The summer before my senior year of high school I went on a school trip to France and England. For three weeks I lived in the countryside of the Loire Valley and before flying to Heathrow spent one day in Paris, where a meal at a one michelin star restaurant was the highlight of the entire trip.
I wish I had had more time to fall in love with Paris. Falling in love with the food at the white-table cloth restaurants was practically a given, but I never had a chance to experience what Julia Child supposedly experienced at a small Parisian bistro. Last night I dined at Anis Cafe & Bistro, a small restaurant not far from Buckhead Diner that is the kind of place I’d imagine a bistro in Paris would be like.
For starters the atmosphere at Anis is very relaxed. It seemed like half of the restaurant was patio and amidst excited bustling crowds warmed by the sun’s rays, I couldn’t have imagined a better situation. The place was hoppin’, if you will.
Not to fear! These aren’t Jimmy Dean sausage links. Rather, for an appetizer I had the grilled merguez sausages ($8), red spicy sausage of lamb from either Europe or North Africa. They certainly were spicy and a tad too salty (but hey, it’s sausage so I didn’t mind). I didn’t expect mashed potatoes to come with the sausages but a side did come probably to counter the heat. Overall, tasty and very country.
Ahh…one of my favorites of the night: sea salt cured salmon carpaccio ($9) with red onion, capers, lemon olive oil and fresh herbs. I think this cured salmon may be the best I’ve ever had. The salmon wasn’t just cured with salt (which was done delicately) but worked so well with the fresh herbs and lemon olive oil. This fish was also so fresh it wouldn’t surprise me if they had just killed it in the back before serving it. So simple.
Of the three entrees I tried last night, this halibut with candied mushrooms (soy sauce) and white asparagus ($27) was both the most expensive and least interesting. While the fish was perfectly cooked, tender with a grilled taste permeating throughout, it needed something more (a sauce?). The white asparagus was very dull and the mushrooms incredibly salty from being candied with soy sauce.
This pan roasted salmon with roquefort risotto, julienne endive and saba vinegar was the best entree of the night. I usually don’t order salmon at restaurants because they all taste the same but the risotto, endive and vinegar really took this dish to another level. The cheese in the risotto made the salmon richer and “deeper” while the endive added a nice refreshing crunch. Every bite was worth the $19 I paid.
This thyme-roasted free range chicken served with yukon gold potatoes, haricot verts and aus jus was as good as it could have been. The chicken was tender all the way through (even without the aus jus) and the thyme stayed for the duration of the entire bite. This was a very “comfort food” kind of dish and the kitchen did well with it.
I wasn’t sure what to get for dessert so when I told our very warm and accommodating waiter that I wanted to end the meal on a high note, he suggested that we order a tasting of the desserts. For $7, I had the pineapple-ginger sorbet (which was really just pineapple), profiterole (nothing special here) and creme brulee (quite good and creamy and didn’t make me think, “I’ve tasted all this before…”). So desserts weren’t as good as the appetizers or entrees but they were very much in line with “bistro” desserts.
The ultimate question: would I go back? The answer: absolutely. The atmosphere, the service, the food — it’s all so inviting. The food is unpretentious and presented in a straightforward yet beautiful way. And the prices won’t kill a budget either (total I paid $48 with 18% tip).
It’s worth mentioning that there were French people all around us. I take this as a good sign that Anis Cafe & Bistro is doing something very right.
Anis Bistro & Cafe
2974 Grandview Ave
Atlanta, GA 30305