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Comme Ca? You're kidding, Right?

Well, after reading numerous posts about the great burger, and the food over all at Comme Ca, I decided to try it for lunch.
Oh well, I've made bigger mistakes.
I should have gone with my gut instincts from my first impression, but I didn't and I stayed to order.
FIrst, It's not my kind of room. I don't like the stark black and white interior. I don't like the simple, institutional clean lines of the stainless steel bar, the flat metal barstools, and I really don't like the shiny plastic chairs.
When I was seated I was presented with a warm mini baguette wrapped in brown paper and a small ramekin of hard cold butter. they do not use bread plates. just the brown paper. I don't like that either.
I started with an iced tea and it arrived cloudy and below average.
The waiter came and I ordered:

I'll have the soup and a burger, medium rare
Is that the pumpkin or the onion.
What else are you having?
The burger, medium rare.
How do you want that cooked.
Medium rare, Pleeeeeze.

On to the soup. It came quickly and looked very nice, served in a traditional semi-spherical white bowl with plenty of cheese melted down the sides.
Pretty low on the flavor scale. I had several spoons of the broth to bring the level in the bowl down enough to get to the cheese and bread and hopefully onions with out making a mess. The bread was a big let down. Odd texture, stale flavor, just not good. As I got further into the soup, there really was not much onion. I stirred around and looked, but really no more than a spoon full of onion inside. I pushed it away and waited for my waiter. A buss boy offered to take it away, but I wanted to show it to my waiter. The Waiter asked me how my soup was and I told him it was disappointing. I said that I thought onion soup should have more than a small spoon full of onion and I asked to have it removed from my bill. He took it away and very graciously apologized.

The burger came next. Under the shiny bun top was a heap of shredded lettuce mixed with a ton of mayo. It covered the top of the burger and most of one side and ran down into the fries. I scrapped most of this off. The meat was perfectly cooked, very juicy and totally void of any hint of seasoning. A thoroughly bland sandwich it was basically a mayo flavored cheeseburger. The bun did not make it thorough the meal with out falling apart, and I eat fast when I'm by myself.

I didn't know the burger was served with fries, so I guess I could look at them as a sort of bonus, too bad they were a disappointment also. They were quite dark, beyond what you might call golden brown. Ever the optimist I was hoping their interior might not be what the exterior indicated.
Nope. They were hard, no fluffy goodness inside, and like everything else, horribly under seasoned. Not a trace of salt, and we all know that fries have to be salted fresh out of the hot fat. Oh well, at least they are consistent.

Maybe I don't get "it". It's just not my kind of place. I found the interior bland, stark, loud and uninviting. Their culinary aesthetic matches their decor.

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  1. Quintessential Myers. Have you been at Sona?

    4 Replies
    1. re: RicRios

      no, not yet and I'm not in a hurry to try it either. $21 for a bad burger and poor iced tea doesn't make me want to try their other places.

      1. re: rednyellow

        Think way more convoluted bland food and silly formal 'tude.
        Add one zero to the price.

        1. re: RicRios

          I completely disagree. The meal I had at Sona was incredible. Bland? Wow, I must have been there on a good night or we have very different palates, because the flavors were balanced and the food impeccably prepared. The service was out of this world compared to most of what I've seen in L.A. If I were wealthy, I'd eat there often. I liked it better than Providence.

          1. re: spoggly

            YES YES YES -- I agree, Sona is WAY better than Providence, esp in respect to the paired wines with the degustation menu. And I don't usually care as much about the wine as the food, but with Prov I was seriously underwhelmed by their selection. Loved the service, the food, the wine and also the room at Sona. A truly memorable evening.

            NB - my experiences at Sona and Prov were both about 1.5 -- 2 yrs ago... six months apart from each other...

    2. We just had an exact 180 degree opposite meal at Comme Ca. Great burger and the bun is fantastic (I loved the clean, very umami tasting high quality beef and the toppings were spot on) the best fries in LA that I have had in years (not hard, perfectly cooked with great flavor) and very professional friendly service. I even like the rooms decoration and look. Different strokes and all that.

      1. Yeah, like servorg I had a markedly different experience. Top to bottom, service, food, decor ... everything was great.

        Same with Sona, except on another level food-wise.

        My only problem with either place is the noise level at Comme Ca, but it is certainly not enough to be a nuisance.

