Anise! Dorothy, I don't think we're in Boston anymore.
We went to Anise after reading Friday's post and catching the Forrest Whitaker movie at the Kendall.
We took seats at the bar - Frank was graciously tending and got us started with a Red Hat Dark and Stormy and a Zuzu (?) juice combo. The D&S was riddled with fresh ginger and a "spice combo" that was almost a little peppery, or was there a hint of cumin or curry? Not sure, but it was fine tasty.
My taste of DC's juice was like a Kool-Aid distillate - fresh-squeezed, extremely sweet start with a lime-sour finish that was surprisingly light, not sickly sweet.
Ordered three appetizers - szechuan sliced pig ears with peanuts were, well, pig ears...never had them before and definitely an acquired taste in terms of texture. The spicyness also snuck up on you, so that eventually I was sweating and the only way to stop the pain was to eat more! :) My DC gamely tried a few, but clearly not her game - too chewy.
Flower tofu was floating in a piquant broth with the toasted soybeans - the combination of velvet and crunch was curious...
Pork dumplings (DC pleaded to get something normal to offset the rest of the choices.) were moist and flavorful on the inside, swathed in pillowy curtains of dough. Good comfort.
As we were chowing down on the apps, I came to understand that Cedric was seated to my right, and he graciously suggested that Frank pour me a glass of Baijiu and sat back to watch my reaction. I drink my bourbon and tequila straight so I am not afraid of strong drinks, but this was absolutely one of the strangest smells/drinks I have ever had. I can't say of what exactly the smell reminded me...but a mere whiff of the potent potable put me in a state of physiological arousal...my vision cleared, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end! Finally I screwed up for a sip and was it plum? was it pork? was it woody or rot? I have no idea, but the taste lodged itself in my mind. Whatever it was, it was some funky...stuff.
A orange mojito from Frank was a pitch-perfect counterpoint - sweet, sour, light - outstanding.
In retrospect, I am a little speechless. There is nothing in Boston that is even remotely comparable (that I have had) to my dining experience at Anise. I don't really know that I can even say that I enjoyed it THAT much, in terms of the chow. The pig ears and flower tofu really challenged my preconceptions of taste.
The restaurant is elegantly styled, yet welcoming. Frank is outstanding behind the bar. The food is aggressively spiced - I haven't been to the recommended Szechuan places (Isn't there one in Framingham people like?), so I am not necessarily an authority, but I haven't been pushed pleasantly out of my comfort zone by a place in Boston (or anywhere else) in ages. I will be definitely back to dive a little deeper.
Nice! Frank and Cedric really contribute their character to the place, don't they? E wasn't as big a fan of as many of the authentic dishes I liked. Maybe your DC would also like some of his favorites, which were also delicious - the pork ribs, dan dan noodles, aromatic duck, and battered chunks of boneless chicken breast with dry peppers. I'm intrigued by the Baijiu - I wonder if that's the same bottle that Zatan brought to a CH Peach Farm Chinese NY dinner a couple of years back. Does anyone remember? We referred to it as "white lightning" - it packed a wallop.
re: the one in Framingham -- Sichuan Gourmet -- exquisite knifework, intricate spicing on some of the dishes. Was just there yesterday, my buddy and I suspect that it could be a lot better when the kitchen is not in mass production mood, i.e. when more dishes are cooked by the head chef. FWIW, we did confirm that the head chef was at the Framingham branch before going.