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Ca va bien? Really, Ca Va--- bien?

I like ambition. I like empire-builders. I think ambitious, empire-building chefs are sexy. Hush! Don't tell Michael White (of Marea, Convivio and Alto) that I have a crush on him. But ladies, relax, it's just a man-crush, so I am still available. Lately though, another celebrity cheff, Todd English, has caught my eye (or should I say "retina" since I have been spending so much time doing retina research), and his name kept popping up in my various foodie sources. So we decided to check out his new restaurant, Ca Va, on my good friend Dickie W.'s celebratory dinner.

Location, decor and service: It's located on 44th st. between 8th and 9th ave., only a stone's throw away from the A train, so perfect for us, the Westsiders. Decor wise, it's modern, with high ceilings and spacious seatings, while the atmosphere is causal enough that you won't be elevator-eyed even if you are only wearing nice jeans and a dress shirt (as I did). And I was thoroughly impressed by the service. Initially, we were seated at a table right next to a section of the ceiling that was dripping water. Just as I was about to complain, the manager came by, apologized, moved us to another table, and offered very politely with a sexy French accent (yes, I am a sucker for French women) each of us a flute of Moet Chandon Imperial champagne.

Cocktails: Ca Va offers an extensive list of cocktails, creative and decadent enough to rival any of the top-notch, speak-easy cocktail lounges in the city. I have a shameless affection for girly cocktails, so I tried the Tres Chic.
Tres Chic: champagne, pear flavored vodka and St. Germain elderflower liqueur, garnished with a candied hibiscus blossom
Small plates: This is the most audacious, interesting part of Ca Va's rather extensive menu

Escargots Flatbread with melted onions, garlic butter, goat cheese and parsley. One of the great tragedies of humanity is to witness oil being left behind in the wells of a traditional escargot plate and the essence going to waste. The flatbread ingeniously soaked up the rich escargot oil, which surprisingly in combination with the goat cheese, produced a complimentary, not overwhelming, explosion of flavor. This escargot dish came in second among all the escargot dishes I have ever tasted, after Fat Duck's (Bray, England) Snail Porridge.

Crispy Lamb Spare Ribs with rouille and watercress salad. My favorite dish of the whole night. The meat was crispy, perfectly seasoned, gamy and literally fell off the bone. In case you don't know, one thing that really ticks me off is when people say, "The lamb is really good coz' it's not gamy at all--- it tastes just like beef."

Bifteck Sliders: petit sirloin burgers with caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce, and t.e. sauce. They were good but not great. Frankly, you will have to be a moron to mess up a slider, especially if you are charging people for it. If you are a big fan of sliders, there are better places: Lamb Meatball Sliders @ Locanda Verde (more interesting flavor) or Bacon Sliders @ Mark Burger (juicier).


Todd's Cassoulet with duck confit, pork sausage, braised lamb, spring beans and frisée salad. It probably didn't look particularly attractive from the picture, but trust me, it was grade-A comfort food for the winter.

Rabbit Wellington: rabbit loin wrapped in pastry with spinach, mushrooms, braised leg and carrot purée. This dish was disappointing. If you didn't tell me, I would think I was eating chicken. I have tasted much better rabbit before.

Desserts: Thank god I don't have a sweet tooth, or else, I will be morbidly obese by now, awaiting my gastric by-pass surgery. In fact, there have been very few dessert dishes that I have ever liked, so you will have to take my dessert review with a grain of salt (sugar). Desserts @ Ca Va were OK. 'Nuff said.

Apple Tarte Tatin with salted caramel ice cream

Cream Puffs with pistachio brittle ice cream and chocolate sauce.

So going back to the original question: Ca Va--- bien? Oui, for the most part.

Ca Va
310 W 44th Street, NYC, NY

1 comment:

  1. the cassoulet looks really good! i love this kind of one pot dishes - so hearty!