NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - After recovering from a series of setbacks last year, including the death of her mother and a fire, Anita Lo reopened her Michelin-star restaurant Annisa in April.
While the restaurant was closed for nine months following the fire, the classically-trained 44-year-old chef ventured to Asia and Africa. Inspired by her travels abroad, she has added new dishes to the menu.
She spoke to Reuters about her difficult year, facing challenges and getting back into the kitchen.
Q: Saying you had a rough year would be an understatement?
A: "Looking back, it was like every other month, something happened. Bar Q (a restaurant owned by Lo) closed in February, which was very sad for me. My mother died in April, the restaurant (Annisa) burned down in July."
Q: What has been the most exciting part of the reopening?
A: "It was a nice fresh start because we could fix all the problems we had had here. I got a much nicer kitchen but by no means it's fancy. There were a lot of things we couldn't fix because you had to take out a wall to fix it. Well, then the wall burned down. There were the tiny details like where the stereo should go."
Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from customers?
A: "We really have had overwhelming support. Everyone is saying it was better than what it was. We have much nicer furniture. It is really a nicer restaurant I think."
Q: Do you feel you've regained some semblance of order in your life?
A: "There is always going to be a balance of things. Owning a business is always going to be a struggle. I'm very fortunate to have my business back. I'm relieved that I'm back on a schedule again. Life has its trials."
Sauteed Filet of Hake with Sweet Corn, Chinese Sausage and Garlic Chives (Serves 4)
4 - 5.5 oz. filets of hake (substitute a flaky white fish)
salt and pepper
Wondra or instant flour for dusting
3 tbsp. oil
1.5 pieces Chinese sausage, cut into thin rounds
2 cups corn kernels (about 4 ears)
1/4 cup garlic chives, cut into small squares
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
garlic chive oil:
1/2 cup garlic chives, cut into 1" lengths
1/3 cup oil
Salt to taste
1. Make the garlic chive oil: bring a small pot of water to a boil and season it generously with salt. Add the garlic chives and cook for 1 minute until chives turn bright green. Remove and place immediately into bowl filled with ice water. When cool, remove and place in a blender with the oil and salt. Process until smooth and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Discard solids.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degree Fahrenheit. Heat a saute pan big enough to fit the cod on high. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper and lightly dust with the Wondra flour. Add oil to the pan, and when smoking, add the fish and cook on high for one minute or so until the pan reheats. Place the pan in the oven and cook until golden brown on the presentation side, about 2-3 minutes. Turn and finish cooking to desired temperature, then spritz with lemon juice.
3. In the meantime, place the sausage in a pan with the water and bring to a boil. Add the corn and the butter and cook until the butter is fully incorporated and the corn is cooked. Add the garlic chives and toss to wilt.
4. To serve: divide the corn mixture among 4 heated plates. Ring with the garlic chive oil and top with a filet of cod. Serve immediately.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney