Well G’Day, Mate, Let’s Throw Another Heart And Kidney Brochette On The Barbie!

Europeans do lots of things better than Americans. Off the top of our head: playing socc—err, football, making wine, staying thin in the face of gobs of chocolate and bread. Until last night, we’d never consider putting ‘que in the Continent’s W column. But alas, Ansill’s European BBQ showed us Euro can grill like a motha.

Chef/owner David Ansill is not European, but his wife, Catherine, and his cozy Queen Village spot both are. Dessert-maker Catherine, spinner of the haunting violet ice cream we still think about with stalkerly frequency, is French, while the restaurant takes a looser geographical approach to its small plates, borrowing a bit from Italy, Spain, France and other EU members.

Ansill’s BBQ went down Wednesday night and last night, an orgy that revolved around a whole roasted pig. Each platter contained other assorted meats, vegetables and sauces, all for $35. We got there early to take advantage of the ridiculous buck-a-shuck oysters at happy hour (forgive the gratuitous oyster porn), and 36 salty Wiannos later, we settled in for the BBQ. The picture doesn’t quite do justice to the spiced, papery skin on the chicken, the smokiness of the smile of grilled sausage, the rabbit leg so juicy we eventually figured, fuck it, picked up the bone and started gnawing. Good and greasy, the succulent pig sang with garlic and rosemary, but as delicious as it was, the star was upstaged by the grilled brochette of bacon, lamb heart and veal kidney. It was a smoky totem pole, each tiny treasure crusty outside but soft and tender inside. If there was ever a question of which local chef possesses the deftest hand at offal cookery, it’s just been answered.

It’s rare to find a chef so adroit at cooking meat is just as nimble with vegetables. So it was a surprise that Ansill’s veg were a bit of a let down at the BBQ. The pickled cauliflower and beets were just as tangy and assertive as the ones that often find the way into the regular menu’s antipasto sampler, but the red cabbage streamers and slices of carrot (too crunchy and cut too thick) lacked the aggressive wallop of flavor that typical of the produce served here.

Three sauces rode shotgun: creamy garlic aioli, fresh-fresh-fresh parsley puree and, our fave, the pignoli-speckled agrodolce. In Italian, it means sweet and sour; at Ansill, it means powerfully delicious.

Each BBQ platter was designed to feed two, but going to Ansill and not ordering a few extra plates is like going to Disney World and not riding Space Mountain. Pasta brought plump buttery escargots nestled in a tangle of tender pappardelle simply slicked in extra-virgin with a smattering of chives. It was a special and it was special, while the silky Cognac-splashed steak tartare mounded on grilled slices of baguette smeared with purple mustard made from grape must, is still the best interpretation of this classic we’ve seen anywhere in town. Swoon. And for dessert, Catherine delivered as usual with the bittersweet flourless chocolate “fondant” cake with milk chocolate mousse and a wonderful poached pear infused with cardamom and ginger you could smell a mile away. The sidecar of vanilla ice cream was perfect. Rich, fragrant and smooth. Really, really perfect. But bring back the violet ice cream—please!

Photo: Ansill, blogalicious

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