i ate at annisa last night with my boyfriend for a special occasion. we each ordered the 5-course tasting menu and a bottle of pinot grigio (which i very much enjoyed).
although i enjoy the idea of a surprise tasting menu, with you telling the server what you don't eat, i found that open-endedness particular liability last night. i don't eat lamb, which i mentioned, and my date didn't quite know what to say he didn't eat - he rattled off sea urchin, abalone, oyster, conch (i know - conch??). he couldn't really think of anything else he didn't eat off the top of his head.
our first course was a tilefish ceviche with frisee salad and fig-infused balsamic vinegar. i think there might have been hazelnuts on it, some mustard seeds?, and small slices of fig. i enjoyed the acidity of the dressing and vinegar with the sweetness of the fig, and tang of the mustard seeds. my date thought that the fish tasted too fishy and didn't eat most of his. it was odd - some of the pieces tasted very mild and some were quite fishy. i was too shy to ask the server if this was how tilefish should taste (fishy). anyone have any knowledge of this?
2nd course was the seared foie gras soup dumpling containing soup and jicama, and balsamic vinegar. i enjoyed the dumpling, although the dumpling dough was a bit heavy and on the mushy side. the soup was incredibly rich and meaty-tasting, and the foie gras piece was lovely - smoky, fatty, buttery. mmm - my mouth is watering right now remembering it.
after the 2nd course, my date said that he forgot to tell the server that he doesn't like salmon. i said not to worry - "i'm sure they won't serve us any" (for some reason, i totally didn't think we would have any). of course, immediately after i said that, the 3rd course appeared - butter poached salmon with brussel sprouts and chestnuts in a green sauce (not sure what it was). i like salmon, depending on how it's prepared, but it's not an interesting flavor, to me. annisa's salmon had a great texture - poached until it was just rare. the chestnuts were a great accent as well. i just wasn't really impressed by it. my date didn't eat any of his salmon, and i ate some of it.
4th course was sliced beef tongue and beef cheeks with some sauteed greens (spinach?) and dots of hot mustard. i liked the sauce very much - it was rich, reddish-brown and a little sweet. the dots of hot mustard were a nice complement to the sweetness and richness of the sauce and meat. my only complaint was that the beef tongue was _really_ difficult to chew - kind of rubbery. i chewed it for a while, my teeth were unable to break down the meat, and i just swallowed the chewy chunks (gulp). my date didn't enjoy it, saying it was too rare (maybe that's what caused the rubberiness??). he's eaten beef tongue before, and said it's usually very tender meat. is this true?
5th course we got warm chocolate cake with whipped cream and banana bits, and my date got a warm apple tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. my cake was fine - nothing too exciting. a bit heavy after all that food, but then i love chocolate. the banana bits did help to lighten the heaviness. the bit of apple tart i had was very good - the warm caramel was sweet and rich.
the service was impeccable - unobtrusive, efficient, attentive. the atmosphere was great - not noisy at all, but not too quiet, lighting was low but not too dark, cream and pink colors in the small dining room. i like the room layout - even though we were in the back, near the kitchen entrance, the dining room is on a level above the entrance to the kitchen, so none of the diners hear any of the kitchen noise or notice the traffic.
i felt that a lot of care had gone into the preparation and presentation of the food, but it didn't quite come together for me, and my date really didn't enjoy his meal very much. i wish we had had a better experience - we really tried to like it. i'm not sure what could have been done to salvage the meal. maybe speaking up about the tilefish fishiness? maybe we could have at least sent back the salmon to salvage the 3rd course, although i felt like it would have been obnoxious at the point we remembered that he doesn't like salmon.
i hate being high-maintenance and sending things back and complaining, but then again, we're spending a good chunk of change for a special meal. where's the balance? maybe it just wasn't meant to be.