Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Comme Ca: A happy hour I can handle

I've never much enjoyed “Happy Hour.”

I like good deals, of course, and am always in the mood for a glass of wine (or two), but I'm not all that interested in the gastronomical part of a “Happy Hour.”

My heart doesn't go pitter-patter over a slider. I don't end a day of work with the thought, “Man, I could really go for some wings!” And I can guarantee you that I have never, ever walked into a restaurant or bar with a craving for a drippy plate of the nachos supreme with extra cheese, please.

Unless, of course, the restaurant is Real Food Daily, the nachos are actually vegan not-chos, and the cheese is actually cashew cheese.

So I was relieved that I already had dinner plans when I was walking over to meet a friend to sample the Happy Hour at Comme Ca last Wednesday night. While I knew my friend would be ordering some of the items from the Hourglass menu that is available from 5:00 - 7:00 pm every night, I had no intention of spoiling my appetite.

“I won't be tempted to eat more than a bite,” I thought smugly, as I settled onto my bar stool and ordered a glass of the Mas de Theyron 2007 Rose from Languedoc, France.

“I'll simply drink my way to happy,” I decided as I dismissively took stock of the classic French bistro's $8 and $9 food offerings at that hour of night.

“Fried Oysters. Dungeness Crab Croquettes. Pulled Pork Sliders. Puhlease.” I thought. “They're going to have to swing a lot harder than that to tease my tongue enough to get me to burden my belly.”

But then my friend arrived. She ordered the Peruvian Bay Scallops Ceviche with caramelized peaches and fennel ($9), and the aforementioned Pulled Pork Sliders with pickled shallots and arugula ($8). I agreed I'd sample the scallops, and.... err... maybe the sliders too.

But only for research. Yes, only for “research.”

So I reached for my fork when the ceviche arrived in an impressive heap of neat little cubes. I marveled over the brightness of the dish -- the freshness of the scallops, the sweetness from the peaches and the herbaceousness imposed from the flecks of fennel. And then I scooped up another four bites.

“I just want to try a taste...” I said after I'd finally set down my fork to consider the pork slider. I collapsed the tender brioche bun with my knife (it's a mini version of the one used for the restaurant's famed burger), and siphoned off a meaty corner of one of the sandwich halves.

The tender ribbons of pork and tart pickled shallots assaulted my mouth with intoxicating splashes of smoky and sweet flavors.

"Good," was all I could manage as licked my lips with satisfaction.

My appetite whetted by the wine and the surprisingly refined “bar food,” I coyly cast my eyes over another menu item. It was wrong and I knew it, but I couldn't help myself.

“If you want to order it, I'll have some...” I told my friend.

She grinned. “It's my favorite thing on the menu.”

So we did it. We requested the Poutine composed of pomme frites, Vermont white cheddar curds, sausage gravy and a sunny side egg ($8). And then, when it -- the French fry version of the nachos I never ever order -- appeared from the kitchen, the Chef de Cuisine Eric Samaniego appeared with it.

"For you to try," he said, setting down a plate of seared foie gras with a maple bread pudding, raspberry sorbet and turnips, as well.

I shook my head in half-delight and half-horror.

“How am I ever going to eat dinner after this?” I thought as I plunged my fork and knife into the fatty lobes of the assertively seared foie and the delicately sweetened bread pudding beneath it. I wasn’t sure what I was eating – a savory dish or dessert – but I knew I couldn’t stop the rapid-fire motions of my utensils. It was remarkable – unlike anything I’ve ever encountered at a Happy Hour – or at any other hour for that matter.

After the shared plate had been scraped clean, we attacked the poutine with the vigor of professional athletes. The yolk was pierced to drip down into the mass of pomme frites underneath, and I championed my way through several “tastes” of the indulgent hot mess to complete my “research.” The gravy, egg, and cheese soaked fries are by no means something I would normally crave, but in that moment, they seemed practically perfect.

As I departed the restaurant to rush off to my next eating engagement, I laughed as I thought about Lesley Balla’s assessment of Comme Ca’s Hourglass Menu on Chow Balla.

“You could easily make an early dinner out of this stuff.” She wrote.

Next time, I’ll know to do just that.

Comme Ca
8479 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 782-1104

Note: All menu items ordered were hosted.


nelehelen said...

i love poutine!! man, i haven't been to comme ca in years! i must go for their HH!!

Esi said...

Well, I'm glad you've realized happy hour isn't all chicken wings and nachos. That poutine sounds so freaking good.

bagnatic said...

oh you didn't! darn, i have to make my way there now or i will start having comme ca happy hour dreams. *sigh*

the scallop ceviche looks DEADLY. *drool*

H. C. said...

Didn't know you were so unhappy about happy hours in general... for me, I like 'em as a sneak preview of what a restaurant can do without committing to the full dinner price. And on those rare nights when I don't have a black hole appetite, a few HH bar bites is nice 'n cheap way to fill up.

But come to think of it, I don't think I've ever actually eaten @ Comme Ca; yes, even that famous bloody burger.

weezermonkey said...

I love happy hour. I always make it my dinner. :)

But I still haven't been to Comme Ca. Crazy, right?

Anna A. said...

Mmmm! I've been here once and had no idea bout the hh! TALF, gasp, you ate poutine and foie! Do we know eachother? The peachy fen ceviche does sound. Amazing .

Fritos and Foie Gras said...

i am officially jealous. Love poutine. Love cheap drinks. LOOOOVE ceviche!

Diana said...

Helen - It's so good! I live really close by so let me know if you are ever interested in meeting up there!

Esi - Haha, I know, it's been a long time coming!

Amy - The ceviche was ridic -- I was surprised at how good it was!

HC - I actually haven't had a full meal there either! Just nibbles. Their cheese plate is amazing - would definitely go back just to have that.

Weez - Crazy! You should at least check it out for brunch!

Anna - I know, right? I think it's because I no longer have your good influence on me! Move back!

Fritos - Then you would LOVE Comme Ca! Has a bit of a NY vibe actually... :)