I really like Anchovies and Olives. Both the two individual foods and the restaurant. Seriously, anchovies and olives are two of my favorite things and I think that helped in my decision to really like the restaurant.
There is something basic, plain and inviting about the completely bare walls and barely screened over industrial ceiling. The kitchen is open, with low counters, leaving the whole thing completely exposed, much like the food.
What do I mean by exposed food? It is served, plain and simple, just as it is described on the menu. Order the scallop under ‘crudo’ (grapefruit, piquillo pepper) and sure enough, shortly you will be served raw scallop topped simply with grapefruit and piquillo. In a sea of dishes I liked, this was not my favorite, but it struck me somehow. Biting into the buttery, soft raw scallop your tongue will start at the surprise of the slight bitterness of the piquillo peppers. But then you get the sweetness of the grapefruit, counteracting the bitterness and meeting up with the sweetness of the pepper. It was an experience. I was disappointed on my second visit to see that they no longer had my favorite dish, the Sea Urchin tagliarini. Luckily the sea urchin had been replaced with my second favorite sea creature, an oyster in the sauce for the tagliarini. The pastas were incredible, though I found the oyster pasta to be far less oystery than the sea urchin was sea urchiny, if that makes sense.
Other great dishes? Um, like all of them: the raw cherrystone clams were fabulous, a friend I was with loved the grilled octopus with leeks (for good reason, it was rather tasty) and the namesake anchovies were of course amazing, laid out over beautiful waves of prosciutto.
I realize I’m slightly late to jump on the Ethan Stowell bandwagon, given that he’s been receiving raves since forever, but I truly have not felt that great about his other restaurants. At both Union and Tavolata I left feeling like I’d spent a lot of money and not gotten all that much back. Union always impressed me with the food, but left me brokety broke broke, and Tavolata left me wanting more. I had only a few bites of a friend’s food at How to Cook a Wolf (I was picking her up and had just finished a 10 course meal) but was uninspired to return.
But with Anchovies and Olives, I’ve jumped on. I’m there in all my cheerleading glory, raving about the delicious, simple food. I like that, pure flavors emanating out from the way that they naturally occur, paired with foods that compliment and enhance them.