Saturday, December 26, 2009

Park Avenue Winter

"So how have you heard about this place?" my Dad asks incredulously, obviously not yet quite fully grasping the depths of my foodie obsession.

I have him trained now to at least wait until I take a picture of his food before digging in, although he mainly seems to locate that odd practice someplace between quaintly oddball and downright embarassing. But he also laughs loudly to help cover up my insouciance at asking so many questions of the waitstaff.

"Are the truffles from Alba?"

"Oh, ho-ho-ho! What a question.."

"Is the Montevertine considered a Super Tuscan?"

"Ah hahahah! Don't mind her. She a little touched in the head. We only let her out on special religious holidays."

Well, there's more insouciance ahead and he can't say he isn't encouraging me because he's suggesting some places with pretty fine grub, so I call that enabling.

Today for brunch it was Park Avenue Winter, Craig Koketsu's classy place on Park and 63rd. He takes "seasonal" seriously (good man) and for each season he presents a totally new restaurant, from the food right down to the chair covers. I always thought it was a cool idea and if the food was as good as they say...

Le Menu. For brunch it was a $35 prix fixe which I consider to be, for my budget, more of a dinner price, but once again, if the grub is good.

First thing out of the gates was fabulous-- a selection of breads and rolls for the table, made by the pastry chef and served with apple butter and jam. From the end: a cranberry muffin, pistachio scone, sugared doughnut, brioche and pecan bun, banana bread and a maple raisin roll, all served warm and delicious. Wish I could've taken them home with me.

My dad had an impressive Caesar salad. Dressing was nicely creamy and it came with some fine touches: a flatbread crisp of bread instead of croutons, a blizzard of parmagiano and fat white anchovies draped over the top of a stack of romaine leaves. He wasn't able to finish it all.

My starter was the porcini mushroom ravioli in Gorgonzola sauce, perched on some spinach wilted in creamy sauce and with pickled shallot shards on top. A really lovely combination of flavor and delicately balanced, although note to self: you must stop ordering "porcini" this-or-that, because you really are not going to recapture that first fine careless rapture of porcini season in Tuscany.

My Dad's main was the Upper East Sider which consisted of a small Eggs Benedict and a bagel with lox. Cute idea and nicely presented.

I had the "breakfast risotto" which contained sausages and bacon as well as diced potatoes with a fried egg on top. A lovely blend of flavor mixed together, and hearty, though not earthshattering. Still I enjoyed everything, but-- isn't there always a "but"?-- I have to comment on service and style.

Our server struck me at first as a little inattentive, I mean there were only two other occupied tables in the place, so why did I have to ask her if she could answer a few questions on the menu? She turned out to be pretty accommodating though and far more attentive as the meal went on. I was happy to see that my water glass and my Dad's coffee stayed filled all the time.

The runners however were a definite negative for me. Not just that they didn't seem to have clue who ordered what, but they plonked the plates down quite carelessly--bordering on rudely-- at one point the guy shoved the plate in front of my Dad down and edged it over in such a way that the butter knife took a dive for my lap. No apology or anything-- he just looked at me like it was my fault for catching the knife. I wanted to say "what the heck did I ever do to you?"

Well, rudenesss aside, I was surprised to see that the much admired bread plate had a chip in it. An oversight, I figured. But then I noticed that the saucer under my Dad's coffee cup was also chipped and --as he lifted it up-- I could see that it was chipped in not just one but three spots. Now, I have as much chipped tableware as the next person-- more probably. But when you're about to drop $100 on brunch for two, you'd appreciate attention to details.

So all in all, would i recommend it? Yes, with some reservations. Go for the food, but I do wish somebody would tell the chef that his beautiful craftsmanship is being presented in a chipped, sloppy setting.

- Posted from my iPhone

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