Monday, August 17, 2009
Anise Waterfront, or Danny gets his bechamel, Part II
Probably should have taken these photos before the 'birthday toast'
Anise sits on a side street on the Upper Eastside, across from the ass-end of several fast-food restaurants, in a building that long housed various Indian restaurants. Now that may not sound very promising to you, but the secret is that once you get inside the renovated space, you will forget all of that, and feel like you are in one of those Miami places that have been around forever, but have only lately been discovered. Of course the Greek/Med paint job on the facade, and the complete Indian-food-aroma removal, which I am told took more than six months (there is still a hint of asafetida somewhere), have greatly enhanced the potential of this waterfront dining spot. And the fact that the Little River is now pretty clean and flowing freely (the 'locals' are even back fishing from the bridge-for mullet, maybe?), adds a new dimension to what once was a somewhat rickety outdoor patio. It always felt like it was about to tumble into the murky water.
But the owners, who ran 'Ouzo' on Normandy Isle, and then the ill-fated location on South Beach, know how to make people feel at home, and well-fed. At a big birthday party recently for a friend on the waterfront deck, we started with some mezze of hummus, and other dips, and everything was tasty. When I looked at the menu, I knew immediately that I would be ordering the mousaka, as I had been jones-ing for a fat bechamel-covered mousaka since February. And my patience was rewarded with this giant portion that was simply blanketed with the cheesy topping I so longed for. The eggplant was sliced very thin and cooked just enough to maintain its silky texture, and the meat and sauce were hearty under the great good white stuff. I can honestly now say that the Little River may be the New Restaurant Row (on water), with Red Light just fifty feet upstream from Anise. And speaking of fishing, the sardines were pretty damn good, too.
We finished up with a coconut cake soaked in a brandy simple syrup. I don't usually stay for dessert, but it's bad luck to skip cake at a birthday party. And this one was sweet and lush. Anise has added a great vibe to the neighborhood; and I will jones no more.
620 NE 78th St