Posts Tagged ‘Asian’


Sunday, January 15th, 2012 by virginia

We went to Annisa back in October, with Josh’s family as sort of a belated birthday dinner for me. I was really excited for this dinner, as I’m a big fan of Anita Lo, the chef/owner. The restaurant has also been awarded a Michelin star, and I’ve read many great things about the food.

The restaurant is actually pretty small, though it has high ceilings and an elegant, minimalist decor. We were seated at a round table in the middle of the room and had a great view of everything going on around us. The menu is pretty eclectic, with lots of French, Asian, and Middle Eastern influence. Everything sounded delicious, and it was quite hard to decide what to order.

After we finally made our selections, they brought us an amuse bouche to start. It was a little tart filled with chicken liver mousse, topped with chopped chives and a dollop of whole grain mustard. I liked the creaminess of the mousse, the delicate flakiness of the tart, and the tangy punch of the mustard. It was a flavorful bite and definitely woke up our palates.

Amuse bouche - chicken liver mousse tarts

We also noshed on some bread, which were ciabatta-like rolls that were served warm and had a decent crust.

Bread service

For the first course, Josh and I geared towards the Asian-influenced appetizers, sharing the barbecued squid and the soup dumplings. The squid was lightly grilled with just a bit of char on the outside, and the meat was very tender. It was served with Thai basil, peanuts, and edamame. The sauces on the side tasted like hoisin and chili sauce, a great combination with the squid. It wasn’t too spicy and had a nice sweet/savory flavor that worked with all the different components.

Barbecued squid with Thai basil and fresh peanuts

The soup dumplings weren’t shaped like traditional xiao long bao, but looked more like regular dumplings. I’m not sure exactly what the dumplings were filled with, but they were topped with little slabs of seared foie gras, which dominated the flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I love seared foie gras, but it seemed like the dumplings might have been an afterthought. They weren’t as soupy inside as I would have liked, though I did enjoy the slight crunch from the jicama that counteracted the rich creaminess of the foie gras.

Seared foie gras with soup dumplings and jicama

While the dumplings were slightly disappointing, the rest of the appetizers at the table were pretty successful (we all tasted everyone’s dishes). The biggest hit was the cauliflower and romanesco gnoccho with hazelnuts and sheep’s cheese. The gnoccho was light and creamy, packed with tons of cauliflower flavor. Everyone also enjoyed the chilled avocado soup with shiso and unagi croutons. It was more savory than I expected, and fortunately did not resemble liquified guacamole, as I had originally feared. The hot and cold tuna was also delicious, with a fresh and bright tartare (cold) and some flavorful tuna belly (hot).

I had a REALLY tough time choosing our entrees, and we wound up picking the halibut and the spanish mackerel. We usually don’t both order fish dishes, but both came highly recommended from our waiter. The halibut was poached in olive oil and served with blistered shishito peppers and almond and lobster coral sauces. The halibut was gorgeous – delicately flaky and tender. The peppers weren’t too spicy or overly bitter, and the sauce was wonderfully savory. It didn’t taste a whole lot like lobster coral, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Olive oil-poached halibut with blistered shishito peppers and almond and lobster coral sauces

The spanish mackerel was beautifully broiled so that it had a nice browned crust on the outside and crispy skin. It was served with garlic fried milk, cubes of satsumaimo (Japanese yam), and korean chili. I love mackerel in general, and this particular version was really well prepared. I love the oiliness of the fish, which really gives it a distinctively bold flavor. The garlic fried milk was novel and delicious, almost like super creamy fried cheese curds, but tastier. This was my favorite dish of the evening.

Broiled spanish mackerel with garlic fried milk, satsumaimo and korean chili

Again, all the other entrees at the table were successful as well. The miso marinated sable with crispy silken tofu in a bonito broth was a clean, classically Japanese style dish. The pan roasted farm chicken with sherry, white truffle, and pig feet was a surprise hit. While I love pig feet, not everyone else was convinced at how luscious it could be until they tasted it in this dish. The chicken was juicy and tender, and the truffle wasn’t overpowering. The grilled wagyu was the dish that I debated ordering instead of the halibut, and it too was very tasty. It was served with escargots, garlic chives, and alba mushrooms. While the beef wasn’t as tender as I thought it would be (it was wagyu after all), it was flavorful and well seasoned.

