Twelve hours after returning from one of the most spice-adverse cities I’ve ever visited, I was dying for Sichuan food. I always end up back in NYC wanting something I couldn’t get while on vacation no matter how great the local food was. But not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Chinese food and Bay Ridge dining, so instead I convinced a friend to check out Annabelle’s in the former Lillie’s space in Red Hook, almost directly across from the about-to-open-Ikea.
I’m not sure what I think about the restaurant and I’m not sure that it knows what it’s trying to be either. I would say that it’s more of a bar, despite not having their beer taps up and running yet. But they started closing up at midnight, which is no hour for a drinking establishment to shutter.
Around 10pm on a Saturday the dim room (so dark that my photos are next to useless—I’m only including one here, but there are a few others) was nearly empty, but we were committed to eating. The service is friendly and earnest, and while the handsome space has lost a lot of the kitsch, it retains a retro aesthetic. I didn’t see the reported garden because the heat lightening and drizzles kept me inside.
The menu leans towards seafood dishes and po boys, which isn’t surprising since fish is the chef’s thing (I’ve never eaten at Petite Crevette, but I did try Bouillabaisse 126 once during a blizzard). The trouble is the pricing seems a bit skewed for the environs. This still isn’t an area for destination dining even though The Good Fork wins accolades and 360 was an upscale pioneer while it lasted. Entrees hovered around $20 and sandwiches were in the low teens. Perhaps they’re banking on a new crowd hungrier for more than Swedish meatball combos and willing to shell out for it. Degentrification clearly is not fazing them.
With that said, the food wasn’t bad. I would even say that it was good but it would’ve tasted better for a few bucks less (though to be fair, I recently spent more at Bonefish Grill, but I have different standards for chains and “real” restaurants). Lots of butter and lemon juice can work wonders on anything. At least it did for my soft-shell crab, shrimp with cubed pan-fried potatoes and shredded zucchini and peppers.
I don’t doubt that I’ll return for a drink at some point but I’m not fully sold on the restaurant concept. In a way Annabelle’s sums up Red Hook: high on quirk, pricier than it should be and full of potential.
p.s. Ok, now I'm utterly confused. I just stumbled on this bit about Annabelle's being the bar half and La Bouillabaisse as the attached restaurant. I swear to god I didn't see a proper restaurant anywhere. Was I completely jetlagged and blind? For what it's worth, I'm fairly certain we were eating off of a restaurant menu and not an abbreviated bar menu. I think I would've had different expectations if had I been eating in a dining room.
p.p.s. I was told that Bouillabaisse would be opening in two weeks, which probably means more like two months. (6/18/08)
Annabelle’s * 44 Beard St., Brooklyn, NY