Saturday, July 16, 2011

A lunch in the city lifts our spritis

Night on 42nd Street in Manhattan showing sign...Image via Wikipedia
West 42nd Street in Manhattan is kinder and gentler than it was in the 1960s.

For our second Restaurant Week meal in Manhattan, my wife and I went to the year-old Ca Va Brasserie on West 44th Street, in the Theater District.

We enjoyed our three-course, $24.07 lunch at this year-old Todd English restaurant, which is in the InterContinental Hotel, across from Birdland, a jazz club.

Our first course on Friday was a wonderfully rich lobster bisque, with a delicious miniature lobster-salad sandwich on the side. 

The bread service was a small baguette in a bag, accompanied by a ramekin of butter.

My wife noted the bisque didn't have any lobster pieces, but thought it was the best she has had. Her opinion of the barbecue sauce with her entree of roasted, dark-meat chicken on the bone wasn't as high.

Her juicy chicken came with a cold salad of greens and sliced potatoes.

Grilled octopus was listed as another entree choice, but when I ordered it, I was told the kitchen was serving something else instead. The waiter, Eduardo, who is  from Brazil, read from a note, "P-R-A-W-N."

The prawn was at least 4 inches long, including the tail and head, and it rested on a generous bed of tasty, small white beans with zucchini pieces and micro herbs. I demolished it, leaving only the beady eyes.

I recalled the emaciated, bony, whole John Dory fish I ordered at our first $24.07 lunch at Esca a few days earlier. The next day, during my annual physical, my doctor put it succinctly, calling Esca "overrated and overpriced."

For dessert at Ca Va (pronounced SAH VAH), my wife chose a small cheesecake topped with a fresh blueberry compote, and I enjoyed sweet mango and pineapple sorbets.

The dining room is all glass, metal and polished stone, with a bar along one wall, a smaller dining space behind large, sliding, glass-and-metal doors, and a separate cafe and market. 

We had a reservation, but the place was only one-third full. Service was excellent, and I gave Eduardo an 18% tip.

After our lunch, we strolled to Times Square, purchased two coffees at a Starbucks on Broadway and sat on chairs under an umbrella in the middle of the street, now  part of a pedestrian mall in the heart of the city.

Later, we looked over the new TKTS office, where half-price tickets to Broadway shows are available on the day of the performance. Credit cards are accepted now, in contrast to the old, cash-only days.

We returned to the bus terminal along 42nd Street, and I reminisced about my summers as a teen-ager working at D.C. Record City, which specialized in oldies from the Fifties (rock-and-roll 45s) and jazz LPs.

We had a wonderful afternoon in a great city. I even remembered to ask for the senior round-trip fare when we board the Manhattan-bound bus in Hackensack ($3.80 v. $8.50).

Ca Va Brasserie, 310 W. 44th St., Manhattan; 212-803-4545.

Web site: Ca Va Todd English

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