Annie-one for sushi?

Annie’s Asian Grill offers fresh Japanese and Korean cuisine

HUNGRY YET?<br>The Chico Roll at Annie’s includes brown rice, barbecued beef, daikon and carrots.

The Chico Roll at Annie’s includes brown rice, barbecued beef, daikon and carrots.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Annie’s Asian Grill 243 West Ninth Street. Open Tues.-Sun. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Menu items are also available for take-out. Phone: 891-9044. No personal checks accepted.

Annie’s Asian Grill

243 W. Ninth St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 891-9044

For years, Henri had been planning to eat at Manka’s Inverness Lodge, the rustic little prix-fixe gourmet restaurant above Tomales Bay in Inverness, just north of San Francisco. Built in 1917 of ancient local redwood—and having served for years as a hunting and fishing lodge—Manka’s was famous around the world. In November of 2005, when Prince Charles and Camilla toured Northern California’s organic and sustainable farms and dining establishments, the royal couple and entourage ate at Manka’s, whose menu featured locally grown and harvested ingredients.

Alas, Henri never got the chance. During a nasty, windy storm two days after Christmas, about 2:30 in the morning, a large tree toppled onto the restaurant, crashing onto its water heater, and Manka’s was almost immediately engulfed in flames. By dawn the restaurant and upstairs guest rooms were totally destroyed.

Tragic. But a New Year’s Admonition, or perhaps I should say, Henri’s Very First Culinary Commandment, has risen from the ashes: Don’t put off trying a new restaurant, because you never know when a tree is going to fall over onto its water heater and start a fire that will destroy it.

Colette thought my little injunction made perfect sense and in fact had a restaurant in mind. She’s adapted to Chico quite well, going out every night, and apparently plenty of nice men have been happy to buy her drinks and introduce her to the area. One of them, whom she called “Jacques, auteur and bibliophile,” had said that Annie’s Asian Grill was the best new restaurant in town. We headed over for lunch one chilly afternoon.

Merci beaucoup, Jacques! Annie’s, which opened in mid-November at Ninth and Salem at the site of the original Oberon’s, is excellent. Specializing in Japanese and Korean dishes, including sushi, teriyaki and Korean barbecue, Annie’s uses fresh local vegetables as well as homemade sauces and marinades. The menu is nicely varied, the portions generous, the prices reasonable and the flavors distinctive. Additionally, the restaurant has a wonderful neighborhood feel to it, Annie cooking away in the kitchen and just seven small tables in the tiny dining room—plus several tables on the patio outside for when the weather warms up.

For lunch, Annie’s offers a variety of teriyaki and barbecue dishes ($5-$6.50), as well as a dozen sushi rolls ($5-$9), including the Chico roll, with brown rice, barbecued beef, daikon and carrots; and Annie’s roll, with hamachi (yellowtail tuna), salmon and unagi (eel). You can also get large bowls of udon noodles ($6-$8), which come with tempura shrimp, vegetables and other side dishes.

Annie’s dinner menu offers a wide range of katsu and teriyaki dishes ($8.50), including chicken, pork and salmon, as well Korean specialties ($8.95-$11.50), such as Gal Bi (broiled short ribs) and Pork Bul Go Gi (spicy, thin-sliced pork). The dinner menu features the same sushi rolls as the lunch menu, at the same prices.

Colette ordered the Chico roll and asked for extra avocado, and I ordered the spicy chicken. Along with our sake—perfect for the drizzly late-December afternoon—the waitress brought us each a small plate of cellophane (rice) noodles, dressed with tiny bits of carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, celery and a light sesame oil. Très bien. Then came our green salads—chopped iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, tomato slices, and sliced carrot. Also delicious.

By the time our entrées arrived, the warm sake had begun to take the edge off the afternoon chill, and I felt a gentle glow, making my spicy chicken taste all the better. Colette’s sushi was delicious, too—she could eat only four of the six pieces, so I swirled the last two around in the little plate of wasabi and helped her finish.

All in all, it was an excellent dining experience, and I can’t wait to go back for dinner. And I will, very soon. After all, there are two large trees on the patio, and you just never know …