Cuisine: New American
Menu: View the Menu
New Yorkers are well aware that nothing lasts forever, but that doesn't mean we're not surprised when change eventually comes. So it came as a bit of a shock when Café Sha-Sha, a West Village eatery that had been in business nearly 30 years, shut its doors suddenly last year.Review By: Brian Scott Lipton
In many ways, the spot's new tenant, Employees Only, seems like a better fit for the newly chic neighborhood. Decorated in a quasi-Art-Deco style, with lots of burnished wood, it's the kind of place where the beautiful young girls (and young boys) who live on the area's tree-lined streets -- and shop at Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren on busy Bleecker Street -- will be happy to drop by for a drink, hearty supper, or light late-night meal. (The kitchen remains open until 3:30am!). And when they do, they will see some of the restaurant's six partners actually working -- seating customers, making drinks -- a concept that lends the restaurant its unusual name. They may also find a psychic at the entrance, ready to tell them their future. However, though they don't need her to discover that their immediate future is an enjoyable dining experience.
The house is justly proud of its unusual cocktail menu, which includes such luscious libations as the Ginger Smash, which combines gin, apple liqueur, muddled ginger, and fresh cranberries, or the Mediterra, which mixes vodka, honey and figs. These drinks also go well with many of the house's appetizers, such as a stunning quintet of just sautéed oysters in a leek-studded cream sauce (and topped with fried leeks), or a single scallop, still in its shell, doused in a richer-than-rich lobster sauce and topped with black caviar. (And I guess if you pay $500 for a handbag, $11 for one scallop might not seem so exorbitant!) One appetizer even cleverly combines alcohol and food; slices of homemade gravalax ready to be wrapped in herbed crepes, accompanied by a small beaker of bracing caraway-flavored vodka.
Impressed with chef Jeremy Spector's handling of seafood, we happily sampled a main of sautéed monkfish strips, coated in a provencale-style sauce, and intermingled with crunchy brussel sprouts and tasty pancetta lardons. His first-rate organic roasted chicken was as comforting as could be for a frigid evening, served alongside excellent glazed haricot verts and carrots and intensely porcini-flavored mashed potatoes that, unfortunately, need to be a bit less gluey to be really worth the calories. Beefeaters aren't ignored here, even if we took the night off from read meat; the menu includes steak tartare, which is prepared tableside (raw egg and all), a Serbian charcuterie platter, and a grilled rib-eye.
Even in the iciest of weather, a delicious espresso granita topped with Sambuca-laced whipped cream really hit the spot. The pear strudel (listed on the menu as caramelized pear) was pleasing if a tad dry on its own, but was made moister by home-made Greek yogurt. Better yet, order both of these, and steal your partner's whipped cream.
Neighborhood: West Village
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