Jim Anile earned a dedicated following during his five-year tenure as executive chef at Il Palio, the Italian fine dining restaurant in the Siena Hotel. But it's safe to say that, even among Anile's most ardent fans, few were aware of the full range of his talents. The contemporary Italian fare that wowed customers at that restaurant represents only a small corner of the world of flavors that are the culinary palette of a chef whose career has taken him to restaurants and hotels on both coasts, as well as Europe and Asia.
Revolution, Anile's first restaurant, reveals the full spectrum of the talented chef's artistry. His seasonal menu is an ever-changing gallery of global flavors, rendered in artful compositions whose strokes are sometimes bold, sometimes delicate and often inspired.
In a recent presentation of blue crab, the unexpected whisper of truffle oil elevates a pairing of jumbo lump crabmeat in a Meyer lemon vinaigrette, arugula and heirloom tomato from merely very good to memorable. Another offering, one of the dozen or so listings under the "Chilled/Raw" heading, features white shrimp, "cooked" in lemon juice, dill and vodka, flanked by fanned slices of ripe avocado. The presentation is, like most of Anile's dishes, a still life on a plate. And the flavors are as crisp and clean as Scandinavian snow.
In contrast, a foie gras "BLT" is a kaleidoscope of textures and rich, earthy Mediterranean flavors: crisp Serrano "bacon," arugula, tomato and salt-cured foie gras between slices of crostini so thin you can see through the lacy architecture of the bread. Another small plate composition plays with textures in a different way, mirroring the delicate quiver of perfectly cooked diver scallops with that of spice-braised pork belly, with an emerald green backdrop of tender young fava beans and mint emulsion.
Entrees are similarly well-conceived and expertly rendered. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, too, with the majority of offerings that might include shellfish paella, corned leg of lamb, grilled Scottish salmon and African yam and black mushroom curry priced in the $16 to $23 range.
Roasted snapper is impeccably fresh and flawlessly cooked, and its accompaniment -- a lemony, dill-flecked potato salad and a fennel onion slaw -- is a match sublime in its simplicity. Beef tongue in sherry, offered in the spring, is no longer on the menu. The dish proved to be such a surprise hit, though, that it's sure to resurface in coming weeks.
In the meantime, grilled poussin should provide ample consolation. The flesh of the young bird is succulent under a golden brown skin, and you can almost taste fall in its sage- and black mushroom-studded cornbread stuffing. The black beans that accompanied the poussin were undercooked when I ordered the dish, but given the kitchen's excellent batting average, I'm guessing it was a fluke.
Pastry chef John Tate worked with Jim Anile at Il Palio, so it's no surprise that the dessert offering is well-matched to the savory bill of fare. Presentations are suitably artful, too, in sweet temptations ranging from lime Napoleon to hazelnut Bavarian to a velvety rice milk vanilla flan with maple toffee and candied lemon. If peaches are still in season, order the stuffed peach brûlée and watch the jaws drop at neighboring tables when it's delivered to yours.
Revolution's wine list features small production vineyards and is, like the menu, global in scope and ever-changing in composition. The list offers 50 wines by the bottle, all under $50, and 20 or so by the glass.
Service was uneven in the early going, but appears to be improving. Familiarity with the wine list could be better, though that's a tall order given that the list is such a moving target.
Revolution's dining room is a warmly inviting contemporary space furnished in mixed media of travertine, Italian mosaic tiles, leather upholstery and hardwood floors. Diners and drinkers at the long, sleek white stone bar have a view of the Chilled/Raw creations being assembled at the back of the room. They can also watch Anile and his crew in the kitchen on closed circuit TV screens overhead. Just one more element, you might say, in the mixed media artistry of the Revolution experience