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Oct 20, 2007 05:33 PM

Ça Va

As a caveat, this is just a first impression rather than a true review since it is not entirely fair to judge a restaurant by its opening night (or, in some cases, even month). Nonetheless, allow me to share some initial thoughts about Comme Ça with you. The place looks like a set designer's version of what a classy bistro ought to look like. There is a bar area anchored on one end by a cheese bar (no seating) and a drink bar with a few backless metal bar stools (the type which look to swivel to adjust height). There are also a handful of bar tables with short, small, square metal stools that appear to be designed to discourge lingering--or even milking. There are also a couple of dining areas which offer actual tables and chairs, though even those chairs were not geared for comfort. Service was friendly and included the always nice touch of refolding napkins when a patron temporarily left the table.

The wine list offers several good, decently priced offerings, with several by the glass and fewer by carafe. The menu is a sampler of several bistro and brasserie favorites, including a fruits de mer platter and the essential moules and steak frites, and a dedicated plat du jour. No bread was served except with individual dishes. I started off with the tarte flambe, which had a good flavor but the lardons were a bit too thick and chewy to meld with the tarte as well as they should (Mimosa's version is better). The bouillabaise had impeccably fresh ingredients (shrimp, whitefish and mussels) but--even with liberal doses of the saffron rouille--lacked depth of flavor. The pommes frites were quite good, albeit (contrary to the waiter's boast) hardly the best in town. The frites come in a big cone with a garlic mayo (underflavored as well). The desserts are from Boule but the star is the cheese bar, with a good selection which (judging by smell and appearance) was carefully and well-chosen. I eagerly await the chance to explore it in depth. The tab, before tax and tip, was $52. including one glass of wine.

Although this was not the outstanding bistro meal hoped for, the place has a lot of potential and there were several other choices on the menu that were appealing. After the staff settles in, I expect/hope the flavors will become earthier and more confident.

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  1. Sounds like you'd say it was just "comme ci, comme ça." Thanks for the report.

    I'm disappointed by the uncomfortable seating. I wonder why restauranteurs don't realize that comfortable seating encourage lingering and ordering additional rounds of very profitable rounds of wine and spirits. What can make or break the decision to tack on a high-profit round of desserts and/or coffee isn't just service, price point, or even portion size but restaurant comfort, which encompasses seating and volume level. As restaurants bemoan the fact that customers aren't wanting to spend much, they shouldn't be focusing on ways to turn out the ones willing to dine there as in the first place as quickly as possible.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Woolsey

      Chair comfort is a way to turn tables, yet in these times with dwindling disposable dining dollars, your comment on customer retention is valid, and I wish David and his Comme ca team would get comfortable chairs, or run the risk of customers not returning. I am going on Thursday night to test the theory and will report back.
      The look is a little corporate, rather than neighborhood-friendly.
      Love the sound of the menu, though!

      1. re: carter

        The turnaround factor seems more necessary for high-volume places that finer dining establishments. Why is Osteria Mozza, for example, buying their chairs with the same criteria as Chili's and TGI Friday's?

        It does seem that a few of these joints are getting their inspiration for the decor at Restoration Hardware these days. I'm at Comme Ça tonight, though, and I hope to have a good experience.

      2. re: Woolsey

        I didn't notice the seat once in it. Woolsey, do you have either a gigantic or a superbony ass? I'm trying to understand why you found so uncomfortable the seemingly same seat that I sat in Saturday night.

        1. re: DonnyMac

          I just dined there last night, actually, and my comment was in response to the original poster's comment that the seating was uncomfortable. I didn't find the seating uncomfortable, actually, and my neither gigantic-nor-superbony ass was there for two-and-a-half hours. I just think the seats are rather cheap and flimsy, a single piece of white molded plastic that looks as if they come from a high-end garden center, like the outdoor section of Design Within Reach. They clearly put in a lot of work on many areas of the restaurant, but the chairs look like they rushed out at the last minute and bought them when the nice wood ones that would have matched the décor never arrived.

          1. re: Woolsey

            I was there last night as well and agree with Woolsey about the chairs. It's not that they were terribly uncomfortable, it's more that they are cheap and ugly, and don't match the decor of the rest of the restaurant. It almost seemed that the chairs the designer ordered weren't delivered yet, and these were placeholders. I hope that's the case, because I really liked the design of the rest of the place. Loved the bar (but, as pointed out, not the tiny kindergarten tables near the bar).

