My first food-writing gig over five years ago was for a Jewish monthly magazine. Though I’m unequivocally goy, I did my undergrad at a heavily Jewish East Coast college where I learned a little about the High Holy Days and a lot about good lox and bagels, so I was completely prepared for the gig. A few years back, I gave up the mantle of the Vegas Valley’s foremost kosher food scribe, so keeping tabs on this particular restaurant scene hasn’t been my priority.
But when I stumbled across Aníse Tapas & Grill on Durango just south of Edna, it piqued my curiosity enough to check it out. You should, too.
Aníse is somewhat atypical of a kosher restaurant—at least here—because it’s not outwardly kosher. Quick refresher: The basic tenets of kosher cooking are no shellfish, pork or intermixing of dairy and meat. Both the Aníse menu and website indicate it, while the prerequisite rabbinical- supervisory certificate is visible from the dining room. But it has contemporary décor with quirky faux plantation shutters, serves a litany of alcoholic beverages and delivers interesting eats that at first glance don’t appear to fit the format. If you’ve spent any time in other kosher restaurants about town, you know exactly what I mean.
Aníse offers an array of Mediterranean dishes as small plates along with more traditional entrée options. I suggest starting with a pretty outstanding hummus con carne ($13); while the hummus is more than serviceable, topping it with some of the best shawarma around elevates the dish. Dark meat chicken blended with just a bit of lamb fat—“for flavor,” per our server—and spiced with a mixture hinting heavily of cinnamon, it’s flavorful enough for you to forsake the pig, and it appears in various forms across the menu: stuffing mushrooms in the shawarma setas rellenas ($9), as fajitas ($13), and in an entrée-sized portion ($19). All are worth ordering.
If you’re not down for shawarma, try the moussaka sliders ($13). Lamb and beef sliders are topped with harissa, tzatziki and fried Japanese eggplant. You won’t even miss the cheese. Elsewhere, drunken avocado empanadillas ($12) are egg rolls stuffed with avocado and cilantro. The drunkenness comes from the accompanying Patron jalapeño-agave sauce, which delivers a balance of sweet and heat.
Be aware: Pricing will run slightly higher than your typical neighborhood restaurant, and because the owners recognize the sabbath, Aníse is closed from Friday to Saturday sundown. Just don’t want you to be surprised.
Given the propensity of yarmulkes during recent visits, it’s obvious the local Jewish community has taken notice. Now it’s time for the rest of us to do the same.
Aníse Tapas & Grill 3100 S. Durango Dr., 702-586-4088. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday, 6:30 p.m.-midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.