The night Anita Lo opened her West Village restaurant Annisa, 14 years ago, she ended up lying down on the floor of her office after service, unsure if the place would make it. Thank goodness it did.
There aren't many restaurants left in New York where the bread service includes a little white ramekin full of beautiful butter curls.
"I guess they're dated," says Lo, "but I think they're pretty." More importantly, she explains, the thin pieces of butter temper nicely--somewhere between fridge cold and warm and sweating--just right for spreading.
Annisa's butter curls | Chef Anita Lo
"I like to go out to dinner and hear people without having to shout," Lo says. That must be why, in addition to butter curls, there are so many other out-of-style comforts at Annisa: a quiet dining room where you can actually understand your friends when they talk, pressed white tablecloths and foie gras.
Remember foie gras? Here it is as a melt-away mousse inside Lo's half moon-shaped soup dumplings ($21). The dish has not changed since that fraught opening night, not one bit. And why would it? "People like it," she says.
A look inside Annisa: foie gras soup dumplings and hearts of palm salad
Rabbit might be trending. Lo doesn't care. She cooks what she likes and not what's expected. Luckily for us, this means a roulade of rabbit loin with layers of brined grape leaves and pistachios ($37). It's a beautiful dish.
Just one bite of the rabbit meat--smeared with lemony yogurt and pomegranate seeds, sparkling with mint oil--will remind you that Annisa is not, as it's always described, a French-accented Asian restaurant, but something more complex: A timeless original.
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