One of the saddest things about losing a restaurant can be losing a favorite dish. Such was the case when Le Zinc closed several years ago: Although the airy, art-poster interior was mercifully preserved by the next tenant, Kurt Gutenbrunner of Blaue Gans, the outstanding French pork country terrine vamoosed with the beloved bistro.
Happily, that terrine has landed at new Anella in Greenpoint, which Marie Fromage led us to this past weekend. All this time the secrets to the dish have lived on in the mind of Michael Sullivan, chef of Anella and former co-chef of Le Zinc with David Waltuck (Chanterelle, Macao), who recreates the terrine, peppery ground pork laced with a delicate liqueur like Pernod, a dense spread that turns fluffy as soon as you apply it to toast.
This isn’t the only fabulous recipe Sullivan has been carrying around in his head: another is for outstanding meatballs originally made by his Irish immigrant grandmother, which recently won him entry into the “Meatball Madness” contest at the upcoming NYC Wine & Food Festival. There’s some more magic going on here with pork, ground to a hash-like consistency, which makes the meatball texture airier than expected, mixed with onions and parsley, and served in a thick marinara sauce that perfectly clings to the meatballs. The meatball side dish ($9) is homey but sophisticated, and you can’t quite put your finger on Sullivan’s magic ingredient or technique.
These are only a fraction of the dishes on the large—perhaps too large—menu at Anella, which seems to be hedging its bets on both French and Italian food. But several of the dishes are hits, particularly anything made with Anella’s locally-sourced ingredients—and by that they mean really locally-sourced. Some of the pork is from Queens County, the herb garden is next door, and the “Rooftop Farm” of “Rooftop Farm Greens” listings throughout the menu is right around the corner.
The chicken liver paté on crostini ($7) strikes just the right savory-sweet balance, perfumed with cognac and topped with crisp bacon and a sweet balsamic concoction.
The Rooftop Farm greens salad turns out to be better than the octopus in the octopus salad special—though the octopus looks exactly as it should, it was cooked to the point of being chewy, which made us long for the succulent octopus at the Standard Grill.
The same holds true for the herbed chicken paillard ($17), in which the wilted greens are better than the ho-hum chicken on top.
A flash of brilliance returns again, however, in the special of pizza with mozzarella, prosciutto, and green figs. This too is drizzled with something sweet and balsamic, which turns out upon closer inspection of the menu to be balsamic honey. If you’ve never had balsamic honey before, what you need to know is balsamic honey = crack. It makes the salty-sweet pizza so addictive that you may just overlook the crust, which has none of the char and flavor that are par for the course at other pizza places around the city. Still, the combination of fresh ingredients on top is stellar.
We are already loyal devotees of Paisano’s, so we went for the Black Angus steak ($22) from this old-school Brooklyn butcher. Here again Sullivan strikes the right balance between hearty and sophisticated in meat dishes. The steak has a good manly char, but it’s served with luscious olive oil mashed potatoes and dressed with a rich but delicate marrow gremolata, that has the faintest whiff of wine or French liqueur buoying it up.
Anella may be in the wilds of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but don’t come here looking for crazy bargain dining. The prices are about the same as the many inexpensive places opening in Manhattan (like Locanda Verde) and reflect the ambitions of the place—think complimentary amuse bouche served before dinner. But one thing you’d be hard-pressed to find in Manhattan is a back patio as serene and bucolic as Anella’s, and of course Michael Sullivan’s magical terrine and meatballs.
222 Franklin Street at Green Street