Pop-up restaurants are like food trucks for me – the ideas sound great, but the execution usually isn’t quite there due to lack of permanent infrastructure and/or resources.
The Anomaly pop-up dinner was therefore a pleasant surprise! For such a new concept, I was impressed with their creative menu and technique.
Anomaly’s seasonal, modern California menu and communal dining style will likely draw comparisons to Lazy Bear back in the day. I thought that Chef Mike Lanham’s style was more refined right off the bat, probably due to his prior restaurant experience.
The first bite was a cracker with exceptional oyster flavor. The distinctive briny taste was captured well in the crispy medium – a fun contrast from the slimy oyster texture. It reminded me of asian shrimp crackers I so fondly ate as a child.
Next came a spin on pão de queijo. The traditionally fluffy cheese bread was exaggerated into flat disks, resulting in an even more chewy, mochi-like experience. Smoked water in the batter added a nice depth. The accompanying satsuma yuzu shot was refreshing.
The first course was celtuce (thick stem lettuce) with a texture and flavor packed combo of cold shiso granita, toasted garlic rice, and bright pickled shallots. The buttery garlic rice stole the show for me!
I’m a big fan of sunchokes and was excited to see a substantial serving for the next course. They are reminiscent of a ridiculously amazing potato (and are worth the potentially painful gas!).
The sunchokes were served two ways – roasted and crunchy like a chip. Smoked soy provided good umami, while the bright lime basil cream was a great balance.
For an interlude, we had southern cornbread with a twist – the addition of miso scallion and served with basil compound butter. I don’t discriminate between Northern and Southern styles, I just want delicious, and this delivered! The bread was moist and had good texture without being too coarse. The basil butter added to my enjoyment.
The final savory course was tender sous-vide halibut with smoked brown butter sabayon and contrasting Asian pear and lemon verbena. I loved this combination of flavors, though some sear on the fish or other texture contrast would have made this even better.
Dessert was the weakest link here, though I liked the concept. The Lebanese 7 spice milk cake was on the dry side. I enjoyed the earl grey “dippin’ dots” and would have liked stronger earl grey flavor. The Bosc pears were wonderfully sweet.
Blood orange creamsicle fruit jellies concluded the meal.
A final gift were two rice krispy style treats – one peppermint and one Lebanese 7 spice. The childhood throwback was an excellent summary of the menu – elevated, comfort food.
Upon arrival, we greeted with glasses of sparkling rose. They offered a wine pairing with many Italian wines and a sake. BYO wine with free corkage was also an option. I was recovering from a holiday party and chose not to drink.
The twist on familiar flavors at Anomaly was a hit. I enjoyed each course and see great potential for the menu to grow and become more refined.
I appreciated the enthusiasm and engagement of the staff. Jose and Chef Mike took turns introducing the dishes and gladly answered questions about process and ingredients. I liked hearing about their personal inspirations for the food and pairings.
Service was friendly and prompt with water, folding napkins, etc. The timing between courses was a little long, but not egregious.
This budding restaurant has a promising future! Their current tasting menu price of $68 is a steal, and I recommend snagging some Anomaly pop-up tickets before prices go up.