Park Avenue Summer

by Susan on July 8, 2008

[Food:4/5]

Park Avenue Fall opened in 2007 as the first turn of this truly seasonal restaurant. Four times a year both the interior design and menu would be over-hauled to reflect the current season. I’d read Fall’s excellent reviews and listened to the raves of Winter from friends and family. When Summer’s tide rolled in I could no longer resist.

Chef Craig Koketsu and the AvroKO design time have pulled it off . . . swimmingly. Park Avenue Summer has achieved, maybe even invented, whimsical elegance.

The festive and sophisticated atmosphere at Park Avenue Summer includes a wall of rosé-filled wine bottles (especially made for the restaurant, of course), a whitewashed wood ceiling, and wire lanterns. White tortoise shells decorate yellow-paneled walls. Tall grass and willowy fronds run down the middle of the room. You could swear there’s a breeze. You wiggle your toes, surprised not find sand beneath the table.

For the Amuse Bouche, a small box of grass arrives with skewered cubes of spicy yogurt topped watermelon emerging from the green blades. Cheddar cheese and chile biscuits, sweet corn brioche, and flat breads fill the breadbasket. Who knew summer tasted so good?

Fried Ipswich Clams, ordered from the fanciful Picnic Menu, were served in a red-and-white-checked paper carton and ceremoniously ruined us for any other fried clams we might eat this summer. Two Jersey Sauces – tomato aioli and mustard aioli – are professionally squirted into white ceramic dishes. Paper-thin pinwheels of fried lotus roots were discovered, like a treasure, at the bottom of the carton.

Maine Peekytoe Crab “Gazpacho Style” was a deconstructed version of the seasonal soup. A mound of crab and a stack of julienned vegetables sat side-by-side in a shallow pool of chilled and robust tomato soup.

An array of colorful beets and tomatoes were dressed with ginger and labne yogurt. It was a simple Baby Beet Salad, but also a refreshingly light and delicious one.

Soft Shell Crab was smartly balanced by avocado, strawberry, passion fruit, and white soy. The sweet and soft fruits were superb foils for the salty and crunchy crab.

And those were just our starters . . .

Park Avenue Bouillabaisse delivered on the promise of its posh address. Only the “good stuff” is served in this uptown version – prawns, sea scallops, and halibut. Poured from a thermos, the saffron-based soup’s aroma enveloped our table. As soon as my tablemates got a whiff, pieces of corn brioche were dipped amongst the fish and seafood. It tasted just as good as it smelled.

Sweet and succulent meat was pulled effortlessly from the Grilled Langoustine shells. In my book, they beat out lobster, shrimp, and prawns any day of the week.

Dr. Pepper Braised Ribs, also ordered off the Picnic Menu, was delivered with a tall glass of unadulterated Dr. Pepper and a side of not-too-sweet peach slaw. The meat fell off the bone. The deep-colored sauce was finger licking worthy.

Once my husband had seen the Veal Chop delivered to our neighboring table he closed his menu. Have I mentioned I’m married to a very smart man? The meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned. None of us could recall a better veal chop.

Though the portion sizes at Park Avenue Summer do not warrant side dishes, they’re hard to resist. We opted for the Stuffed Squash Blossoms, fried in a tempura-like batter and filled with creamy cheese.

To say Richard Leach does the desserts would be a gross understatement. He creates them. His sweet inventions are as much for the eyes as for the taste buds.

The Chocolate Cube, a hard-shelled rectangle, was filled with caramel-cinnamon mousse and pieces of devil’s food cake. A scoop of ancho-chile gelato added cold and spicy punch.

Cherry halves and cherry sorbet spruced up the cannoli-style rice pudding. The dish was aptly called Fresh Cherries, Toasted Rice Pudding & Cherry Sorbet. It was also aptly delightful.

Though usually sad to see Summer go, I find myself suddenly excited for Fall.

Park Avenue Summer
http://www.parkavenyc.com
100 East 63rd Street
New York, NY 10021
212.644.1900

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