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Anise - Frank = ???

  • j

Went to Anise last night and learned that Frank (Reardon) has left. I know that there was some early buzz about Anise but recently most of the buzz seemed to involve Frank. It surely will result in lost business because I know many people (including myself) felt Frank was much of the reason to go to Anise. It was normally pretty slow in Anise and I think that the loss of the bar business (including food at the bar) could be a death blow. It's too bad that the concept authentic Sichuan and great drinks never caught on. Recently the menu has been "Americanized" further minimizing the uniqueness of the place.

I’ll look forward to visiting Frank on a weekly basis wherever he goes next. And for Anise…it was nice while it lasted.

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  1. Too bad -- I liked Anise, but really should have visited more frequently. If you find out where Frank ends up, be sure to post! (and I think Cedric had left too?).

    1. i went once and neither cedric or frank was on duty. the service was awful, drinks very so-so and the food mediocre. bathrooms a disaster area. i walk by often on my way to the movies, and it's usually deserted. i don't see how those guys made any money. if all that was floating that place was the barkeeps, they're sunk.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Cedric was gone by January. (Moved to Florida or something.)

        Frank was good, and I'd like to know where he ends up, but what brought me back to Anise was the food. I'll just have wine or beer from now on.

        My food experiences there differ from hotoy. Always good, although spicyness levels could vary from visit to visit. (NB: last visit was early January.) Bathrooms are in an odd location and should be nicer, to be sure, but not a "disaster area", based on three visits, I don't like this report of further "Americanizing" of the menu. I hope my next visit is not my last!

        Again as of a couple months ago, Frank was saying they do great lunch business, so that may may be what's keeping them afloat.

        1. re: Alcachofa

          I agree with you alca -- I never minded the bathroom situation as much as others, and I liked the food a LOT. But Frank certainly became the main draw for me after I went on my birthday and the bar service was really a downer, though well-meaning. Not sure that the two for one apps are enough of a reason to visit on a weeknight without Frank's skill and patter behind the bar. I need to visit to see if it's still worth it. If they took those green dan dan noodles off the menu I'll be really sad.

          1. re: yumyum

            They haven't removed anything from the menu; they've supplemented it with non-Sichuan dishes. Also, they added the names in Chinese and some of the English names may have changed slightly (and seem closer to the names in the Chili Garden menu).

            BTW, we went last night (we had tried going Thursday but the door was locked at 9:30!) and mentioned to our waitress that we had learned about Frank leaving on Chowhound. She was surprised and said that he had called in sick. Who knows, maybe he's bargaining?

            In any event, the food was fine. We had our usual suspects of the wontons, flower tofu, fern salad, and battered chicken with black beans. And the sake martinis mixed by our waitress were fine.

      2. The food at Anise has really been quite good the times I've been there, and I have been a tough customer for Sichuan food since living in Chengdu for a year. That said, the atmosphere is just such a bummer in there. It's funny-I don't mind going into a crappy, corporate feeling space to get a great drink, but I'd rather not eat my dinner in there. Maybe others feel that way, too, which would explain why Frank was such a big draw and good business move for the place. Too bad, if he's really gone.

        1. Was there this weekend with some friends and it's got the feel of doom about it. We got there at nine, after a movie on Saturday night, which should have been prime time for them, and it was very, very empty. The apps were good, as usual, but the entrees were not as good as they had been: the rabbit was dry, the chicken came in pieces that were too large to eat with chopsticks... And the drinks? Well, most of us had beer but one of us ordered a green-tea martini, which was good. But when she wanted a 2nd drink, perhaps around ten or ten fifteen... whoever was working the bar had already left!

          I loved Anise. But I left feeling bad for bringing my friends there.

          13 Replies
          1. re: secretlyironic

            We once loved Anise too but it's no longer worth going to have mediocre food and service. In addition, it is just down right depressing. I walk by there often and most nights they are closed by 9:30PM. It’s a shame. I miss it but will not be back.

            1. re: photiczone

              I'm starting to feel the same way. It's a real shame since I really liked the concept of the place.

              Any theories on why it's always empty? Could it be ...

              (a) the food? Personally I think it's great - but could see how not everyone is ready for authentic Sichuan (pigs ears, rabbit, etc.)

              (b) the service? Maybe - but when they first opened they didn't have too many problems with that as far as I recall.

              (c) the location? This one would be on my short list of culprits.