        1. I think every restaurant is subject to issues of consistency, but numerous posts have made it clear that Comme Ca has more than its fair share. Some people - and some doting reviewers - have adored it but plenty have had crap experiences like yours. Unfortunately, I'm in your boat: lousy meal, unbearably loud room, several incomprehensibly stupid choices, like the cold butter, the lazy bread service, the unseasoned meats, the flavorless soups. Unlike you, I got great service and even found the place strangely attractive (points deducted for the lawn chairs), but it wasn't enough to make me go back. At the end of the evening, instead of angry, I somehow felt more like a fool for letting it happen.

          12 Replies
          1. re: neobite

            I'm sorry, but cold butter and no bread plate isn't "lazy bread service", it's FRENCH bread service. You're expected to get crumbs on the tablecloth because that's what it's for, and that's why it's taken up after the meal. And cold butter simply tastes better, does it not? What I'm tired of is foil packets of half-melted butter that gets all over my fingers while I'm trying to open them...and I've been in a few restaurants that had butter dishes sitting on ice, a nice idea I think.

            Loud room would be my only turnoff.

            1. re: Will Owen

              I HATE those foil packets. What's gross is when a restaurant re-serves and unused packet. And don't think it doesn't happen to you because it most certainly does.

              However, to be fair to rednyellow, if the butter is *too* hard then it's impossible to spread. It should be cool, but not hard.

              1. re: Frommtron

                I too hate tose foil butter packets and would gladly pay a bit more for a nice slab of room temp butter. Cold butter does not have as much flavor as room temp.

                1. re: rednyellow

                  Agree with the room temp thing. Maybe cool room temp - 60-65 degrees. I don't get it - what's the appeal of cold butter? I think I read somewhere that the French don't even keep butter in the fridge. Or maybe it was eggs. I don't know how accurate that is.

                  1. re: soniabegonia

                    Both actually. I also think that you're right regarding room temperature being cooler than what we end up with as room temperature in SoCal. It's like when a friend near Pasadena serves me 80 degree red wine because it's 'room temperature'. Blech!

                  2. re: rednyellow

                    I think we can agree to disagree about the butter. Soft butter does have MORE flavor, but warm milk also has more flavor than cold; I simply prefer the less intrusive flavor, the more austere creaminess, of cold. As for spreading, although smearing soft butter onto slices of bread is what most of us grew up with, breaking bread into one- or two-bite pieces and applying a sliver of butter to that is I think a much more fun way to eat it, and helps to focus one's attention onto what it actually tastes like instead of letting it be just an edible mop in one's hand.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      good point. I like breaking off a nice piece of bread and putting a bit of butter on it. If served cold, I like butter shaved, nice little curls - easy access and pretty too.

                  3. re: Frommtron

                    If the foil-packet butter is too cold/hard, a discreet placement of the packet in one's arm/pit crevasse for a leisurely count to 100 should soften it right up! Same applies to that sweet spot between the under-breast and ribcage (one for the ladies!). Not too long, though, especially if one's core temp tends to run hot. And make sure the foil packet is adequately sealed, or you'll need to wedge a biscuit in there too, as a sop! And if dining with genteel companions, only employ crevasses found from the waist upwards(basically, limb-related folds). We are a civil society, after all...

                    1. re: silence9

                      Evidently, you've been experimenting with your own 'crevasses' extensively. The board should heed your wisdom.

                      1. re: Frommtron

                        I've had good results just holding a cold hard foil wrapped butter pat in my closed hand for a moment or two with out using any other crevasses.

                      2. re: silence9

                        Just make certain not to place it in your bergschrund or it will come out harder than it went in. ;-D

                  4. I don't know, it seems you had an ax to grind the moment you walked in. Your "gut instincts" and "first impression" told you it was going to be bad because of the black and white interior and simple and clean lines of the bar? The fact that they didn't give you a bread plate, but brown paper? Well, maybe your sour attitude affected your palate? Just a thought.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LuluBleu

                      NO. I love a pleasant surprise and nothing reverses a sour attitude like a good meal. Unfortunately, the meal was not good.

                    2. I have been twice, and both times at lunch. Although the noise level is deafening, both of my meals were great. The first, although I went for the burger, I chose the braised beef sandwich instead (can't remember the name). It was one of the best beef sandwiches I've ever had - like eating a short rib on a delicious roll. My friend had the burger, and really enjoyed it. She has a very simple palate (doesn't like lots of spices) so she may have liked it better if it were slightly or under seasoned. The second visit was for the recession menu, and I enjoyed the pumpkin soup with hazelnut cream (delicious and rich) followed by the seared chicken on mustard potatoes. Although the potatoes were a little to "mustard-y" for me, the chicken breast was perfect and moist - with a crispy skin. Dessert was bread pudding, and fabulous. Although the plastic chairs seemed a little out of place to me (the first time I sat on the banquette side, the second time on the chairs) I found them to be VERY comfortable. Our servers were both very accommodating, quick, and accurate. Everything you want in a lunch spot - and both experiences were around $25pp.

