In this solo dining adventure, Gary makes a Restaurant Week visit to the restaurant that changes with the seasons, Park Avenue Summer.
Park Avenue is one of those fancy restaurants that’s been on my radar for some time but have never gotten around to. Whether it be its Winter, Spring, Summer, or Autumn incarnation, I’ve just never felt the overwhelming desire to go to there. It’s certainly not the kitschiness of changing their name every season. I mean it’s definitely kitschy but I like the changing of the name and the decor every three months – it’s nice. That sort of gimmick might be a turnoff for some but not so much for me.
No, it’s more the fact that I’ve never seen any real good reason to go – reviews are all over the place with some loving it, some hating it, many lukewarm about it. If I’m gonna spend some money at a nice restaurant, I’d much prefer to do so at a place with a better track record. Thankfully, they participated in the Summer 2010 Restaurant Week so I could get away with trying dinner there at a $35 clip.
My friend Susan and I originally had a reservation for two at 5:30 pm but work (hers, not mine) forced us to change to a much later 9:45 pm reservation. No problem really since there were a lot of time slots showing up as available online. (That the restaurant was having difficulty going through all their available time slots during RW should have been an omen.) When we got there at our appointed time, we were told we’d have to wait a few minutes for our table to be ready. Fine, but that doesn’t really make sense when the dining room is nearly half-empty – were they trying to get a specific table ready?
After we were finally seated and made our selections from the prix fixe menu, out came a bread basket and a watermelon amuse-bouche. In the basket was some cornbread that was warm, moist, and soft – very good. The watermelon amuse was a small cube with yogurt and herbs – cute presentation and a crisp start to the meal.
When I saw the imported burrata on the menu, I knew I had to order it. I didn’t care that it was a $5 supplemental – I wanted my burrata! For those who don’t know, burrata is a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer layer tends to be a stretchy mozzarella but it’s the filling of fresh creamy cheese that makes this cheese a winner. Served on top of some fresh tomatoes and cucumber, it’s a rich, tasty, and refreshing delight.
Susan had the grilled prawns. They had some nice flavor on them and well seasoned but they were slightly overcooked. The marinated tomatoes on the side and the chickpea puree the prawns sat on were a nice complement.
So the reason I came here for their RW dinner was so I could have the Dr. Pepper Ribs, something not on their normal menu (that I could see) nor was it available for RW lunch. The ribs were so tasty, kinda like Dr. Pepper but not overwhelmingly so, and the meat was so tender, falling off the bone with barely a pull on my fork. I was disappointed that they no longer serve the ribs with a can of Dr. Pepper on the side but that’s no big deal. The bigger disappointment was the peach slaw – I’m not the biggest slaw fan but this was bordering on disgusting for me. Too much mayo on it made it a chore to eat.
Susan had the salmon which was cooked perfectly. Mostly underdone in the middle but a wonderful orange-red char on the surface. Seasoning, always important to me when it comes to cooked fish, was spot-on.
For dessert, I had the peach panna cotta which came with a basil foam on top. It was a nice summery dessert but nothing memorable about it.
Susan had the goat cheese mousse in phyllo for dessert and had it not been for the honeyed raspberries the goat cheese was resting upon, I would be hard pressed to call this dessert. Really, it was more of a cheese course. Not bad but the goat cheese was too salty for dessert.
I really wanted to like Park Avenue Summer more, I really did. It’s a restaurant with a goofy gimmick but it’s solid nonetheless. Nothing I had was awful (okay, maybe the slaw) but I didn’t have anything that was truly spectacular. Had it not been for Restaurant Week, I probably could have gone without ever visiting the place. And if not for Restaurant Week, I probably won’t be visiting it again.
I should note, however, that the staff here is really nice, both when I dined there and when I returned there weeks later to take the interior shot. The original shot, taken at 11 pm after dinner, was too dark to be used in this post so I went back just to take another photo during the day. Not only did the hostess accommodate my neurotic need for the perfect shot, she offered to turn the lighting up in the dining room, an offer which I happily took.