Sapa – New York

I happened to be browsing around City Search on Sunday night when I came upon Sapa. I was reading their menu when I happened to look up at the Iron Chef: America episode that was playing on my TV. The challenger was Sapa’s own Patricia Yeo. I liked the way that she handled the tofu, so I vowed to visit her restaurant as soon as possible. I went on Tuesday night.

I think of Sapa as a first date restaurant. The kind where the couple can’t commit to a place to go to until one of them mentions this restaurant called Sapa that’s supposed to be fun — that is, it serves French-Southeastern Asian cuisine and cool drinks in a cleverly-lit glowing white and black relief space with pumping music. So, this couple goes, comments on the eclectic menu, orders their food, and never mentions it to each other again amidst their getting to know each other. But silently, to themselves, during low points in the conversation and with an incisiveness similar to their judgments of each other, they discern the triumphs and failures of the dishes in front of them.

The food would warrant a polite end of the night “good” judgment when asked by a date, but with just a little bit more attention to detail, the food could have been great. It was the sloppiness at Sapa that disappointed me. An over-sauced rib appetizer… a fried rice with a sandy texture… an overly sweet and overly reduced Port wine reduction… a sundae that could only be eaten by ingesting spoonfuls of shredded coconut bound by sorbet… a grainy-looking chocolate sabayon. And aesthetically, the plates easily could have had cleaner lines.

But I did love how chopsticks — balanced on small pieces of cinnamon sticks — were part of the place setting. I think chopsticks make everything taste better, and would use them for every meal if they were available.

We were served bread to start. A basket of warm pita with white bean spread and an eggplant dip. I don’t know how they fit in with the menu and why we were served stale pita that was only acceptably soft when it was still warm — or maybe they were supposed to be crunchy crackers when cooled? Some kind of temporal two-in-one deal?  In any case, the eggplant dip was very sweet and wet while the white bean spread was very dry and a little bland. They almost balanced each other out when spread together, but not enough to be truly good.


Cocoa and Peanut Glazed Spareribs – with Carrot-Orange Pickle. This had a very smooth cocoa flavor that was spiked by the crunchy nuttiness of the peanuts and the fall-off-the-bone tenderness of the ribs.  That was wonderful. But there was too much sauce splashing about, and the sour vegetables were too dissonant with the earthy sweetness of the rest of the dish to be enjoyable.


Halibut. I don’t remember the full components of this dish. I do remember that the halibut was juicy, but seemed almost raw in the middle.


Coriander Crusted Tuna with Braised Oxtails, Port Wine Reduction, and Baby Arugular Salad. I order fish much more than I order red meat at restaurants, but it’s not because I don’t like red meat — it’s because I usually don’t want to slog my way through a lot of it. So, I loved this combination of pungent tuna and saucy oxtails — the flavors and textures seem to take up where the other had left off. The peppery arugula was the perfect foil for them both. I could have done without the Port wine reduction, though, which detracted from the party with its one-note sweetness and sticky thickness.


Cod Roasted in Parchment with Porcini Mushrooms and Roasted Mushrooms. Good, but again, the fish seemed undercooked.


Fried Rice w/ Duck Confit. This had a delicious woodsy sort of a flavor, even if I didn’t notice any pieces of duck. I wanted to eat a lot of it, but something sandy in it prevented me. I asked the waiter, who had mentioned that he’d been asked about it before, and he said that it was probably the Szechuan peppers. So, they know it’s sandy, but they… serve… it… anyway…


Chocolate Caviar with Chocolate-Rum Sabayon, Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I’m not convinced that the chocolate caviar works aesthetically… and the warm sabayon was curiously grainy-looking… and the cookie was curiously chilled.  Otherwise, it tasted fine, with subtle variations on chocolate.
As for the Chocolate Chip Cookies, they were brought out from the kitchen on a sheet pan so that guests can take some. A cool yet homey touch, and the cookies tasted good… even they were rather misshapen.


SAPA Sundae – Pineapple and Coconut Sorbets, Vanilla Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce. I really liked the chocolate covered pretzels stuck into the top of this, which were able to get a fair amount of sorbet and coconut adhered to them for a great flavor and creamy crunchiness. But there was an avalanche of coconut in the glass. And since the glass was so narrow, there was no escaping it, so no opportunity to try the sorbets or sauce on their own. It got monotonous to eat.


Off to the Races – Woodford Reserve Bourbon muddled with Drunken Cherries, Chambord, and Fresh Lemon Juice. This had an excellent initial bite of bourbon, but this glass also had an avalanche in it — of seeds. I’m guessing that they were from muddled raspberries… not cherries? The seeds made it difficult to drink smoothly from the straw.

Otherwise, the Lychee Bellini was good (with lychee puree and lavender water blended with sparkling wine), but I think I would have liked less lychee puree, more lavender flavor, and more sparkling wine flavor — the wine only contributed a sly bubbly texture here.

The Cosmo was very juicy — not very strong on the alcohol.

I had an Apple Ice Wine from Canada with dessert, and I liked its blend of cider and dessert wine flavors.

2 Responses to “Sapa – New York”

  1. Natalie Says:

    The bourbon drink sounds very good and refreshing, if only it had been made without the raspberry/strawberry offal. The Lychee Bellini sounds brilliant!! I had my first Peach Bellini at Formosa (at NYNY in Las Vegas, not the one in NYC, heh) and it was so great with my Italian breakfast of pan-fried polenta and goat chese, and sausages with poached eggs. The Lychee version is giving me ideas for a Polynesian Brunch…hmmm.

    Great pics and descriptions, as usual!

  2. alehandra levis Says:


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