I’ve come to realize that I’m not much of a beach reader these days. The heat, the glare, the turquoise water, way too many distractions out there. But what’s my excuse at home? Dont know. But at the beach I prefer long walks, listening to music, and sometimes just aimless staring while getting lost in random thoughts. Albert Einstein got much of his ideas from aimless wandering. I’m getting there. The best I came up with in 6 days is “What the heck is a Post Malone”, and “How do you spell Rendezvous, anyway”. Silent Zs just seem so annoyingly wasteful, especially these days for some New Yorkers (Verrazzano is missing a Z in all 96 road signs and business names).
Another thought that popped was how such a small island where a human walks every 20 minutes from my vantage point has such great dining depth. In busier Providenciales (Turks and Caicos) where its now about 20 humans per 20 minutes from my favorite spot, I can think of only two very solid sure bets for dinner. Ember in Anguilla now makes it three, joining Jacala, and Hibernia. And there are island old timers I still havent tried, like Blanchards.
One year old Ember is the dream of Marc Alvarez who is sort of an island legend. If you are not aware of that by the time you get there, his long time friend and manager(?) Michelle will make sure you are. This kind of confidence can backfire if not followed by matching results. It did. And its always good to know who’s at the helm, what’s his/er story, and most importantly is that person in the kitchen every night. Its a yes for Ember.
The space is comfortable and inviting. There’s a wood burning oven in the kitchen that looks like a pizzaiolo wet dream. The menu features a New York-like “Snacks” column that makes ordering more interesting here. Alvarez did spend some time with Union Square Hospitality in NYC. A smaller plate section is also a risk as one can spend much less for a full meal. It took a while to come up with a game plan here. I had to interview 27% of the very full staff to finalize my order. Nice French leaning wine menu, just like the rest of the island pretty much. I lean Italian, but managed.
Started with the Snap Peas, the only miss for me as the spices too mild to make any sort of impact. But the buttery Pretzel, perhaps his homage to NY, was a nice kickstarter in more ways than one. It comes with sharp Dijon that brushes against your sinuses, but can do more damage if not too careful. Like hockey players sniffing ammonia-laced salt in order to wake up. Perhaps that’s the idea here.
The roasted beets was the first sign of that Alvarez brilliance. They looked like tomatoes, and tasted like meat. We are the rare breed of beet haters who like to order beets at places like this. The Foie gras terrine & duck prosciutto was the second sign and perhaps dish of the trip nominee. Prosciutto was more like Jamon or lardo that melts in the mouth without the chewiness. The combination of the Foie with port cherry on toast was like ecstasy in your mouth.
The red snapper fillet dish was a beautiful chaos of various ingredients, and perhaps best piece of fish on this trip. And the baked gnocchi was rich and spot on. Large fresh gnocchi as such tend to get all mushy sometimes but these were sturdy and spectacular, with bright, tangy tomato sauce and just enough cheese. The white chocolate bread pudding to finish was NOLA-ish bread pudding perfection. Not much white choc flavor which is a good thing.
There are meals (like the night before Ember) where I politely say no to dessert and ready to leave. And then there are the self inflicted marathon meals where I want to stay longer, visit the kitchen and kiss the chef on the lips! In this case I settled for a hand shake (I think he’s from the Bronx!). An epic meal from start to finish.