For dessert, we shared the beignets and the bread pudding. According to our waiter, Chef Lo is also responsible for creating the dessert items, which is pretty impressive since a lot of chefs don’t do pastry in conjunction with savory. The beignets were pecan and salted butterscotch, a nice combination of salty and sweet. They were freshly fried and pretty fluffy, not too dense. They were served with a bourbon ice milk that was kind of like a slushy sorbet. We could definitely taste the bourbon, but I thought it was a tad too icy for my taste; I preferred the beignets.

Pecan and salted butterscotch beignets with bourbon ice milk

The bread pudding was made with poppy seed bread and butter, and served with meyer lemon curd. I LOVED this bread pudding, which was bright and lemony and not too sweet. The bread pudding itself was a bit dense but I couldn’t get enough of the curd, which I soaked up with every bite. Meyer lemon has an intense, citrusy flavor that is slightly floral. I pretty much polished off the entire plate by myself.

Poppyseed bread and butter pudding with meyer lemon curd

At the end of our meal, they brought us little bites to finish things off. First was mini pineapple ice pops served on toothpicks. It was simple, just frozen pineapple juice, but refreshing. Next was candied ginger, which had a nice little kick to it. Lastly, we had mini mint chocolate truffles that weren’t too rich or sweet – a nice ending.

Pineapple ice pops, candied ginger, mint chocolate truffles

Overall we were really impressed with our meal at Annisa. The menu mixed classic techniques with inventive twists, and everything was well composed and beautifully prepared. From start to finish, we enjoyed every course. The soup dumplings were pretty much the only disappointment, and not because the dish didn’t taste good, but because it wasn’t really what I was expecting. I would happily eat more of the seared foie gras. Our entrees were all superb, and while dessert is usually a bit of a downer for us, that wasn’t the case here. Service was great as well. Our waiter was attentive and informative, stopping to chat with us once in a while. In terms of prices, it’s definitely an expensive restaurant, with appetizers in the $15-$20 range and entrees ranging from $30-$35, but I like that it’s a la carte so you can put together your own menu. It’s a great place for a special occasion, or if you’re in the mood to splurge a bit.

13 Barrow St. between 7th Ave. South and West 4th St.
New York, NY

Social Eatz

Sunday, October 30th, 2011 by virginia

Social Eatz is a restaurant that garners a lot of buzz because it is the restaurant of Top Chef alum Angelo Sosa. Josh and I are big fans of Top Chef but we didn’t root for Angelo when he was competing the first time around. While his food always looked good and his competitors clearly respected him, we had other favorites. Nevertheless, we didn’t object when Jess and Jack told us we should try the food at Social Eatz. They had eaten there before and enjoyed it, and so we decided to go on a double date with them and check it out.

Jess made a reservation for us on a Saturday night, but the restaurant was surprisingly empty when we arrived. We got a great table right next to the window in front. Jess and I got some beer while Josh ordered the carrot ginger fizz, an interesting cocktail featuring carrot juice, ginger beer, vodka, and citrus. It was sweet, tangy, and bubbly, and very drinkable.

Carrot Ginger Fizz cocktail

We decided to share a few appetizers to start. The first was edamame fritters, which our waiter said was a new dish for the restaurant. For some reason we were all expecting the individual edamame beans to be fried, and were quite surprised when we saw that it was actually like falafel balls made from pureed edamame. The fritters were fantastic – crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The edamame flavor definitely shined through, brightened up with some citrus. There was also garlic mayo on the side for dipping that was addictively delicious. I could have used that mayo on just about anything. My only complaint was that there were only two fritters in the order. I wish there had been more!

Edamame fritters with garlic mayo

Our other appetizer was the noodle salad with plum ponzu. It featured cold buckwheat soba noodles with baby bok choy, sugar snap peas, and sliced scallions all mixed with a sweet plum and citrus dressing. It was light and refreshing and also a good mix of sweet and tangy. The noodles were cooked well so that they still had a nice chewiness to them, and this time I had no complaints about the portion size.

Noodle salad with plum ponzu

Both couples decided to share a bibimbap burger and a pair of tacos. There are lots of different burgers to choose from but the bibimbap burger won’s best burger in America contest so we wanted to try it out. We were happy to see that they cut the burgers in half for us in the kitchen, because they were really quite messy. The burger featured a beef patty topped with a runny fried egg, shredded lettuce, and pickled carrots and cucumber. There was also sriracha mayo on the burger that oozed out when we bit into the burger and dripped everywhere.

Bibimbap burger

Autopsy shot

The burger itself was very flavorful, with the pickled vegetables and sriracha sauce definitely showing its Asian influence. The beef patty was cooked to a nice medium rare but it was kind of mushy in texture and got a bit lost under the egg and all the other components. What meat I could taste was well seasoned, and while I really did enjoy the burger, it didn’t seem like a regular burger to me. I wouldn’t compare it to a Shake Shack burger or Corner Bistro, because it’s a totally different genre of burger. So even though it was pretty delicious in it’s own way, if I’m craving a burger, this isn’t what I’d go for. Nevertheless, we were happy to have tried it.

As for the tacos, we got an order of the Korean beef tacos and the tilapia tacos. The Korean beef tacos featured marinated skirt steak that had a slight kick to it from gochujang, which is a spicy Korean pepper paste. The taco was supposed to have bean sprout kimchee as well but I didn’t really see it or taste it. There were pickled carrots and cucumber on the taco, as well as more of that sriracha mayo, which actually made the whole thing taste very similar to the bibimbap burger. The skirt steak was pretty tender, however, and flavorful on its own, and I enjoyed the fresh cilantro on top. I just wish that the taco had more pronounced kimchee flavor.

Korean beef tacos

The tilapia tacos were pretty spicy, as the fish had been brushed with Thai chili. I enjoyed the fish and the accompanying green tomato salsa and avocado, which helped temper the spice. It was a flavorful combination of spicy and tangy, and I preferred these tacos to the Korean beef tacos. I just wish they hadn’t added sriracha mayo to these tacos as well, as after a while, everything just started tasting the same.

Chili kissed tilapia tacos

Both the burgers and the tacos were a la carte, so we got two orders of fries to share. They were thin cut and crispy, like McDonald’s fries, and dusted with a bit of paprika (I think). There was a mayo based dipping sauce on the side but the fries were good on their own and seasoned enough that they didn’t need the sauce.

Side order of fries

For dessert, we split an order of the yuzu cream puffs. The choux pastry was filled with yuzu curd, which tasted similar to lemon or lime curd. It was slightly sweet but the citrus flavor made it refreshing. The cream puffs were served hot, which I liked, and delicately crispy on the outside. We quickly took down the whole bowl.

Yuzu cream puffs

Overall Josh and I both enjoyed Social Eatz but didn’t find it to be outstanding. The food was tasty but nothing was distinctive. The menu indicates Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese influences, but mostly, I just found it to be generically Asian fusion food. Sriracha mayo was on almost everything, and that flavor really dominates. After a while, all the flavors got muddled and everything just tasted like the mayo. I did enjoy the appetizers though, which were well executed and the highlight of the meal for me. On the surface, the menu at Social Eatz is very affordable. The burgers and sandwiches top out at $12, and the tacos at $9. Most things are under $10. However, since everything is a la carte, adding on a side dish is an additional $4.50 each. That means for a burger and fries, it’s really about $16.50, not $12, which is really not that cheap. In terms of atmosphere, the restaurant did fill up by the end of our meal. It was a bit loud but not overly so, and the place has a trendy but casual vibe. I would probably go back, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to make another trip there.

Social Eatz
232 East 53rd St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave.
New York, NY