Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Annalena interesting, tasty, pricey

Click to add a blog post for AnnaLena on Zomato AnnaLena has a simple, clean space with tables a bit tightly packed but spacing for seats not that bad. Nice, spacious washrooms that reminded me of hotel washrooms. Interesting use of LEGO and creepy bears all over the place.

TIP: Girls, the waiters are cute. That was the consensus at our predominantly girl table.

They also use Bookenda for online reservations, which has a nice advantage over OpenTable in that you can "chat" with the restaurant on the website in a sort of Facebook comments way, whereas on OpenTable, once your reservation is made, your options are more limited.
I recommend using Bookenda over actually calling or e-mailing the restaurant.

Annalena basically has two seatings of about 2 to 2-1/2 hours. And for now, they are packed even at 10pm. Also, while a 2 hour seating may seem like a long time, we were early by about 15 minutes but our table was still late by about 5 minutes. So while you can expect an unrushed experience, you can also expect others to do the same.
Because it's packed, you can expect the room to be as noisy as Cactus Club on a busy night. And considering they have a full house, the food does come out at a respectable speed.

The menu is sharing style plates and arranged in order of smaller plates at the top of the menu to bigger plates on the bottom. Two plates per person plus dessert would probably make a reasonable meal for a single adult, but if you got the smaller plates it might still not be quite enough. You can expect that the price per person is therefore closer to $30+ before tax and tip, and excluding drinks.
If you are sharing, then a single order is probably okay to share with two to three persons, but four or five starts to stretch it in terms of getting a proper taste of everything in a dish -- which is the situation our table ended up with, so keep that in mind when reading about the different dishes I got to try.

TIP: Immediately ask / make sure you get serving utensils. Our sharing dishes did not initially come with them.

Overall, price for portion honestly looks atrocious, especially as plates don't come with filling carbs on the side (e.g., when you have fish or meat, often it's sitting on mashed potato -- but not here). You are also paying for the complexity of composition/ingredients; if you refuse to pay for that and eat your food blindfolded so you can't see the difference, then you will be annoyed by your bill.
Still, this is not (yet?) a restaurant that has placed a large premium on their popularity or location, so you know it could be worse if it were in Yaletown. Bottom line, it's a pricey dinner unless you supplement your meal with cheap beer and carb-laden bites elsewhere afterwards.
Price for portion of the desserts was very much better -- considering what restaurants are charging for a slice of cheesecake, value on the desserts starts looking really good.

Kale ($13) kale salad, fried cauliflower, pickled veg, ginger tahini dressing, potato chips
  • Bitterness of the kale tempered with the gingery dressing. Some sharper notes, probably from the picked veg. Ginger flavor definitely present but not overpowering.
  • Portion is better shared by just two persons.
  • Overall an salad of interesting tastes and that makes bitter kale tasty.
Chicken ($14) buttermilk fried, maple mustard, dill powder
  • Most of our table liked this simple-looking item. The fried chicken connoisseur at our table pointed out the chicken remained crispy even when the chicken had gone cold.
  • To me, fried chicken is fried chicken. Slather on the mustard, and especially the dill powder, as that makes the tasty difference here.
Lobster ($22) garlic confit, seared mirepoix, potato, lobster bisque, lemon gel
  • Didn't get a particularly good sample here but I was told the chunk of lobster here was a tad overcooked.
  • Mostly I got to sample the bisque which was tasty, and more importantly, miles away not as salty as most lobster bisque I have had pretty much everywhere else.
  • We were offered bread for the bisque AFTER it was mostly gone. Hmm... (Probably not free, but I didn't ask).
Risotto ($19) summer vegetable risotto, parmesan foam, brown butter soil
  • Looks like a salad. Your small portion of risotto is hiding underneath.
  • I recommend isolating the risotto and eating that on its own. It is creamy and buttery and very tasty.
Trout ($21) seared trout, roasted carrot, picked cabbage puree, charred onion, chive butter sauce
  • Eat this quickly while it's hopefully still hot. It is skin-on and therefore can suffer from that "fishy" flavor.
  • Not too much fish to go around five people, so I chose to try the fish all on its own. Verdict: Seared fish is seared fish. If you order this, try slapping on some of the sauce on the plate on the fish.
Beef ($33) wagyu short rib, broccoli puree, mushrooms, potato, peppercorn jus
  • Done VERY rare. Cut small pieces, chew your small bites well.
  • Beef is beef. Get your moo at a steak place instead.
Grapefruit ($7) semifreddo, blueberry jelly, pecan grapefruit crumb, buttermilk ice cream
  • Two curious large cubes of semifreddo (?) that really did taste like grapefruit. Which made me wonder why they didn't just serve grapefruit.
  • Interesting to try plus tasty enough.
Chocolate ($7) chocolate custard, honeycomb, salted caramel ice cream, lemon & chocolate dust
  • Chocolate custard looked like ganache but the texture was slightly weird. Still, chocolate is chocolate. Be careful about pairing it in the same bite with the rest of the plate as it can overpower the other flavor.
  • Something really peanutty-tasty about the light brown parts of this dessert.
Winning plates for me were the Risotto (of which there was sadly too little) and the Kale salad.

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