Anise/ Sichuan in Kendall Sq
Don't walk, run to this place.
A few of us had dinner last night; nice room in Kendall Place; by the Blue Room. Bartender is Frank, recently from #9, and is joined by Cedric; who some may know from Federalist, Silvertone and Les Zygomates.
We started with a round of drinks. I had a gin/lemonade type thing that was delicious.
For ordering we put ourselves in the very capable hands of Cedric..Bring it on; we are adventurous eaters and like it spicy. He didn't disappoint.
Started with sliced pork bellies in hot garlic sauce, pigs ears/peanuts, sichuan style flower tofu, wild fern with bamboo and cilantro, pork wontons, braised frog legs with ginger, and sichuan spicy rabbit, green beans with a special sichuan pickle (another order of this came later).
Then a second round...hot and numb chicken, dan dan noodles with pork, pork ribs, and baby bok choy/mushrooms
Finished with battered chicken in black bean sauce and hot peppers and aromatic duck.
Excellent meal all around. I'm reading the menu and it's owned by the same people that own Chili Garden in Medford.
High quality ingredients prepared beautifully. Friendly and professional service.
Unfortunately not very busy on a Thurs night but they are doing a good lunch biz
I must agree that Anise is a wonderful addition to Kendall Square. I was also there last night (at the bar) and had a wonderful meal. My wife and I go there at least once a week and have tried almost everything on the menu.
Frank (aka Frankie from the former Frankie's Sports Bar at Summer Shack) and Cedric are both great guys and add to the experience. It's funny that you refered to him as Cecil because last night we (Frank and I) were jokingly calling Cedric...Cecil.
Anyway, be prepared to try food that you have not had before and most (not all) is on the spicy side.
Nice rundown 9lives!
I thought this was a really delicious dinner. And the drinks: I’m going on a limb and saying I think these are some of the best cocktails in Cambridge OR Boston.
JWR, I think we met you guys at the bar. You never know when you'll meet chowhounds....
My food faves were the dumplings, green beans with finely chopped pickles that Cedric said are a delicacy, green dan dan noodles, pork rib and battered chicken. We were tapped out before we could get to the whole steamed fish, which was described as a house specialty, but I’d order that next time.
Cedric steered us right. When we asked for recommendations he said, “if it were me...” and we went with all his suggestions. At the end he brought out “flowering tea” which I’d never seen before, the flower is hand-rolled so that it slowly unfurls in the hot water.
A great night, we all raved about this place!
I know the board has been split on Anise, but I'll tell you - I am solidly in the camp of a fan. I cannot wait to go again. Cedric made the great suggestion to get the "Chef's Tasting Menu" (5 selections from the menu for $25), and go from there - and we did! Everything was excellent. Service was wonderful, and wow Frankie. That guy justly deserves his fame and following - can he make a cocktail! I started off with the Ginger Margarita. Then just left it up to him - next the Tangerine Mojito, Green Tea Martini (made with Charbay Green Tea vodka), Sidecar at the bar after dinner.... For example, the Mojito sounds simple, but it wasn't - made with Hangar One Mandarin Blossom and involved crushed dried tangerine peels, fresh mint grown by Frankie himself, and even Tang. It was actually John from No 9 (when we were there last week), that mentioned this place as a favorite of his, and put it on our radar again. Really a great meal - highlights for me were the dan dan noodles - no gloppy peanuty sauce here, just the flavors of sesame, chili, and soy over delicate green vermicelli. And I could have eaten three orders of the dumplings myself. The savory pork bellies in hot garlic sauce, the melt-in-your mouth "Flower Tofu" with crunchy soybeans, tender aromatic duck, crispy rabbit with lots of chilis, chewy thin-sliced pig ears with chili oil, braised frog legs with bamboo shoots, fresh baby bok choy, Sichuan pork ribs, and the addictive crunchy lavender fern with fresh bamboo shoots - all were delicious. The green beans with Sichuan black pickles were so good, we actually ordered another. We finished up with that delicate and beautiful "Blooming" tea. IMHO, I don't think there's another place in Boston that offers an authentic Sichuan menu, upscale atmosphere, and excellent cocktails (and wines) to match.
Whaaa...? How can the board be split on this place? I was there last week, and concur with all the positives mentioned here: food was all delicious.
