo: Contemporary American. I bring in influences from all over the world. I am French trained, so that is the base of my technique, but I’m an adventurous eater and that informs the way I create.
AE: This past summer, you sold your share at Rickshaw to concentrate on Annisa and to work on your cookbook. When should we expect the cookbook to arrive on the shelves, and what kinds of cuisines will it feature?
AL: The cookbook will be on shelves in the fall of this year. It is a contemporary American book, taking nods from cuisines throughout the world. The title is Cooking Without Borders.
AE: Are you planning any more television appearances? What’s next in the world of the Anita Lo empire?
AL: I taped a show recently that hasn’t aired, but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet. For now, I’m happy to concentrate on Annisa, but I hope to have other restaurant projects in the long run.
AE: If a meteor were expected to strike tomorrow, wiping out all of humanity, what would you choose as your last meal, and what would be the accompanying wine or cocktail?
AL: Ah, the last supper! It would be a long, multicoursed affair shared with good friends and family. I’m an omnivore, so it would have to include a little bit of everything, including great wines and sakes.
AE: A haiku about your favorite ingredient, quick!
Sweet, spiny urchin
Mouth haunting and buttery
Get on my chopsticks
Annisa is located on 13 Barrow Street in the West Village.