Friday, February 5, 2010

Cest Comme Ça

Last night a good buddy and I went out to dinner at Comme Ça, a trendy little French place on Melrose just off La Cienega. I had high expectations as two different friends had recommended it.

The place looks like a cross between an old fashion Parisian bistro and a modern artsy joint. Kinda chic without trying to hard, and drips a bit of money – as in “this will cost you my friend.”

The bar is well stocked and the house drinks are pleasantly different, and good. I had one called The Blues made of gin, house made blueberry syrup, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Almost as good as it sounds.

We sat at our table and the retro-modern plastic chairs struck me. Not the most comfortable in the world. The chair was part of the “modern” component in the decor.

For appetizers we had Steak Tartare and a charcuterie plate.

The Steak Tartare was good, but not great. There lacked any surprise and delight. For example when you order it at Anisettee you get a steak that has been hand chopped and it shows, the quality of meat is obvious, and just for kicks they place a tiny quail egg on top. The ingredients are all there and you do the final mix. This wasn’t like that. It was ground beef with the required ingredients mixed in and shapped into a paddy and served in a bowl with some crackers and a couple greens for decoration. It kind of tasted like the Steak Tartare my dad makes, but not quite as good. Not a bad effort but not at this price. Cost: $14

The Charcuterie Plate, called “Selection of Three” came out and there were two very small wedges of a paté de campaign, two tiny slices of paté de téte, and 4 slices of salami. The paté de campaign was good, but not great, the paté de téte was pleasant but there was so little it was almost a joke, and the salami was… ordinary. Overall, OK but not much delight. Cost $14

Are you sensing a trend?

My buddy ordered the duck comfit for dinner and the waiter convinced me the lamb shank with Israeli couscous was “amazing.” Well the duck was, to quote my buddy who loves duck comfit “OK, a bit dry” which is not good, especially at $24 a plate. Mine was anything but amazing. It had a bitter edge, a seriously bitter edge. I told the waiter and got a shrug and “I’ll mention it to the cook” which was not exactly the reaction I expected. I mean, I ordered it because he insisted it was amazing. Honestly it wasn’t so bad that I was going to make a fuss and return it, but I would have expected the waiter to either offer to take it back, or throw in a glass of wine or dessert or something to keep us happy. Nope. Shrug and walk off.

This kind of summed up most of our experience at Comme Ça. It was as if everything was done just well enough to attract you and then they deliver just enough for them to get by. The menu looks good, but when the food arrives it is just passable. Even the service was best on arrival and at its friendliest right when we sat down, then after that it was just enough to get by.

The place has no heart or passion. People were just going through the motions. It’s that simple. And in a nice French restaurant that’s not enough. French anything, but especially French food, is about the passion.

The only exception was dessert, but we didn’t know that until they arrived. They had a Mont Blanc on the dessert menu, something you don’t see often here, but the lackluster description by the waiter “It’s a cookie with some chestnut crème on it and topped by a meringue” delivered with a shrug, was not enough to make me choose it.

By the time the desserts we did order arrived my expectations were very low, and the more than halfway decent desserts boosted our spirits. Again nothing to praise at length, but my buddy’s profiteroles and my pot aux crème were above average. The dessert chef clearly liked chocolate, and that was good. Cost $8 each.

In summation, the kitchen and wait staffs at Comme Ça need to rediscover their passion for food and  service. They need to make sure that there is some surprise and delight in the guest's experience. What they have now are the motions without the payoff, because it’s motions with no heart or passion. And considering the price tag, ballpark $80 a head, that just doesn’t cut it. C'est triste, très triste, because I have no intention of returning.

A la votre,
Le Capitaine

The dinning room at Comme Ça

Comme Ça's web site:


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  2. I personally like to make my own steak tartare especially in a restaurant. I don't like when they pre-pare it for you. It's never to your excact taste. There is a restaurant in Paris which serves it on a wooden board with all the ingredients in tiny ramequins on the side. You have to do all the work but at least it's always perfect.

    Merci mon Capitaine !

  3. on, but you forgot the treat of the evening (in my view) when we enjoyed some Pineau des Charentes. As good as it was, it only adds to your "passion" critique when they offered this aperitif AFTER we ate ;-) Au revoir, BC

  4. I read your yelp on Anisettee, and now this blog review. Both make me want to try out Anisettee. ;)

    "I'll mention it to the chef" sums up both lackluster food and service. Reminds me of a glass of red I was served at Pepone in Santa Monica, that blackened my tongue with awfully bitter dregs. The waiter walked up as I was wiping my tongue on a napkin, startled. My wife pointed out the glass. He picked it up, held it to the light, said, "Ah. The end of the bottle," or something equally dispassionate and uninformed. He didn't do anything. Correction! He. Put. The. Glass. Back. Down. In front of me! And walked away. One of the most awkward moments I've had in a place where awkwardness should be so far out of the realm of possibility as to seem mythological.

  5. You are right, this is sad. Hopefully they find their passion and invite you back!