There were a couple spicy dishes, but nothing outrageous; I had hoped for a "Hell Night Warm Up", but this was just OK spicy in that respect. But nevermind, everything was top-notch: ingredients, flavors, presentation, service.
The bartender (Frank) even had me drinking a couple vodka drinks! Now that's mastery! ;-) Wasn't nuts about his Sidecar though. (I guess I have to say that to show some balance.)
After reading a number of positive posts, we decided to check it out this past Saturday. We've been big fans of Chili Garden and were looking forward to dining at Anise. We were not disappointed. We tried the pigs ears, pork belly and flower tofu. All spicy, all delish! For entrees we had the rabbit (the only disappointment, according to my wife, she thought it was dry) and the scallops. We will certainly go back. Unfortunately, for a saturday night, the place was mostly empty . . . hopefully, as word spreads, that too will change.
The pickle is probably the famed "Yibin pickle" AKA "Ya Cai". According to Fuscia Dunlop in _Land of Plenty_:
"This dark, salty, aromatic pickle is made from the tender leaves of a variety of mustard green (known in Chinese as guan gan ing cai). The leaves are sun-dried, rubbed with salt, and then mixed with spices and sometimes sugar. They are then sealed into jars and left to mature for several months. Ya Cai is one of Sichuan's most famous foodstuffs and is used in many local dishes and snacks. The city of Yibin is one famous producer; another prized variety is made in Nanxi. A different type of mustard green (jian gan qing cai) is made into "winter vegetable" (dong cai), a related and equally delicious pickle."
I haven't spent much time with Dunlop's book but from what I have seen I am very impressed. I cannot say the same about Chili Garden; the food was decent and the dishes were authentic enough, but the cooks seemed to be cooking Sichuan food using Cantonese style techniques (such as velveting.)
I haven't gotten to Anise yet; I hope their cooks have spent some time at Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham or Billerica <http://www.laosichuan.com>, which really gets the cooking techniques right, or in Flushing at places like Sichuan Dynasty.
And while surfing I found this place. Interesting menu with some non-traditional presentations.
~ Kiran <email@example.com>
Returned to Anise last night. Still excellent. Still also somewhat empty on a Friday night! Hope their lunch business will keep them afloat until they catch on.
Had many of the items listed above again. So, all the praise still holds. The Dan Dan noodles were better than I remembered; nice heat in them. We compared and contrasted the Spicy Pork Wontons to the Zhong Shui Jiao (Pork Dumplings). I liked them both, but some didn't prefer the acidity of the wontons.
Regarding the post right above this one: the cooks don't need to go to Framingham, as they actually come from China and were trained as cooks there.
"Regarding the post right above this one: the cooks don't need to go to Framingham, as they actually come from China and were trained as cooks there."
I'm sure the cooks at Chili Garden were also trained in China, but they sure seemed to be using Cantonese cooking techniques (like velveting) to prepare Sichuan recipes. Because of this, I can't recommend anyone go to Chili Garden if they have other options, like Sichuan Gourmet. CG is *okay* but only if you need a meal in a hurry and/or don't know where else to go.
~ Kiran <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have to agree, based on one meal, that this place is extraordinary. I shared the double-cooked pork belly, the lavender fern roots, and the fava bean soup with mustard greens. I'm no authority, but that pork dish struck me as really authentic. Some real but subtle fire where heat is advertised. High-craft, obviously serious bartending, with some interesting original cocktails (of which I only tasted a couple.) I didn't take advantage, but the wine list seems put together with care. Big Tsingtaos for $5.
I share the concern about the concept surviving in this snake-bitten location. It's not very visible, and One Kendall's neighborhood is desolate at night except for movie-bound traffic or college-age kids headed for awful places like Tommy Doyle's or venues where food isn't the attraction (CBC, Flat Top Johnny's). I'm going to talk it up to friends, but I worry about the tension between authenticity and elegance: most people I know who will pay for a fancy Chinese meal aren't interested in authenticity, and most I know who seek authenticity don't expect or want a tony setting and the accompanying higher prices.
I fret for its survival too; the fact that it's a sizeable space doesn't help. Those spicy fern stalks are addictive. Alcachofa, IIRC, early on there were negative comments about the service; the service I had was as professional and thoughtful as could be.