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Sep 11, 2008 11:15 AM

Cafe W AS, isn't: Review w/pics

Cafe W AS: Fail
Ivan Kane knows how to create an atmosphere, and I think he tapped into something much needed at the corner of Sunset and Vine. West side glamour with a decidedly east side intelligence.

The rooms, floors and antechambers are eclectic, yet have a successfully cohesive vibe. Of course I love the Bukowski Room, despite my ambivalence about his work as a poet. The room is daring and fun.

I loved the pianist. His playlist pandered just enough to keep the patrons happily humming along to the occasionally familiar song, yet mysterious enough to remain interesting.

The piano rotated around...
and around....
and around.

Unfortunately, in the words of T, "does Ivan Kane know food?" Apparently not. Our food was beyond bad. It was sordid. Let me modify that statement. The warm mini loaves of bread were good.

I love the idea of canapes. It is unfortunate that they were not worthy of eating. The tuna tartare with avocado, mango and sweet soy did not deliver. There were no sweet nor savory flavors popping out, and the tuna was slightly mealy. Did not seem extremely fresh.

The tartelette de foie gras was uninteresting. The crust was too soft and the filling was like duck liver baby food. Tres uninspired, although the little wedge of grape on top was crisp and fresh. I love grapes. I have some nice ones in my fridge right now.

I enjoyed eating the crab & heirloom tomato Napolean, despite the fact that there was nothing Napoleanesque about it. And I am afraid those were decidedly NOT heirloom tomatoes. But the flavors were lovely, the crab was fresh and lumpy and it was lightly dressed, just as I like.

The above skirt steak caused the biggest problem. D cut into a piece of the toughest flesh I have ever seen. Now, this is a man who likes his steak cooked well done. He loves it charred within an inch of being charcoal. Loves his steak cooked in a manner that will cause a chef's hair to curl. I don't believe in sending back a steak you have ordered well done. You ordered it ruined, you suffer the consequences. However! This was not even well done. It was bright pink in the middle. Even the bright pink middle bits were beyond chewy. I spit my bites out. I couldn't chew it enough to swallow. Additionally, it had a gamey flavor that was off-putting. Our lovely, wonderful, charming and indulgent waiter insisted on returning it to the kitchen and expunging the offending beef from our bill. I wouldn't have asked, but he insisted. Actually, suffering through that horrific food was almost worth it to be waited on by such a charming young man. This kid was raised well. He is Ivan Kane's nephew, by the way. We just adored him. Imagine, a 24 year old kid who has just moved to LA, is working as a waiter and does NOT want to be an actor. I felt faint.

D finally ordered the above French onion soup, which was actually delicious. TONS of onions, a lovely slightly sweet broth and cheese broiled to perfection.

Mr. Kane, it was lovely to meet you in person. Please, hire a new chef today, no yesterday. And congratulations on your amazing nephew. He made our evening.

Review with pics:

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  1. Excellent review, and remarkably good pictures, considering that you were apparently shooting in a room lit by perhaps three candles. How sad to find a place run by charming people, none of whom can cook. Well, the soup and the crab thing sounded pretty good, but I find myself totally un-tempted to try it myself. You took one for the team, then, and thank you.

    1. Alluring. These pics make me want to go. Sadly, I guess I shouldn't. Could one hang out and have a small bite and a nice glass of wine? What's the wine situation is my q, I guess.

      2 Replies
      1. re: la tache burger

        wine list is not uber impressive. but they has a david bruce petit syrah, and i love david bruce wines. do go, by all means. my review meant to imply that i will definitely be going again at least for drinks. and if they make some menu changes definitely for food. i loved the place.

      2. While the pics that are included are nice enough, given the 3 candlepower, here are some better ones of the entire place taken sans patrons, with of course Lesley's write-up!

        3 Replies
        1. re: carter

          that eater write up does not include an assessment of the food, nor in my opinion, do the photos do justice to the lovely and playful d├ęcor.

          1. re: lotta_cox

            Hi, lesley here. To be fair, those pics are courtesy the restaurant. We couldn't get our photog in, so they are PR shots. While it's nice to see details of the space, it really is something to be sitting in there, low lit, candles, the rotating piano---which isn't fast, as I had imagined in my mind. More like you look at him once, back to your friends, look again and now he's at a slightly different angle, keep doing that and all of a sudden his back (or face) is facing you.

            We don't do food "assessments" in the Eater Inside column, so let me talk about our brief experience from the other night. Our burger was good, the fries OK (would've liked them a bit more crispy.) We snacked on the the gougeres (decent), the bacon wrapped dates (tasty), and the burrata bites (not my fave). The latter: Literally two small bites, a tiny bit of burrata on a tiny little crostini with something red, but I can't remember if it was tomato or pepper. Truth, not worth the $3. Too small to even taste anything, and you only got two. The burger was actually cooked perfectly, it has prosciutto, brie and a quail egg on it. To be extremely critical, the egg is probably unnecessary because it's too small to get a bite of it on the whole burger. The brie basically melted away, but the prosciutto was a nice touch. We liked it. Does it trump other burgers in town? Not really. Oh, we also shared a beet salad. Nice, big pieces of beets, lightly dressed greens, not enough goat cheese. Again, just ok.

            Does Ivan Kane know food? Let's say this, he knew enough to hire a chef to help create the menu (Tim Goodell), and he hired a chef to oversee things (forget his name, came from Vegas). I think my assessment here and yours above are fair, especially in the first week and a half of business. People are slamming this place hard on Eater, fine. But for drinks, some music, some snacks, you could do so much worse! It's different, kind of cool inside in a dramatic way. Maybe the food will get better, but I know they're open to the criticsm right now (so they said).

            1. re: lesleyb

              I follow your blog religiously. And I plan to give Cafe Was several opportunities to get it right. I loved the space, and had a great time despite the food.

        2. Thanks for your nice review. Did you have a chance to check out the absinthe bar? Not the kind of place I'd normally go to, but am very curious about the absinthe bar.
          Also, why is there a space between W and AS?

          2 Replies
          1. re: slacker

            You need to see the sign (you can find pictures of it on the Eater page). It's either an old neon sign, or made to look old, which reads: Cafe Always Open, but the a,l,y,o,p,e, and n are all darkened. If you saw a half-functioning neon sign on a diner that said, "Ea a oe's," you could probably figure out that it's "Eat at Joe's." Same idea.

          2. The original comment has been removed