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Todd English' Ça Va Brasserie more than "OK"

Posted Dec 28 2011 9:58am
Ça Va. a French term meaning "OK" or literally "that goes" could not be further from my recent experience at Todd English's swanky French Brasserie... it was more than OK.
Have you ever experienced the WOW factor at a restaurant which took place 11 days before you actually experienced the restaurant itself? I can probably count these moments on one hand.  For those of you who follow me on Twitter @1educatedpalate, I asked before Thanksgiving for ideas of restaurants to try while visiting New York City. A couple of possibilities were sent to me… one was Ça Va Brasserie. The second was Aquagrill which I will write about later.  I can honestly say from before we arrived to when we left, nothing was less than excellent.  Ça Va Brasserie, a Todd English restaurant is located next to the lobby of the Inter-Continental Hotel on 310 W 44th Street and 8th Avenue, NYC. Of course being a celebrity restaurant usually no detail is left out when it comes to service.  When I first learned of this restaurant, of course I performed the obligatory searches of reviews by other diners on the usual websites... and as usual the reviews ran from the worst place to eat in NYC to the best place to eat in NYC.  

I (innocently) threw a few wrenches in our plans.  Originally we had 10 in our party. It then dropped to 6, then to 3, and finally it was just me and my wife!  I tweeted of course these changes, and each time, almost as quickly as I tweeted, there was a reply. So, whoever is responsible, a huge PROPS/SHOUT-OUT to you!  The last hiccup was our reservation was for 8pm, we arrive 6:45pm, mainly due to the Michigan vs. Ohio State game finishing and we walked at a brisk pace from the bar to the restaurant.  Explaining to the host our dilemma... she was very professional and friendly.  She noted our arrival and thought she could get us in within 30 minutes.  We were shown the bar and a couple of empty seats for us to enjoy a beverage while we waited.  Within 5 minutes, the host informed us of our table being available within 5 or so minutes.   Kudos to her for being so diligent!

We were led to our table and sat down. I began to survey the dining area with the throngs of theatre goers.  The French brasserie is set in a sleek, posh space that's divided into an 80-person dining room, 56-person private lounge, and a spacious lounge/bar.  I knew there was probably going to be a wait for our food due to all these folks wanting to get in eat, and get out to the theatre on time. Our server (Catherine) came within a minute or so, greeted us by our names (nice touch) with a very friendly smile, and gave us the menus, explaining some of the items. She noted (as suspected) our meals might take a little while longer, but this is always good information so guests aren't left in the dark.

We scanned the menu options and decided on the Prix Fixe ($39) of autumn seasonal salad consisting of some greens, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds and tangy pumpkin vinaigrette dressing. My guest ordered the Mediterranean Sea Bass which was delicately roasted. The meat was sweet and flaky. Presentation was rustic looking, skin-side up and a pumpkin rémoulade-like sauce under the fish (see photo). I ordered the Gnocchi. Fat pillows of potato pasta, well seasoned surrounded by (again) a rustic marinara with pesto and olive oil drizzled on top (see photo). Both entrees were amazing. Service was impeccable. I ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, F. Lurton, "Les Fumées Blanches", Southwest, 2010 from Languedoc-Roussillon region.  This wine has some aromas of citrus (grapefruit and orange zest) and tropical fruits, with a light floral nose.  On the palate, typical Sauvignon Blanc, acidity was not overly high, but still has the citrus flavors almost like a candied lemon in my mouth.  This particular wine has a longer growing season that other SB in the region due to its cooler location in the Ger area of the Languedoc… quite a good wine to serve with both dishes. 
Since the food was being served pretty quickly, we asked our server to hold the dessert we ordered for a little while.  Ten minutes later or so, our server brought out a lovely plate of petite chocolate desserts which the Chef had inscribed “Happy Birthday” on the plate.  A true surprise for my wife and I… and a charming way to end a great experience!  We still had our desserts which we ordered earlier.  I ordered a Crème Brûlée which had roasted figs on top.  My wife ordered the Pumpkin Cheesecake.  Both desserts were not overly sweet.  The cheesecake was so smooth and pumkiny… I had a couple of bites of the Brûlée, ate the figs and called it a night!
As I sat back and thought about my experience… I rarely go to a restaurant where something doesn’t go wrong.  This experience was one from start to finish; nothing went wrong from the service and food perspective.  Todd English really should be proud; you have a great team beyond any doubt.  Thank you for letting us experience hospitality at its finest.   
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