Ça Va, Todd English’s restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel in midtown Manhattan, is today’s stop on the quest for great vegetarian options in New York City. Unfortunately, Ça Va — although the selections looked okay on paper — wasn’t particularly impressive.
The menu actually looks pretty good. I think this is because it’s the fall menu incorporates lots of fall flavors — pumpkin, parsnip, etc. — that are vegetarian friendly. A bunch of soups and salads were vegetarian, including on the lunch prix fixe. I opted for the parsnip soup and my wife got the fall vegetable salad, above.
Lunch started with a French baguette, fittingly. The baguette was just okay. The bread seemed just a little dry, and I thought it would have been much better if it were warm. In any case, our starters came out pretty soon thereafter:
My parsnip soup was… interesting. I got it without the toasted crab (obviously), but I didn’t see the pickled celery anywhere. Conversely, the dollop of “foam” on top of the soup wasn’t in the description at all. The foam, whatever it was, was sweet, and was a nice contrast to the parsnip. However, the soup itself fell a little flat. It was good, but a little bland. The toasted walnuts were very good though. So I would say the garnish was great but the soup of itself was a little lacking. My wife felt the same way about the salad: it looked good on paper, but wasn’t terribly flavorful.
I had a similar reaction to my main course, the ricotta gnocchi. The arugula pesto was great (and there was also some basil in the pesto, and the crushed tomatoes were really fresh and vibrant. So, top marks to the garnish, but the gnocchi itself was again kind of bland. The texture was right — soft and creamy — but the taste wasn’t quite there. I think the ricotta could have used a little more salt. My wife, who is not a vegetarian, got the leg of lamb as her entree, and felt that it too was overshadowed by its garnish (mustard, in her case).
I closed out lunch with pumpkin cheesecake. I hate to sound repetitive but… the fig was nice, the pecan brittle was, too — yet the cheesecake itself just didn’t taste like pumpkin. A strong maple flavor came through, and the cheesecake had a nice texture, but no pumpkin. Actually, if this was just billed as a maple cheesecake, it probably wouldn’t have been as disappointing. After all, it was actually a pretty good cheesecake, just not “pumpkin”.
All in all, Ça Va’s is just average. There were several vegetarian starters (soups and salads), and a few others that could be made vegetarian. But there was only one vegetarian entree, and the items themselves were sort of bland. Todd English is a well-known celebrity chef with a lot of different enterprises, but Ça Va is not one of his better known endeavors. It’s still relatively new — the Intercontinental Hotel opened just recently — so hopefully things will pick up in the months to come. 2.5 stars.
* * *
Ça Va’s Fall Menu is below. (Return to the body of the post.)