Have you ever gone on a first date and something just wasn't right, but you liked the guy anyway?
That sums up my first impression ofÇa Va
, the champagne bar in Westport, 4149 Pennsylvania Ave., that had its soft opening last Friday. After months of waiting to finally meet, he opened his doors at 5 p.m., and I was about 15 minutes late to our first date. I even brought The Hubby with me. Scandalous date, I know. And every seat was taken. Everyone wants a piece of the French-inspired boy with the bubbly.
It’s a small, loft-like space. So it makes sense that the tables are tiny. But when we finally grabbed a table, it was wobbly. It took a few minutes to get a menu. And water never came. Considering there was only one waitress working the crowd, the diligent and delightful Hillary, I understand.
But it was hot in there. Despite winter’s bitter bite, the bar was turning into a sauna. The staff was sweaty. One girl called the place “steamy.” Luckily, there was no shortage of drinks.
And that’s where the win comes at Ça Va (in case you don’t know French, it’s pronounced “Sah Vah,” meaning “How’s it going?”). Ça Va is a champagne bar, and it does champagne right. In addition to a menu of bottles on deck, there are a dozen bubbly cocktails, like the French 75 (Beefeater gin, lemon, simple syrup, champagne) and Death in the Afternoon, a duet of St. George’s Absinthe and sparkling wine.
We went with the Classic ($8), sophisticated simplicity delivered in a glass of sparkling wine with a house-made sugar cube. But it was the Valencia ($8) that put a kiss on my lips with its sweet mix of apricot brandy, orange juice, bitters and Cava.
Next: food. Despite not having a full-service kitchen, Ça Va offers small bites both savory and sweet. Our waitress suggested the Pissaladière — a French sort of pizza. She raved about the white anchovies. Well, between the cold
caramelized onions and the slug-like anchovies, I just couldn’t get into the salty, tart $7 slice. In fact, it almost made us lose our appetites. Thankfully, the nicoise olives proved to be a great palate cleanser.
Luckily, the Rieger pork soup ($7) was a bowl of hearty comfort, once we got rid of the soggy chicharrones. And the Croque Madame changed my mind about ham. I’m not a fan of the fleshy pork, but this grilled ham and cheese sandwich ($10) with the runny farm egg on top was delicious. Paired with the soup? Your small plates just became a decent meal for one. Too bad I was sharing.
An hour passed and all you could hear was the sound of about three dozen people talking at once. Their voices bounced off the exposed brick and hardwood, drowning out the music. Our table kept tilting to one side. The heat was rising. Not the vibe you expect when you think champagne bar. It gives off a fun shabby chic, upgraded dive-bar vibe. In fact, The Hubby says it’s the kind of place he would go to for steak and whiskey and expect to hear Sam Cooke playing all night. He even started playing the piano to add to the atmosphere.
Still, we wanted to give Ça Va a chance. I’m no food critic. I’m just everyday people. So we ordered the creme brûlée tart. The crust was amazing. But the whole thing was frosty. Like ice cream. And creme brûlée is not a dish best served cold. That was it for this first date.Au revoir
. I did what you do after any meh date — turn to an old BFF who lives just down the street and never lets you down: Port Fonda.
But after filling up on crab queso fundido, tacos and margaritas there, we walked back by Ça Va. There’s something charming about the rough-around-the edges French boy with the bubbly. Friday was just an unofficial opening, when kinks are to be expected. It was a first glimpse at all it can be. And we saw the potential for awesome.
I think I’ll see him again in a month, maybe for a little Death in the Afternoon. Or at least something to make me let out a good LaBelle, “Gitchi gitchi ya ya da da.”