Thursday, March 5, 2015

Anis, Hatsudai (アニス)

We have to pick our lunch spots carefully these days - where can we run out to for a glamorous lunch and be back before Peanut wakes up from his nap? I kid, I kid, but we do have to pick, because he can't stay home for that long. I thought Anis was near Yoyogi, which is pretty convenient, but it turns out to be pretty far from Sangubashi, which was a first-time station for both someone and I, and a transfer that involved us getting on a train going the wrong way. Ugh.

But the walk went well, and the sun was shining, and if it's a minor station, you still get nice views of the West Shinjuku skyscrapers along the way. Crossing that big road was a slight challenge, but we mastered it. And eventually found a tiny storefront in an alley that was Anis. There's a big counter and only a few tables; they also appropriate the tiled sidewalk outside with an awning and canvas wall so you can eat there in the winter. Me, I want to be front and center at the counter. With the pomelo that was going to feature in the dessert.

Turns out they're into roasting. Behind the chef in the picture above is a special rotisserie oven. More tellingly about their meat preferences, the red badge on the chalkboard is from Hugo Desnoyer, who even I as a never visitor to France know is the premier butcher in Paris.
There were 4 chefs at lunch, working like the dickens to turn out plates. We and some others had the Menu Anis (Y3.8k, and if it's not spoiling the surprise too much, let me just say WORTH EVERY YEN AND THEN SOME), while the more office-lunch-y people had the one-plate steak special. I don't know how this covers their costs, honestly. Look at the pictures.
Delicious bread, and the crock is a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese and butter or some combination of substancs along those lines, with herb for good measure.
Sitting at the counter, you have some idea what's coming. Which doesn't really reduce the impact of getting this. Ostensibly, it's a starter of turban shell (which is my half-assed attempt at translating sazae. Can we stick with the original names?). In practice, it's a ton of fresh and lightly worked vegetables in artful preparations. With raspberry sauce, and cashew cream sauce. And a canelé. And a little anise powder on the side of the plate as a reference. 
Pulling the sazae out of the shell doesn't help me think it's less gross. I was really disappointed that the 'meat' of the starter was this. But it was only one huge sazae.
And everything else was sooo, sooo nice. From whatever angle.
This doesn't look like much, does it? As usual with these things, it's all fancy ingredients and was delicious. The itoyori was barely grilled (I mean griddled, they do a lot of work on the teppan that makes up one side of the chef's counter). The cabbage was a special sweet spring type (honey cabbage, I think they called it), at least one of the sauces featured wasabi, and the stick is cheese. A strange combination overall, but with delightful bits, and mercifully brief.
Oh good lord, willya getta loada that? It's wild boar leg, obviously surrounded by a wide variety of separately-prepared and delicious vegetables. The boar was getting sliced off the bone and then griddled a liddle to make steaks. Standout vegetables? White asparagus for the second time on this trip. Purple cauliflower. Sweet potato and pumpkin. And some mysterious thing that may have been roasted negi but made someone and I sit up and say wow, separately.
Unannounced, there's an intermezzo salad. It's a shame that we didn't get completely surprised by this; we saw the prep happening for the couple next to us. It's amazing how they take out all the boxes of fixin's for this, which was three or four, and assemble the salads individually before putting the boxes away until the next one (10 minutes later). Salad dressing came in pressurized spray bottles so you could direct a quick squirt of flavor wherever you wanted. Just-pulled micro-carrots, flowers, and hazelnuts were my favorite elements here. It was a lot like taking a bite out of a garden, without washing too fully first.
I didn't see this until after our boar steaks had come, but when you see the chef yanking on a hoof and cutting steaks and bits out of a mostly-roasted wild pig leg, I think you should take a picture.
It doesn't matter much how weird the pomelo slices with hay ice cream and rice syrup were, because it's wonderful to push the envelope here and there. Or everywhere. You just need to make sure your diners aren't expecting the most perfect and traditional meal of their lives.
Nice espresso. Anything would be nice at this point.

Clearly Anis is on the 'ladies love it' side of the spectrum due to the vegetation and portioning. Someone and I discussed this and feel bad that we're so Americanized in our tastes now as to say anything like that. No idea what a place this good is doing in a tiny station like this, toiling away and doing awesome work. But I would go again in a flash, especially for dinner when there would be some roasty meat on the spit.
We were close enough to spit on these, so we finished up with a walk up the Hatsudai shopping street and a trip to the top of the Met to see the view.

That's a nice day right there.

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