[note: please forgive the length of this, maybe the longest CH post ever, but I didn't want it to be just a one sided rant...I wanted to describe the excellent food too...]
Oh, were we excited to be eating at Annisa - every post has exalted the place and we wanted to get in on that. I told them it was our anniversary when making the
reservation - we wanted a great meal and figured this was the place to get it...
I immediately told the nice hostess when she sat us that we wanted the tasting menus but my wife was a vegetarian (fish and dairy, no red meat, poultry) but that I was an avid meat eater and we hoped that wouldn't be a problem. She assured us the chef could easily accommodate both of us. And when we repeated this to our waiter he too reassured us that we would both be taken care of - that it might lean a little on the fish side but that we'd both be happy with Chef's offerings.
The amuse was a duck confit morsel, excellent, but brought to us before they knew we had a vegetarian at the table.
We ordered a 2001 Sancerre which we were fine with, though it never seemed to *exhale* fully so it remained tight throughout the meal. A little too cold maybe? But, a safe choice, it went well with most of what we were eating. Question: in a tasting menu where the chef chooses the menu, do the servers inform the chef what each table is drinking?
I will start by saying all the food was magnificent - super creative combinations, well balanced flavors (for the most part) and perfect temperatures/textures - ample enough portions and quality presentation. Real high q stuff. I was impressed and said MMMM on a number of occasions.
The first course was a ceviche, thin slices of tilefish marinated with anchovies, topped with a frisee. Very simple, but we like anchovies - someone who doesn't wouldn't have dug this one.
The next course was 2 perfectly seared diver scallops sitting in a pool of yummy buttery potatoes and dotted with sauteed bits of.....
My wife initially thought we were served by mistake since the two-top next to ours (sat at the same time, ordered the tasters too) were also waiting for their next installment. But it indeed was supposed to go to us. Our servers offered to take it back with sincere apologies but my wife said she'd eat around it and, again, I benefited since it meant a double portion of bacon bits for me! But now we were getting a little worried....
With two identical dishes already presented, I was SURE here was where Chef was going to diverge and split us down two separate paths. But alas, I was going to have to wait; the next dish was roasted squash with a sort of mole-esque chocolate sauce (without mole's characteristic bitterness). (I'm also thinking at this point: potato puree? Roasted squash? Mole? Ceviche? Where exactly is the Asian aspect in this fusion?) This dish was easily my favorite, as it was the most complex construction of flavors and yet simple goodness - a slaw-like nest of spaghetti squash sat on top to lend a sweet squeak to the whole thing. But boy, at this point I was itching for some red, bloody meat.
So, I was lickin' my chops as the final savory dish arrived but when I saw my wife's sympathetic face before I saw the dish, DEFLATION! It was a pan fried skate with beet reduction and white beet slices. I love skate, and I applaud Chef for choosing the meatiest of the fishes at her disposal (if indeed she even consciously made this choice), and of course, it was well prepared (if not a tad too beet-y) but wow was I heartbroken.
My wife and I immediately launched into a hushed discussion (with each other) on the merits of ordering a five course tasting menu where we're both served the same things, when, for half the price, we could have each ordered full appetizers and entrees of our choice, had bites here and there of each, and then split a dessert. We were really expecting it to be one or two meat options for me and one or two vegetarian options for her - to be treated like two separate diners as opposed to two diners sharing 4 dishes - was this wrong to assume - even when they encourage everyone at the table to order the tasting menu if one person does? We both agreed that even though we didn't come right out and ask directly if the meat eater will get meat and the fish eater will get fish, but we *felt* lead to believe they'd accommodate us. Hell, we were half expecting special treatment since it was our anniversary! But alas, alas, alas!
My wife got to pick the 2 desserts since she's got the sweet tooth. The waiter asked if there was another one she had her eyes on, and when she said which one he said he'd bring all three. I knew this was potentially a trick they'd have up their sleeve to make up for serving bacon to a vegetarian, though I didn't consider it insidious at all - we were expecting tasting sized portions of the desserts, anyway, just as the savory offerings were tasting sized portions of apps and entrees - so no problems in giving us three dessert tasters, right? NO. They bring us THREE FULL desserts. For two people!! Does that not seem a tad ridiculous to you guys? I mean, I appreciate the sentiment, but that's WAY TOO MUCH DESSERT. I refuse to believe the chef would approve such a concession let alone that a competent waiter would even suggest it. What about a complimentary
after dinner drink? Comp half our wine or something?
We ate as much as we could, felt guilty for leaving three half finished desserts, paid up (around 240 with tip) and on our way out, the hostess asked us how it was. I told her everything was great, but we had some small matters to grumble to a manager about, but we could do this in an e-mail since we didn't want to do it there - kvetching isn't something we like to do on full stomachs. Then she tells us she's an OWNER and she doesn't check her e-mail that often so she'd love to hear about it right then and there if we didn't mind. Blink blink. Smile. Well?
I was appalled. Speechless! But the owner stood her ground. My wife regrouped, took over and ran down the list of everything I just described above (briefer, mind you), very diplomatic and polite, since we enjoyed the food so much. But when she got to the dessert thing, how we thought that was a little much, the owner sort of huffed and said something along the lines of, well think of it this way, you got to sample several different desserts....
We didn't know where to go from there and I reiterated that I would much rather have done that over an e-mail or something and we left. It was only halfway down the block that I realized, wait a second, if that was the owner - there's no where else I can go with my complaints! She "fixed" it right then and there. Wiped her hands clean of the whole mess and that was that, next customer, please. Effective for business? Yes. Insulting to the customer? OH YES.
So. With that, I leave it to you to make your comments, if you want. I know Annisa is a well respected restaurant, and based on previous comments, I'm certain I had an anomalous experience. If nothing else, I hope you enjoyed yet another potentially overblown rant on this illustrious board of occasionally overblown rants. Whatcha think?