Story by Barbara Angelakis and Manos Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
226 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
We have noticed a refinement in the “farm to table” trend in the slew of new boutique restaurants opening in New York City. These small, simple and tastefully decorated local neighborhood dining rooms tend to appeal to the 20- 30-something crowd that have bucks to spend for fun with friends over dinner and drinks, and choose to remain in their hoods. These trendy emporiums of taste, are taking classic American comfort food to new heights… and prices… by introducing old-world spices into the mix with fresh produce that make what was old, new again, i.e. cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, squash, green leafy veggies, beets, eggplant, etc. Vegetables, beans and grains that have been out of fashion, have found a whole new audience due to the creative chefs that are serving them in appealing “new” ways.
One of the new concerns for sophisticated American fare with leanings toward country French is Anisette café and bistro on Third Avenue at 19th Street. Brought to you by the owners of Carroll Place, Cotta and the well-known Italian La Follia (sister restaurant to Anisette). La Follia was in the current location of Anisette and is moving to 17th and Third, into a larger space, making room for Anisette to move into the neighborhood. It was Chef/Owner/Sommelier Suzanne Letulle Riva’s dream to open a French style bistro catering to the American palate... voila Anisette. The Executive Chef is Merceds Bautista, and Pasty Chef is Delfina Martinez.
The Thursday evening we were there every table was taken, making reservations a must even during the week. The two-room restaurant features a dining room on one side and a bar with the popular high pub tables on the other side as well as al fresco service at the fenced off sidewalk outside. In the dining room the ceilings are wood beamed, the floor is unadorned wood and the tables are mismatched. A dark leather banquette runs along both walls in the dining room and the rest of available wall space is taken up by shelves filled with a selection of wines.
We began our meal with a series of small plates -- another new trend is that starters are no longer listed as appetizers but as small plates which is actually a misnomer since they are usually larger than traditional appetizer size but smaller than entrée size and can often be shared by the entire table.
First up, Beets & Chevre (chevre is French for goat and by extension goat cheese). The fresh cooked beets are cubed and covered by melted goat cheese sauce. Next, one of my favorite dishes, Tuna Tartare which was fresh chunked and formed over avocado with olives and pine nuts and topped by frizzed fennel. Baby Kale salad came next on a bed of quinoa with chopped walnuts and dried apricots with just a touch of honey vinaigrette and topped with shredded ricotta-salata cheese. A warm goat cheese puff pastry filled with herbed zucchini and tomato slices and caramelized onion was followed by fried meatball-shaped zucchini fritters with a red pepper aioli for dipping. And the final small dish was croquettes formed from potato, ham, camembert and garlic and served with a citrusy sauce. It would be hard to name which was the winner since they were all made with excellent quality ingredients, cooked to perfection and served handsomely, so it would depend on your personal preferences; we liked them all.
Anisette offers a vegetarian entrée called Moroccan roasted carrots, consisting of quinoa, spiced chickpeas, zucchini, raisins, tomato, red peppers and charred roast carrots, which was delicious. We have had a very similar cold dish during our Sud de France adventure last year at a Moroccan restaurant in the small town of Trebés. But the star of the evening was the arctic char that was perfectly pan seared and served over roasted cauliflower and Provençal ratatouille.
We ordered wines by the glass, an Alsatian Riesling for Barbara and a Cotes du Rhone, Grenache/Syrah blend, for me. They both paired well with our small plates.
The wine list is quite eclectic, offering mostly French wines by the glass and by the bottle. There were some exceptional but little known gems included there, but I thought the lack of a few better known Italian and Spanish wines -- at the list’s end there were only 5 non-French bottles featured, and only a Tuscan Chianti was available by the glass – might slow wine sales; but that’s my taste because I like wines with my meal, and from what I saw most patrons were drinking high-priced cocktails anyway.
After such an abundance of yummy plates we were happy to have a selection of sorbets for dessert and a great espresso.
And a great time was had by all!
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