            For dinner, I started with the onion soup (classic preparation, very satisfying, flavorful without being too salty, quality cheese). Had the Coq Au Vin as the main course. Good, but not great - I prefer the heartier Coq Au Vin prepared at Jar. Had a few cheeses for dessert that the cheese guru (cheese chef? guru sounds better) selected for me. Solid.

            The waiter was very friendly, but I found the service a little convoluted at times. For example, when we began ordering, he stopped us to explain that the restaurant takes appetizers and entrees at the same time, since it's a busy kitchen. Thanks, Radar. It would have been madness at the table without that info, madness I tell you! Also, he referred to the "mixologist" at the bar as offering the best "drink program" in town. It's a program? What degrees are offered? Also, it's a bartender, ok? I'm sure the guy is a fantastic bartender, but calling him a mixologist is akin to calling a Subway worker a "Sandwich Artist." Last complaint would be that there was no dessert menu, the waiter had to describe everything at length (and of course everything was "amazing," "the best in town," or both). I'd rather just read it than hear about it, but maybe that's just me.

            So, overall, very solid experience, especially considering that the place just opened. Once they replace those horrendous chairs and give the waiters some "notes" about overbearance and pretension, the place will be a solid A. For now, it's a B+.

            1. re: thegrifter

              Seriously, if I'd had your waiter, I'd have probably hated the place. I'm glad I wasn't in your section. I loved our waitress. She was a gem. Her name was Ashleigh, and I'm asking to sit in her section again. Very loose and easy, humble and easygoing. She was amazing and got a little more than 20% last night. We wanted to add the pommed frites on after we got our entrées - not a problem. They appeared in a flash. We didn't get the speech about appetizers and entrées. (How Mozza!) There wasn't a hint of pretension from her, and she was busting her hump with her tables.

      3. This too is not a full review, which would be premature. I enjoyed dinner at Comme Ca on Saturday night. It showed promise and already had a few strong points.

        First, of course, its menu is one of the few totally classic bistro/brasserie menus in LA. So it's a niche in need of filling.

        Second, I found the bartending and the cheese offering both superb. When I ordered a St. Germain 75 and they didn't yet have the requisite liqueur, the bartender offered to whip me up something in a similar conceptual vein, and did himself pround with an Old Cuban, which was fantastic and fittingly autumnal/wintery. Likewise, the cheese lady picked three based on our stated preference for goat/sheep and they were all superb.

        The entrees were better than the starters, at this outing. My wife's salmon with gnocchi parisienne was excellent, and my duck confit with spetzl and red cabbage was very good as well. My crab and celery root salad was a little too one dimensional, and my wife's sepia provencal was a flawed concept, because the overabundant tomato sauce was more like tomato jam - far too intensely flavored and sweet for the delicately flavored sepia, although it would have been lovely with meatball or spicy italian sausage or something way more robust. I hope they serously rework the sepia and tweak the crab salad.

        The wines on offer were decent, although I was a bit disappointed after reading some time ago that they were thinking of focusing the reds by the glass on Southwest France and French and California pinot noir, to see no reds from the Southwest.

        There were a few service issues, but they were remedied with aplomb and a complimentary treat was sent over to make amends.

        With a little work in the kitchen and on the service, I think the concept and price point are good, and I hope Comme Ca excels.

        1. Does Comme Ca have a bar area where a girl can enjoy a solo dinner? I'm yearning for that marrow something fierce.

          2 Replies
          1. re: hrhboo

            There is a bar, but it's small - just eight seats, tops - but it wasn't crowded when I went. It seems to be more for waiting for tables than actually drinking and dining. Still, there were two women dining there, too, so eating at the bar apparently is permitted.

            1. re: hrhboo

              Definitely available for your dining pleasure but first come, first served. Just remember, the seats at the few bar tables are those small, uncomfortable metal stools, or you can eat at the bar itself on metal bar stools. If you are a cheese fanatic, the aroma from the cheese bar (no seating there but it is right in the regular bar area) will be heaven.