How does presentation inform the dining experience at a restaurant? We talk to Chef Anita Lo about the plating philosophy at her restaurant, Annisa.
'Anita Lo' on Serious Eats
Tucked into the West Village, Annisa has steadily grown a following from chef Anita Lo's careful, technique-driven takes on New American cooking with French and Asian touches. We ventured behind the scenes into the kitchen to see a breakdown of one of her most popular dishes, featuring a whole squid that's part grilled and part fried.
If you're the sort who likes to boat, farm, fish, clam and make good food, it's kind of hard not to be taken over by a green-eyed monster when chatting with Anita Lo. The executive chef and owner of Annisa in the West Village pulls out contemporary American cuisine from her wide base of knowledge, has a cookbook, was the first woman to win an Iron Chef showdown (against Mario Batali, with mushrooms as the secret ingredient) and had a later stint on Top Chef Masters. But what really makes her eyes light up? And how did a feeling of "otherness" and a degree in French literature lead to the kitchen?
A simple steak frites is that kind of meal that has the ability to please just about everyone, vegetarians aside, of course. For this Grilled Hanger Steak with Korean Flavors and Spicy Potato Pancakes, Anita Lo has taken the steak-fries-and-salad combo on a trip east, accenting the plate with a selection of Korean elements that elevate the dish while retaining its simple integrity.
Turkey with Spicy Black Beans in Tofu Dumplings is Anita Lo's adaptation of two favorite Chinese dishes, mapo tofu and steamed dumplings. By stuffing little rounds (or squares) of tofu with ground turkey mixed with scallions, fermented black beans, and doban djan, a Sichuan chile sauce, and steaming them, she's created little self contained packages filled with all of the salty, spicy flavors that make mapo tofu so irresistible.
Lo's wings are seasoned with salt and pepper, fried, and then tossed in a sweet chile glaze that's heavy on the gochujang, a thick, sugary chile sauce that's ketchup-like in texture with just a touch of heat. The chile paste is boosted with a bit of fresh ginger and garlic as well as sesame seeds for crunch. It's a pretty much perfect wing sauce—spicy, salty, and sticky enough to necessitate plenty of Wet Naps.
Swap out beef bones for duck to make a stock that has all of those warm and wonderful phở notes plus that unmistakable fattiness that can only come from duck. To the stock she adds a touch of fish sauce, sheds of duck leg, rice noodles and all of your go-to phở garnishes.
Gazpacho, kimchi, and shrimp cocktail aren't dishes that you'd expect to find of the same table or even the same menu, but for Anita Lo, author of Cooking Without Borders these seemingly separate dishes combine for a brilliant palate-awakening first course. The concept behind her Kimchi Gazpacho with Shrimp springs from the little plates of pungent fermented kimchi that kick off nearly all Korean meals. Mixed into a fresh and simple blender gazpacho of tomatoes, cucumbers, and garlic, the kimchi acts as both salty and sour elements with just a hint of red chile.
Anita Lo's first cookbook, Cooking Without Borders, explores her one of a kind approach—French technique applied to a global palette of ingredients. In Lo's mind there's no reason why scallops, uni, bacon, and mustard greens shouldn't share a plate, and foie gras is quite at home in soup dumplings. Enter to win a copy of the new book here!
From left: Rodriguez, Lo, Peel, and Besh. Top Chef Masters returns tonight! Just like we did with the Next Food Network Star earlier this week, we’re inviting you to tune in with us tonight, at 10 p.m. ET, and join our real-time, open thread discussion. Tonight's episode, "Magic Chefs," features Anita Lo, Douglas Rodriguez, John Besh, and Mark Peel. Who do you think has the upper hand?...
We got an e-mail alerting us to a fire that destroyed the first-rate restaurant Annisa. I e-mailed Annisa chef-restaurateur Anita Lo for confirmation. She responded quickly: "Yes, we had a terrible kitchen fire in the early hours of July 4th,...