It's the rare soul who hasn't seen a painting, read a poem, or spied a stenciled tote bag and thought, "I could do that." When the end result seems uncomplicated, we often believe the execution was effortless, though it is actually hard work. Anella, a New American restaurant in Greenpoint, specializes in deceptive simplicity.
The salt cod fritters ($12) were unsurprisingly salty but surprisingly unfishy. They rested on a dollop of garlic mayo surrounded by arugula. Battered and browned, they opened to reveal flaky fish, tinged with acid. We like a less crumbly coating, but these were a fine savory start to an even finer pair of main courses.
Anella was out of the monkfish, so our server recommended that night's special appetizer, diver scallops ($14) with oyster and shitake mushrooms, torn kale, and sunchoke purée. We're glad she did. Really glad. Maybe the monkfish would have been awesome, but the scallops were definitely transcendental. They were lightly seared and, as with the aforementioned fritters, seasoned expertly.
Nearly the priciest thing on the menu, the pan-seared pork chop ($20) was worth every penny. Coated with thyme and rosemary, it came with a side of root vegetables including carrots and cipollini onions. The juices, from the meat and vegetables both, formed a delicious pool on the plate. True to the menu, the pork chop had a smattering of sear, and those few crunchy bits set off the many tender bites.
We passed on a bread pudding with golden raisins in favor of ricotta donuts ($8), served with an icy espresso glaze that offered enough of a jolt to let us forgo the postprandial coffee. Rolled in sugar, the donuts were dense, chewy full-stops.
With its rough-hewn walls, butcher block tables, and low golden light, Anella can make you wonder if Sysco sells a Romantic Brooklyn Restaurant starter kit. Yet the food reveals a gentle care and attention to detail that can't be mass-produced. Bread comes neatly planted in flower pots. Each of our dishes offered a master class in seasoning. At heart, Anella is best for: a well-crafted date.