Anise - still kicking (and how)
Despite concerns about the imminent demise of Anise, a recent visit indicated otherwise - the food is still great, people are still going, service is good. We actually went with a fairly large group (around 20) and they were very accommodating - setting up a large table in the back room. With such a big group we ended up having each group of 4 people agree on some shared apps and entrees, which worked very well and the servers had no problem matching orders to individuals.
The food is still excellent and quite spicy, with plenty of Sichuan peppercorn. Pig ears had plenty of ma la flavor; the pork bellies were tender and a bit sweet. Spicy rabbit is one of my favorites although it's hard to get at the meat from all of the bones. They were out of snapper that night but the whole striped bass was done very nicely, sitting in a tangy, spicy sauce - perfectly cooked. Eggplant and garlic were good too. The pork dumplings with sesame seeds were a bit smaller than I expected, and a tad on the dry side.
Overall I think everyone really enjoyed their meals and it's good to have a place that can handle a large group so well.
Tried Anise last night based on the positive buzz on this board -- not impressed. Based on this experience, I think it will most likely go the way of most of its predecessors in this spot (which seems like it OUGHT to be busy -- Kendall Sq theatre is about 200 yds away). Hard surfaces abound and the lighting is much too bright. The bar is well-stocked and really inviting with big jars of infusions sitting there (these must be remnant of the highly-recommended Frank -- would how much longer they can hang on to them?.
It was 9p on a Saturday night. We walked in and there was no hostess and no bartender to be seen. We sat in the bar (with the 3 other patrons at that time), waited about 5-10 minutes -- finally a nice woman who might be the bartender or a server came over and apologized ("we're slammed -- we're usually sitting around doing crossword puzzles at this time" -- it was Saturday night and the dining room was MAYBE 2/3 full...????? .. and why is she sharing this information with US -- first time customers?) and gave us menus.
The hostess also eventually showed up and was one of the coldest in recent memory -- not mean, just aloof and distracted the whole time we were there.
We ordered a couple of the $7-$8 infusion martini specialties -- glasses not chilled at all and each was just over half full, but what there was of them was very tasty -- not such a great deal as it might appear from the price once you see the undersize.
We ordered food and it came quickly (10 min?) -- Peking ravs (fried) -- doughy, underfilled and it took 3 additional requests ( and about 15 minutes -- now they are cold and doughy -- should have sent them back, actually) to get dipping sauce, lettuce wraps -- tasty, fresh, light stir-fried chicken and frozen carrots/peas (really, but they were good) but they were stingy with the lettuce (??) -- only 3 leaves.
Green beans with Szechuan pickles were the star -- fresh and delicious, perfectly cooked, almost redeeming the VERY undercooked brown rice accompanying them.
Once we got their attention again, we settled our $60 tab and left -- this definitely not a future destination for us -- well, maybe pre -or post-cinema, but only if Emma's is packed, the Blue Room bar is full, and there are no tables at Cambridge Brewing.
That's too bad - I've only received good service there but from other posts on the board it seems that I must be getting lucky. They also seem to get more customers midweek, probably folks going after work around the area.
I'm not sure I'd say your dishes nor your experience was typical. Did you order anything else besides the ravs and green beans? Personally I think there are better options on the menu.
re: Sgt Snackers
I am sure that the loss of Frank (bartender and beverage manager) has hurt their "happy hour" business so they are looking to promote the specials. Frank attracted a good number of people to his bar and I know that his departure has hurt their bar business. Also, they need to be careful with promoting the $2 Buds. Massachusetts law says that a drink has to be the same price for a whole week (Beginning of business on Sunday to close of business on Saturday) and at all hours. I would be curious if I went in at 8 PM on Saturday if they would honor the $2 Bud deal?