Beyond the stretch of Kittery shopping outlets, and around the corner from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Anneke Jans, a quaint, dimly lit bistro, packs a full house. In fact, on a Saturday evening it is advisable not to be a minute late for your reservation, as you will surely lose your table, obliged to dine at the bar. Dining at the bar isn’t so bad, though, as the mood from patrons in the full dining area can be downright boisterous. But that’s what bistros are all about: culinary camaraderie.
Start with a signature Anneke Jans cocktail: Pomplamoose, a blend of vodka, grapefruit, and St. Germain. Bourbon Cider features Buffalo Trace Bourbon, ginger clove syrup, and apple cider. The atmosphere may be casual, but the food is that of fine dining. Steak Tartare is heady with a drizzle of truffle oil, served with crostini. Try the P.E.I. Mussels with white wine, garlic, and bacon. There’s a tasty option for crumbled blue cheese, which doesn’t overpower, but takes mussels to a new level. It’s great as a starter, but also available as an entree. Once the mussels are consumed, diners are known to happily mop out the remaining broth with bread.
Chef Henry Ares, who can be seen in action through the open kitchen, notes that this menu item was already in place when the husband-and-wife team of Moira and Jason Canty took over the reins two years ago. Another Anneke Jans classic is the Calves Liver, served with bacon, caramelized onions, and mashed potatoes. “People ask for it, especially the older crowd,” says Ares, who seasons the half-inch thick veal liver, dredges it in flour, and cooks it in a fry pan of bacon fat. “It’s flavorful, but not the healthiest.”
The menu changes seasonally. Dishes are well composed with a balance of vegetables, starches, and proteins. Ares has brought his own signature dish of Pan Seared Duck. He adds a complementary
currant sauce to its sweetness, and blanches and sautés baby bok choy in butter as a unique side. The authentic Housemade Fettucine with Bolognese proves its Bologna origins in aromas and taste. Assorted wild mushrooms figure as sides in several dishes. Beef Stroganoff Papardelle has a heady wine sauce and mélange of mixed mushrooms, great when the temperatures are chilly. On the lighter end, Pan Roasted Statler Chicken includes Brussels sprouts and roasted red peppers and crimini mushrooms, with
Israeli couscous. Pan Seared Salmon has shiitake mushrooms and braised spinach, with a potato corn cake.
Save room for dessert, even if it means brnging home leftovers. Pastry chef Deb Chag excels with choices like Apple Upside Down Pumpkin Gingerbread, sure to bring comfort to any sweet tooth.
Her signature Vanilla Bread Pudding uses day-old baguettes from the local Beach Pea Baking Company. Topped with cinnamon whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce, this large, deliciously buttery dessert is plenty for two to share.
60 Wallingford Square
Photographs by Tony Scarpetta