Friday, January 29, 2010

anthos, revisited

I'm a firm believer in rating a restaurant in terms of their consistency. Their ability to routinely deliver fabulous food, night after night, day after day, service after service. Accountability is something I take very seriously in all aspects of my life. You've got to be dependable. I have to be able to trust you before I let you in. And restaurants are certainly no different. Especially during Restaurant Week.

Anthos is like my predominately Greek, mostly Mediterranean rock. Each and every time I've been so lucky as to indulge in Michael Psilakis's food, I'm moved. By the eloquence and enchantment of his food. It's difficult to simply label his cuisine as Greek because while there are certainly constant reminders of his roots (feta, mint, olives are quite apparent) they're used with restraint and thoughtfulness. Each dish is sprinkled with a whisper of Opa to remind you of Psilakis's perpetual source of inspiration; his passion.

And boy oh boy can the man cook and create with invigorating passion.

Shortly after you're seated, a platter of small bites are presented before you: tiny lamb meatballs sitting atop tzatziki, chickpea fritters dipped in a lemon confit aioli, fried pitas the size of a quarter are served with a dollop of taramosalata and a small dish of marinated olives armed with toothpicks to attack. Dip, swirl, and nibble your way through the thoughtful selection as you graze through your menu. Smile at your impeccably dressed dinner date.

An amuse bouche was then sent out from the chef: a shot glass of warm butternut squash soup with truffle. One sniff of the soup and you're nearly punched in the face with the intoxicating aroma of truffle meets sweetness. Even as a person indifferent to soup, I could have been happily served a bowl of this daily. And lick the darn bowl clean.

To start, I chose the house cured gravlax with greek yogurt, kalamata olive and lemon. An obvious choice for me -- I can't turn down raw or cured fish. It's a near physical impossibility. Simple, clean, and lovely. The somewhat salty salmon was particularly enjoyable when delicately dragged through the creamy and tangy greek yogurt. A dish that I'd love to try and recreate for a special dinner sometime soon.

On the other side of my table for two, sheep's milk ricotta dumplings with spinach, leek, and feta arrived. When it was my turn to gently press my fork into one of these beyond delicate dumplings and swirl it around this beyond creamy sauce, I swooned. I could have bathed in this sauce. For days. So rich yet somehow light and sinfully delicious. I wanted an over sized bowl to my selfish self.
Every time I've been to Anthos during Restaurant Week, I've ordered fish. But this year, I threw everyone for a loop and ordered the roasted chicken with walnut, feta, olive tapenade, oyster mushroom and squash. Something about tender roasted chicken on a decidedly bitter and windy night, spoke to me. Enticed me. And so I went with it. Superiorly juicy with hints of cinnamon and a mysterious sweetness from what I think was a thin slice of apple. An extraordinarily comforting dish.
A Fred Flinstone-eque pork shank was served up across from me: slow braised pork shank with fennel, trahana, orange, and green olives. The meat collapsed off the bone as soon as a fork was within hovering distance. Ridiculously soft and tender and when I was served my perfect bite, I was sure to have a piece of cool, razor thin cucumber in the mix. My eyes shut. I exhaled slowly. Then looked up and smiled as I sipped my Greek rose which had wild strawberries for days wafting on the nose.

Alas, it was time for dessert. The course which I never have room for nor ever really care for. But when it's a yogurt mousse with pineapple and mint, you understand why there's an exception to every rule. Not the least bit too sweet, in fact, most of the sweetness was delivered via the tiny golden cubes of naturally sugary pineapple and cut by a delicate chiffonade of mint. Three gorgeously silky bites and I was officially spent.

The approachable inventiveness of the food at Anthos is what keeps me coming back again and again and again. Psilakis is certainly pushing boundaries but keeps them within a delicious yet unintimidating realm. And I really, truly, 110% urge each and every one of you to enter it.

FOOD (now out of 40*): 38

SERVICE (now out of 30*): 29

LOOK (now out of 20*): 18

VIBE (now out of 10*): 8


*I feel as if this new breakdown will deliver more appropriate results. Food and service are far superior, in my book, to look and vibe, and will therefore weigh heavier.

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