              1. re: Sgt Snackers

                that's a hug space top be carried by the charm of one bartender.

                a friend and i went while frank was still employed, but had the night off. some hapless girl behind the bar was beside herself. drinks and ordering took forever. the few of us eating at the bar got food way before set-ups. the food was so-so. we had just ordered apps, but the service was so bad we gave up ordering anything else. we had to beg for checks while she clearly was incapable of multi-tasking. the bathrooms looked like a bomb had hit (not to mention being 100 miles away.) and there were maybe 3 tables at 8:00 on a saturday night. i smelled doom 6 months ago.

                1. re: Sgt Snackers

                  I think that you may be correct about some people are not ready for authentic Sichuan. I know of people who did not want to go because of that. However, one of the last times we were there they had added Americanized dishes (General Tao’s chicken, egg rolls, etc). While that might give some of the less adventurous something to eat I also think that people have an idea of what those familiar dishes should taste like (even if it is food court version) and if they aren't up to those standards they might not like Anise's version.

                  I think that the service has steadily become an issue. At first they had some regular servers (who knew the menu items) but as time has gone on there has been a rapid turnover in staff. Who can blame them if you are only serving a handful of people in an evening and you are relying on tips? Since Cedric left they have never had a front of the house manager other than the owner and while at times she can be informative I have seen that she would rather hang out in the office. Losing Frank didn't help matters either.

                  The space/location is a tuff one. The size and layout are not ideal (and the bathroom situation is just wrong for "a chic, comfortable surrounding") but if they were in a different spot (Blue Room's spot for example) would it make any difference?

                  It’s too bad because the bathroom situation was far from enough to make me think twice about going in the past but when food, drinks and service are all on a downward trend it is hard to go back.

                  Just the other night I was thinking about enjoying one of Frank’s beverages and some Dan Dan noodles out on the patio…

                  One more thing...Frank and Cedric are once again reunited and will be make a return to the scene very soon.

                  1. re: JWR

                    JWR: Please please make sure to post when Frank (& Cedric) re-emerge, we miss him!

                  2. re: Sgt Snackers

                    Having had the pig ears and a really super-stinky (on purpose) chinese liquor at Anise, I can say that I am in the Not Ready camp. Very interesting to try, but (insert Homer voice here) chewwwwy, crunnnnnchy cartileeeege is a tough call.

                    1. re: Sgt Snackers

                      One thought: people that want authentic Sichuan aren't as interested in fancy atmosphere, and vice versa. It's also a nearly invisible location; no signage you can see from the street.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        i didn't think of the decor as fancy--it just felt like a big empty barn of a space. with no walls or dividers the place feels desolate and that's a bad vibe for potential diners. the night i went, the men's room was flooded, with a broken toilet seat on the floor. it was before the club (shine?) was open, so cannot be blamed on that.

                        if traffic is poor, good servers will (and seemingly already have) leave, because they cannot make money. the owners will cut corners, etc. and a downward spiral ensue.

                        the blue room cannot be seen from the street either. in fact it's subterranean.

                        it would seem chopping it into smaller spaces and installing bathrooms would help the next tenants.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          I keep going back. The service has never been the thing, and certainly not the ambience.

                          I have, however, noticed over my last few visits a perceptible decline in the execution of the food.

                          A shame. It was one of my favorite places to dine with food-loving friends.

                          1. re: wittlejosh

                            I guess the good news is that Chili Garden (Medford), which I beleve is owned by the same folks - still has fantastic food and a more 'conventional' Chinese restaurant atmosphere.

                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                            I definitely agree about the death-spiral; the opposite is true, too. Success seems to breed more success in some places.

                            Fanciness is all relative: I'm thinking of Anise compared to, say, Peach Farm, or any number of Chinatown restaurants that are similarly authentic in their approach to food. To me, fancy decor in a Chinese restaurant is often a big red flag -- think Golden Temple.

                            The Blue Room is a different story, too. It had a big leg up in life: its original connection to the East Coast Grill and the cult of fans around Stan Frankenthaler and Steve Johnson. They were reasonably sophisticated marketing people, too, with a built-in audience that would have followed them to downtown Lynn had they opened there.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              agreed, the blue room was started with good pedigree, but it sounds like anise has a successful forbear? the owners can't be completely clueless. the successive owners of the blue room all freely admit the kendall cinema is what keeps them open. lots of foot traffic, and i dare say, adventuresome minds, wandering by.

                              my one experience at anise was such a waste, i'll never go back. obviously i'm not alone, since the place is a wasteland most nights.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                Chilli Garden in Medford is Anise's forebear, and it's definitely more traditional in atmosphere than Anise, which is to say it's kind of bare-bones-looking. I know it has a lot of admirers on this board. (It even got a 3-star review from Alison Arnett, not her usual beat.) But I don't think it's quite the long-running, nationally-known sensation that ECG is.