Welcome to Eater's column, Decanted, in which wine writer Talia Baiocchi guides us through the treacherous world of New York wine lists.
In the wake of yesterday’s chronicle of the unique TE brand of shitshow, I dug deep for answers to questions like: "How?"
I even began to wonder while surfing the Ça Va website whether or not Todd’s lifesize cameo on the homepage could actually be a portal into another universe, his eyes offering access to a cheerily sinister reality where clowns inevitably play a staring role. Or maybe he’s just a hologram?
The second question remains unanswered. Sadly, however, it turns out that beyond Todd’s face there’s just a boring, faux brasserie that could have opened now, or 10 years ago, and hopefully not 10 years from now. What I discovered while surfing the myriad of Todd English websites, though, is a fascinating trifecta of shitshow-worthy wine lists.
None of these lists really approach full shitshow status on their own, but each embodies a particular cardinal sin that, when all of their powers are combined, form the ultimate shitshow wine list. Let’s take a look.
CrossBar – Branding fail
CrossBar looks like a Medieval Times redesigned by Criss Angel with Persian accents (what?). It’s a “nose-to’tail,” pork-centric restaurant, which is this totally new concept. To accompany the whole magical Middle Ages theme, the wine list is organized into two sections: New Testament and Old Testament, which is a corny way of separating new and old world wines. Here it isn’t about price gouging or offensive wines. The selections are humdrum, but certainly tolerable. The real shitshow here is the branding. The biblically-themed list is stamped with a “TE” logo to remind you that, in case you forgot, even the wine list—and the coasters, napkins, and anything else that can be stamped—is property of the big TE. The whole thing is one dingy plastic menu cover away from T.G.I. Friday’s.
Ember Room – Forfeiting to Southern Wine & Spirits
For The Ember Room Todd teamed up with Ian Chalermkittichai to birth an Asian-meets-American BBQ joint. Here you’d be better off if they handed you a blank piece of 8 1/2" by 11" paper in place of the wine list. This is, more rather than less, a list that was handed over to Southern Wine & Spirits—a pathetic shortcut for a restaurant that’s spent a ton of money to fashion an Asian nightclub restaurant thing. What you’ll find is a small collection of commercial wines and, naturally, some Veuve, some Moet, and a little Franciscan Chardonnay. For those longing for some Todd branding to remind you who’s the boss, fear not: Todd’s initials are engraved on a gigantic metal oven.
Ça Va – Price gouging on crappy wine ? with a side of forfeiting
Ça Va is a “modern twist on a traditional brasserie” another concept that’s presented as totally new and innovative, but is possibly even more worn than Crossbar’s cutting edge nose-to-tail claim. Here you’ll find the largest wine list in the brood, which ends up being a real waste of space. Southern Wine and Spirits is playing puppeteer here as well, but there’s also a co-conspiring calculator marking supermarket swill (e.g. Clos du Bois Merlot) up more than four, even five times the average retail price. A double-whammy that earns Ça Va an extra golden shitshow star.
— Talia Baiocchi
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