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Anise, Kendall Sq., Cambridge

Crisp bite to the slices of lotus root with a touch of acid and quite a bit of sweetness.

Wild ferns with cilantro were ordinary, the flavours mostly chilli and sesame oil, without much complexity.

Tofu flower comes across as rather coarse, unlike the delicate silk that characterizes this Sichuan dish. Flavour of the sauce was basic, without the sound and fury that typifies Sichuan cooking.

Dumpling were outstanding, just the right resilience in the skin. A sauce nicely balanced between a dark sticky sweetness and a catch of spice.

A spicy numbing chicken is mild and stringy, the sichuan peppercorn hardly evident.

The 8 treasure tea is decent, but lacks the compositional qualities of more serious versions, this one mainly giving off chrysanthemum along with the sweetness from rock sugar and a bit of fruit from the dates and wolfberries.

Quite a few deficits in the flavour and technique, with little of the intricate spicing or fine knifework that one might expect from exemplars of Sichuan cooking. If this experience was typical, I would vastly prefer the more masterly cooking at Sichuan Gourmet.

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  1. Hi Limster,

    Out of curiosity, how much was your meal at Anise?

    I've been meaning to try, but slightly afraid it may be out of my budget, especially when Sichuan Gourmet is around.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Prav

      We focused on the appetizers, each dish was about $5-8. With wine and tea, tax and tip, it came up to $35 per person.

    2. I went to this restaurant on a Saturday night before a movie. At 7:30 the place was nearly empty, which should have been a clue. We had heard that the food was good so we proceeded. We were greeted with a limited pricey menu, terrible service. The waitress forgot to bring my soup, them offering to bring it after my main course arrived. I was clearly disappointed and she gave me one of those snotty giggles you see on the O.C., Yikes !!! The main courses were bloody awful. I don’t believe there is a main chef in the back of that kitchen. The food tasted like it was cooked and then covered with bottled sauces. It was really awful .Service was terrible, heck there weren’t any other customers and still we were never asked if we would like another drink. Oh and they do not serve coffee or regular tea. I was charged $4.50 for a tiny cup of tea leaves. No milk, No ginger ale. The most incredible event was when for some reason we ordered dessert and were sitting there for ever waiting. Finally we cancelled our dessert order and the waitress tried to talk us into changing our mind. The whole experience cost us $72.00. That is way too much money to be ignored and fed crap. Next time we dine before the movies we are going to the Blue Room.

      2 Replies
      1. re: yikes

        I think this is an overly harsh assessment of the food and I'd be willing to wager that the poor service colored your experience. In my opinion, the food at Anise is consistently excellent and very much what real Sichuan cooking should be like: bold flavors and interesting textures. If you're not familiar with Sichuan food then it's possible that some of the flavor combinations might come across as jarring or overpowering. It depends a great deal on what you order and, of course, what your expectations are going in.

        I am saddened that a restaurant with such a fantastic menu and kitchen has not at least brought the service up to the same standard. It is true that the place is rarely if ever full but it's hard to tell if this is due to the location or other factors. At least there's always Chili Garden in Medford - run by the same folks with a similar (but broader) menu and more conventional setting.

        1. re: Sgt Snackers

          Experienced the same very poor service when I tried Anise in Jan. Went on a Sat night around 7 for dinner before a 9:30 movie and actually wound up pressed for time. The server went missing for long periods of time and had little knowledge of the menu. Having not tried real Sichuan before, some guidance/suggestions would have been nice. We actually had wanted to try the 5 course tasting but decided there was no way - the meal would have been interminable. Did enjoy the pork belly, wontons, salt & pepper beef and a sea bass dish. It is too bad the service is not up to par.

      2. We were here last night and sad to say that we got the same poor service. We sat in a very uncrowded bar..interminable wait for a drink..

        I don't agree that the food is crap.

        The food was delicious..sliced pork belly, spicy, crispy chicken (good; but a notch below Mulans) and spicy wontons.

        Too bad they can't improve the service.

        1. menu online? saw it before but can't find it

          1 Reply
          1. tyvm. what is V? what items qualify for 5 selections from the menu? order off dinner menu all day?

            5 Replies
            1. re: galangatron

              I've ordered off the full menu at lunch.

              The 5 items change. Sun, it was a choice of 5 from 10 items. It can be a good way to go if you can find 5 things you want to try.

              Since some of the items are unusual, it's nice to have some guidance...which we did on our first trip...linked to by Rubee.

              1. re: 9lives

                Just as 9lives said. Addendum: "V" stands for vegetarian.

                  1. re: galangatron

                    You choose the 5. They choose which choices you have to chose from. That's a lot of the verb choose right there.

                    1. re: galangatron

                      You choose the 5 from 10 choices.

              2. The search on this board isn't working right, but finally Googled, and found a couple of my old posts. Hope this helps. I've never been for lunch, only for dinner, and not within the last couple of months.

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/331992

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/350924

                  1. re: galangatron

                    I prefer the dumplings to the wontons. In fact I love those dumplings and now that I'm reminded I want to go back soon. For dan dan noodles too. And the crispy chicken. Damn.

                  2. I also have mixed feelings about Anise.

                    I agree with Limster on everything, except the wild ferns with cilantro and tofu flower. I found both to be bold and complex appetizers that exemplified everything that is great about Sichuan cooking. Then again, I had both these dishes at Anise several months ago, and they very well could have changed for the worse. The same criticisms that Limster applies to these two dishes I would apply to several other dishes.

                    I also want to reiterate that the "hot and numbing chicken" and eight treasure tea were both disappointing. The "hot and numbing chicken" was neither hot nor numbing, and this is a particular shame given that this is often a "benchmark" dish in a Sichuan restaurant. Fuloon, Wang's and Sichuan Gourmet all make versions that rival the best I've had in Chengdu. The eight treasure tea was missing several treasures. A shame --- good eight treasure tea (a speciality of Gansu province) is delightful, complex and refreshing and actually a very good pairing with hot Sichuan food.

                    Other than the appetizers and the excellent Sichuan string beans, I didn't find the main dishes at Anise hot at all. In particular, I was disappointed by the rabbit with tangerine peels, which was hardly spicy and cloyingly sweet.

                    On a positive note, the tangyuan dessert was among the very best I've had; the owners must really know tangyuan because the only tangyuan I've had in Boston that rivals it was at Chili Garden. I would go there just for drinks and tangyuan!

                    I like the decor, and I like the concept of an upscale but authentic Chinese in this area. The location is not great in general, although I happen to work just down the street. Unfortunately, I must concur on the waitstaff. They were slow, rude and had no knowledge of the menu. I plan to go back at least once more and try some additional dishes, but I hope they figure out some of these issues.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: lipoff

                      Hot and numbing chicken at Wang's? What is it on the menu? Have not encountered such a dish--ordered "mysterious chicken" several years ago and it was thoroughly unmemorable.

                      1. re: Aromatherapy

                        I found the hot and numbing fish at Anise pretty hot and more numbing than any Szechuan food I've ever had. The effect was so strong that I had hiccups afterward.

                        1. re: fenian

                          I have found the spiciness levels inconsistent at Anise. I still long to go back, but yeah, sometimes things are spicier one time than another.

                          And, I disagree with Niblet!! The wontons are superior to the dumplings! ;-)

                    2. I think there might be an issue with consistency. If I liked it super spicy, which I don't, I'd probably request it that way. I once had the dan dan noodles and they were so hot I could barely eat them, but usually they are so good I have dreams about them.