                      1. I agree with rednyellow! I don't understand what the fuss is all about. I tried this place three times and every time left underwhelmed. The service is shoddy, the food is bland and overpriced with it all served in an incredibly uncomfortable room.

                        The cocktails are thimble sized with no trace of liquor. I could go on and on.

                        Jonathan Gold must have been paid off. "Best Burger in Los Angeles." Yeah, right.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: love2eat

                          Although the OP seemed to be sour on Comme Ca from the start, I think he’s right about the food I had a lousy dinner there and decided I wouldn’t go back. However, after J. Gold 's singing the praises of the hamburger I returned for lunch. Total mistake, burger was nothing and I think I was charged $5 for tap water. I’ve liked my meals at Sona but I haven’t been back for years maybe their growing to rapidly. O yeah I'm hateing on Boule too.

                          1. re: HitTheBall

                            Boule is hack--have you ever seen the same person working there on successive visits? Not me. I wish they would close up shop....

                            1. re: Adsvino

                              "have you ever seen the same person working there on successive visits?"

                              Very good point Ad!

                              1. re: RicRios

                                yeah, do they have days off? they always there. I'm beginning to feel bad, lol

                              2. re: HitTheBall

                                Don't even get me started on Boule. Their macarons are crap. The service deplorable.

                            2. Have eaten at Comme Ca twice both times for dinner and both times food was exceptional. I will never order a coctail again, worst portion in LA. service can be erratic.

                              1. You're 100% spot on. I had the same underwhelmed feeling from Sona. Too much money on too bland of food.

                                1. I actually like Comme Ca very much for brunch. Sharing a croque madame and their pain perdu with a friend along with one of their excellent bloody marys is one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend morning. Oh, and I really think the space is very pretty. But I had the exact same experience (except for the bun falling apart) at rednyellow with the burger. I could barely taste the meat and any taste that was there was mostly masked by the very heavy mayo (and I LOVE mayo). I was bummed, especially considering J. Gold had spoken so highly of it.

                                  1. If we're dissing Comme Ca, and I just add my two cents?

                                    The sommelier, really nice guy, has the worst smoker's breath on the planet. I won't even bother with understanding how a wine guy can be a smoker, but how can I taste my wine with that smell coming out of him?

                                    On the other hand, the frites and aioli there make otherwise-average meals worth eating.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: michaela

                                      Hysterical. I hope he reads this.

                                    2. Count me amongst those who overall enjoy Comme Ca. I wouldn't dare go there for dinner, even my concert-battered ears seem unable to handle the ridiculous noise level. For lunch though, I'll easily go for their lunch burger. For me, 80% of what a good burger is is the meat & bun. I think Comme Ca has it in spades in that regard. The brioche bun is a wonderful consistency and texture; the mayo and slaw are simple but compliment the high-quality patty. I'm a carnivore to and fro, and will order my burger rare. I love it as it comes out like some delicious bastard lovechild between steak tartare and a juicy burger. The fries always look overcooked but I find they're cooked just right. At least I think so. They're somewhat under seasoned but have a strong pure taste of potato which I enjoy.

                                      To each their own. I've long since looked for a burger that clicked with me and was grateful for the Comme Ca discovery.

                                      1. Wow! I sorta have a feel for near-downtown faux-chic, but really plastic lawnchairs? Fun to read the disparate impressions.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: nosh

                                          Yes, flimsy plastic chairs. I'm 6'5", a big man, and never want to sit on those again.

                                        2. Hmmm. I'll chime in here but where to begin with this one as I agree and disagree on many of your points.

                                          1. The decor -- It's bold. It's in your face. And overall I don't think it works either. It doesn't fall flat on it's face but there is not enough warmth to the place. Ultimately, this is high-end comfort food and I disagree with the aesthetic. The plastic chairs are not okay by any means. However, I have to disagree about the bar. It's a zinc bar if my memory is correct, which is a very classic take on a bistro bar. Anisette in Santa Monica went that route as well and it totally works. And the cocktails are perfect. That's not hyperbole. They are impeccable. The bar is a saving grace and I wouldn't change one thing about it except to make it larger.

