Last night was a reunion of sorts. My old suitemates, plus honorary ones such as boyfriends, headed over to Sapa, Patricia Yeo’s Southeast Asian-French restaurant, in Chelsea. The front is a bit nondescript, to the point where you would just keep on walking by the entrance and not even notice you had passed it. But inside, candles and globes of light add a warmth to the high ceilings and a sexy vibe to the whole place.
We went to Sapa because one of our good friends just started his externship there (yay!), so we thought we’d surprise him at work. Starting off with a Riesling Auslese, thanks to a timely Eric Asimov piece, which was nice and sweet, but not cloying at all. A bit on the expensive side ($49), but split among 5 people, not so bad at all. Then here is when the perks started kicking in. M sent us over glasses of champagne! Not sure what kind, but very tasty and bubbly.
On to the food. Instead of regular bread and butter, Sapa offers a basket of toasted pita bread with two types of dip, white bean and eggplant. Both spreads were really great, although I prefer the eggplant, which was very similar to babaganoush.
The rice paper rolls were well-made, nothing that special, except for the roll du jour, which was a ceviche piled on top of a round of the rice paper. Slightly spicy mouthful of jam-packed flavor. The lettuce wrapped beef satay were pretty good, although there was a little too much peanut butter sauce inside. Teensy bit gooey. C and I ordered the smoked swordfish carpaccio with seaweed salad. It was very meaty (as swordfish normally is) and hearty, not fishy at all. Very good, in fact. The seaweed, cucumber and orange slices went seamlessly together with the swordfish. I would order it again.
Thanks to M, we also had three other starters, steamed mussels and clams with a lemongrass-coconut broth, cocoa and peanut-glazed spareribs, and halibut baked in a banana leaf. The flavor in the spareribs reminded me of the Chinese dish, the thousand year egg, which has a gingery spiciness and lots of soy sauce.The mussels were decent, but I wasn’t big on the clams, which were too salty for me. The corn salad on top of the halibut was really flavorful and complimented the soft, subtle white fish.
As if that wasn’t enough, we still had main courses coming up. Sapa has this great $15 deal on Sundays, where you can get lobster, steak, chicken or fish. Most people had the lobster which was monster-sized. It was so soft and buttery, they must have injected it with several bars of butter before cooking it. It was served whole, which is always yummier, but a lobster bib would have been very helpful.
I had the steak frites, which was topped with a huge chunk of garlicky butter and came with this delicious dark(wine reduction?) sauce. The fries were thin and crispy, just how I like ’em.
Only one dessert was had by all, due to the unexpectedly overwhelming amounts of food. The chocolate lava cake, which was very thick and rich with a good dollop of cream on top. I wish I had enough room to savor the banana toffee bread pudding that came with sour ice cream, but I think my stomach shrunk from jetlag, so I wasn’t able to uphold my honor.
The service at Sapa was impeccable; all the waiters were incredibly nice to us and humored us when we were slow to order (or unable to pronounce Auslese). It also helped that it wasn’t all that busy that night and we were friends of the roll bar chef! The manager came over and asked us personally if everything was okay, it was just awesome how hospitable they were. Better than Gramercy Tavern in their own way. They also get brownie points for a pretty bathroom with a reflecting pool.
Bottom line – Go to Sapa! It’s a good date place (not that I’m an expert).
43 W24th St (at 6th Ave)
*pictures courtesy of WS*