Dining

Come See Comme Ça

Rustic French is in good hands in the big city

When Cosmopolitan CEO John Unwin tapped David Myers and his West Hollywood French bistro to fill a niche on his third floor, he clearly was thinking of a casual—as opposed to stuffy—French venue. The result was a second Comme Ça, slightly different from its counterpart in California, but as rustic and easygoing as the original.

Famed restaurant designer Adam Tihany was tasked with supplying the room with appointments like bulbous amber light fixtures and a cute, bilingual chalkboard inscribed with clever aphorisms such as “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are,” attributed to the 19th-century French gastronome Jean Anthelme de Brillat-Savarin.

Where the original had a large cheese station by the front door (now gone to make way for more tables), this one has a narrow foyer leading to an aluminum topped bar and seafood station, from which a number of fruits de mer such as Little Neck clams and Kusshi oysters sit fetchingly, waiting to be piled onto towering platters. With all due respect to Tihany, the dining room often can be noisy. Some patrons choose to escape the unforgiving cacophony by eating on the patio, which faces the bright lights of the Strip and Planet Hollywood.

The restaurant got off to a rocky start, serving troublesome dishes such as cassoulet that were subsequently taken off the menu. The kitchen ranks also underwent some core changes. Now, with the addition of Nu Sanctuary alum Brian Howard, who came to Comme Ça along with manager John Anthony, they have found their sea legs.

Howard mostly sticks to Myers’ message, but he’s a chef who also likes to play with his food. There are several new items on Comme Ça’s summer menu, plus a few New Age desserts you’d think came from E Bar, inside José Andrés’ Jaleo across the hall.

As always, I like to start my evening here with the Penicillin, an inspired cocktail of Famous Grouse blended Scotch whisky, ginger, honey and lemon, plus an Islay single malt float to add a dash of peat.

I also like a few old standbys, such as salade frisée aux lardons, a classic bistro salad of chicory topped with poached egg and smoky chunks of lardon, French-style bacon.

If you’re in the mood for rich food, you can’t beat roasted bone marrow with oxtail jam, or a selection of homemade rillettes and pâtés. Howard recently added delicious duck salami, and all the charcuterie come with one of the greatest whole-grain mustards I’ve ever tasted, made in house.

But Howard has lightened the options with a terrific heirloom tomato terrine, and a wonderful asparagus salad garnished with black truffle, Marcona almonds and egg vinaigrette.

There are new entrées, too, like turbot en papillotte (steamed in a parchment bag) and beef cheek bourguignon, a slow-braised hunk of beef done sous vide with a bronze hue Matthew McConaughey would envy.

I often stop by for lunch to eat the Comme Ça Burger—in my opinion, one of the three best burgers in town. (The other two are P.J. Clarke’s and Bradley Ogden’s.) “It took us forever to get the right grind,” says Chef Howard. The meat is served simply with cheddar cheese and house slaw, plus a pile of good fries. It’s even on the dinner menu.

Save room for cheese or dessert, and let the sommelier, Bruno, help you choose a wine from their well-crafted list. If you aren’t feeling an urge to experiment, there are profiteroles and crème brûlée, both the epitome of Gallic sensibility.

But I suggest going out on a limb and trying the olive oil parfait with English pea sorbet, rhubarb and tiny fennel fruit jellies, or better yet, crème calamansi, a crisp log filled with cream perfumed by the fruit, a citrus popular in the Philippines.

Comme Ça has definitely arrived.

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