Last Saturday afternoon, while sweltering in our un-air-conditioned Mid-City house, the Grubs decided to flee to cooler climesa luxury yet surprisingly inexpensive downtown hotel room. After a dip in & lollygagging & drinking about the rooftop pool, we strolled to Cicada for dinner.
Whats great about Cicada:
-the space. From the exceedingly heavy glass-&-brass door to the splendid staircase to its second-floor mezzanine & bar, this room is an Art Deco treasure fully worthy of its place in the dazzling Oviatt Building whose first floor it occupies. Originally a haberdashery, much of its original fixtures survive, including the charming shirt drawers that line the walls. Ceilings, woodwork & all ornamentation are simply stunning.
-the ambiance. Even tho the restaurant is a large, open, high-ceilinged space, it provides a surprising sense of intimacy for diners. Tables are spaced comfortably apart (there are no banquettes), background music & lighting are subdued, &--get thisyou can carry on a normal, even intimate, conversation without SHOUTING. Happily, on every visit, other Cicada diners also have seemed to be seeking either a romantic environment or solace from the din of the modern world. A dazzling flower arrangement in the center of the room not only breaks up the space, but also provides a handy service area for servers & bussers to attend to quiet duties, such as water refills.
Whats very good about Cicada:
-the food. Generally, a close, but no cigar place. For whatever reason, dishes manage to snuggle up to the soaring line, but never quite cross it. For instance, Il Grubos seared foie gras was perfectly seared & seasoned, but was small & didnt quite melt in the mouth. Likewise the carmelized mango accompanying it was lovely to look at, splendidly prepared, but not ripe. La Grubas carpaccio was beautifully presented, but virtually devoid of flavor. Other dishes were, again, very good, but not memorable.
-the service. Always unobtrusively attentive, subdued, knowledgeable. Sommelier nailed our lust for big red wines w a Gary Farrell zin that bordered on Manischewitz territory. Fruity, chewy, just plain huge. Respectful courtesy from the front desk.
Whats good about Cicada:
-price. Value equation doesnt quite teke out. Just a bit costly for product received. (Starters: $11-20, Pastas: $15-20; Mains: $22-30). Particularly when comparedas it must beto Water Grill around the corner. WGs food is a greater step up in quality than in cost.
-location. After a sublimely comforting experience, twould be nice to step out to a mountain lake. Alas, you step out to Olive & Sixth-derels, movie companies, trash & all. But, you can get a table (if the place itself isnt rented out for a shoot or special event.)