                                          2. Service -- I'm gonna include the bread thing here. I'll just say that I didn't have any qualms about the brown paper. In fact, I enjoyed having my own baguette. The butter I've had there was anything but hard and was very good. Lightly seasoned even. Frankly, I've only had wonderful service here and your story does nothing to indict that. While your waiter seemed very slow on the uptake I can't see why that's worthy of mentioning. I don't mean to start static but it does *seem* to indicate that your apprehension upon walking into the space was affecting your mood. Every person I've encountered at Comme Ca has offered top-notch, attentive service and your later comments support that. Just offering a counterpoint here.

                                          3. Food -- Goddamn is Sona delicious. Which is why I'm so disappointed in Comme Ca. I've been for brunch. Great oysters. Great charcuterie plate. Great cocktails. Utter failure of an omelette. Contrast their brunch with Anisette and it's not even close. Dinner was good but not great. My experience was the opposite of yours, though. The food was seasoned aggressively and they relied way too much on demiglace, letting it overpower several dishes. I do totally agree that they have a tendency to overcook things so your fries don't surprise me. My sweetbreads were way too far done and the omelette on said previous visit was positively vulcanized . . . at a french restaurant, mon Dieu. Other dishes were cooked with significantly more finesse but I bring up the disasters because the place is simply inconsistent. Which seems weird in a place that's attempting some fairly straightforward bistro classics.

                                          OVERALL -- Sona this ain't. That place is wonderful and I've never got the tough reviews some on this board offer. It's inventive, daring, and incredibly tasty. Comme Ca is hit-or-miss though. Many of the dishes our group got were great. Mine ranged from not good to solid and that's sadly not enough to recommend the place.

                                          Personally, I head over to Comme Ca about 30-60 minutes before my reservations at Luques. I get a cocktail or two and then enjoy whatever treasure Suzanne Goin is cooking up.

                                          1. I found the burger to be delicious! I've recommended it to quite a few people and am returning today as a matter of fact. If you don't like the fries it's probably because you haven't been to France and ordered fries in a Bistro. The service could be better but LA isn't a service town to start with, in my opinion. I also don't like the white, plastic chairs in the dining room. They not only feel unsteady but there are better options for simple modern chairs.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: TNT72

                                              Why would you assume I haven't been to France? I've eaten all over Europe as well as the world. I know fries and I know a bistro. Comme Ca's fries were nothing like good fries in a bistro in France.

                                            2. I think perhaps you ought to try it again in a better frame of mind. I've eaten there at lunch and dinner, as a party of two and with 9 out-of-towners who've eaten all over the world and enjoyed the best of the best. On every visit the consensus was the same: great food, attentive service and a laid back, lively environment. Admittedly I've never had the burger but I have had the marrow, the sweetbreads, the escargot, the mussels, a rabbit special, fish dishes and more, and without exception I've thoroughly enjoyed them all. Respectfully, I think your take on the bread service is a little much. Perhaps you were simply looking for a different style of restaurant?

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: toothsome

                                                I've eaten all over the world and don't need to waste any more money in an expensive restaurant that had nothing (food, service or atmosphere) that I enjoyed.

                                                1. re: rednyellow

                                                  I wasn't suggesting you hadn't eaten all over the world; I was suggesting that if you're going to give a restaurant such an absolute, head-to-toe trashing you might want to do it on the basis of a broader experience, not two dishes and an iced tea.

                                                  1. re: toothsome

                                                    Thanks. I understand your suggestion and had I liked anything there(food, service or atmosphere) I'd give it another shot.

                                              2. I'm with rednyellow on this one. After reading Jonathan Gold's review I was super excited for the burger. But I found it to be very bland and uninteresting. Back to Father's Office for me! Or In-n-out for that matter.

                                                1. i couldn't agree more. black and white motif was the best part of it. pretentious service followed by expensive and uninspired food leads to me saying never again.

                                                  1. My wife and I had dinner there about a week ago. The good: the service was excellent; the oysters excellent; our dessert was great. The bad: I should have expected this from previous reviews, but it's loud. This is not a place for a romantic date, which is too bad because the interior during the evening with dim lighting is cozy. I also found it overpriced. The ugly? My bouillabaisse was disappointing. The broth was too sweet and my shrimp were overcooked. The lobster that came with it (it was a special) was minute - barely half a lobster tail, which certainly didn't justify the $50 price tag. My wife's Skate, however, was very good and a generous portion. Would I return? Hard to say, as I think there are a great many restaurants at this price point that have better ambiance and more consistent with their quality.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: jambo

                                                      if you haven't already try Jiraffe's bouillabaise to make up for it...

                                                      1. re: jambo

                                                        If you haven't tried their weekend brunch then give it a whirl sometime. We go in late (2:00 PM) and the noise level is way down and the food is quite tasty.