Sunday, July 29

Park Avenue Summer (Again?Again)

with all the restaurants available in NY, whenever i do destination dining i tend not to pick the same place twice, unless i'm in a pinch e.g. dietary/ budget/cuisine restrictions, location restrictions, etc.

however, with Summer Restaurant Week rolling around, it was the first time i started to get a little bit's a lot of work to research every restaurant and their menu then to cross-check your choices with Yelp and blogs to get the best sense of where to spend your hard-earned cash (so as not to have a repeat of the Oak Room). and, as i started to notice last year, since the participating restaurants tend to always be the same cast of characters, i've started to have less and less enticing options if i stick to my "no repeats" rule.

which is how i found myself with reservations for dinner at Park Avenue Summer and Brasserie 8 1/2. after having been to Park Avenue Winter and Park Avenue Summer for restaurant week, i never really thought i would go back to try it again. because although they tout themselves as a seasonal restaurant, their menu options remain the same every season. so while the options may the be the freshest ingredients for that season, when it's the same options, it's not really that innovative or impressive.

however, this summer, they came out with a slightly varied menu so when Bubby choice Park Avenue Summer from my list of vetted and approved restaurants, i happily made the reservation.

getting there slightly early for our 8:30 reservation, i grabbed a seat at the bar. i hadn't paid much attention the last time Kiddo and i were there, but the summer decor is far less impressive than the winter decor and borders a little on kitschy. but then again, how much decor do you need to emphasize summer when it's still slightly light outside even though it's past 8 pm? maybe summer's the kind of season that just speaks for itself.

in contrast to the last time, the restaurant felt much more packed and trendy. the crowd consisted of young 20-and-30-somethings dressed in the casual-chic NYC uniform that everyone is seen wearing at these types of places: it screams while-i-may-not-be-wearing-a-suit-i-can-still-afford-to-eat-here-jealous?

as we sat down to our table, i was informed of a nice extra that wasn't available on the on-line menu: the restaurant is also doing a promotional wine offer of $6 for a glass of red or white as well as some suggested bottles of wine. we opted for the most economical bottle of white ($31) since we intended to order predominantly seafood for our appetizers and entrees.

all the appetizers we ordered were amazing. there wasn't a bad one out of the bunch.  we ordered:
Roasted Baby Beets with Lemon Poppy and Kunik Goat Cheese: the most "summer" of all the appetizer offerings. although i never opt for beets in a self-serve salad, nor do i ever prepare or purchase beets from the supermarket, i've always liked them when prepared in restaurant salads (the 2 times i've ordered them). and these were exquisite in a sweet and tangy flavor that was given a summer feeling through the citrus sauce. so good and most representative of "summer."
Mussels and Squid Ink Pasta with Red Curry Fra Diavolo: if you love seafood, this appetizer will pay off in spades. there was a serious amount of mussels in this dish to the point of overshadowing the pasta. you really have to dig through a trove of mussels before you get to the pasta at the bottom of the bowl. but when you do, you find a great al dente pasta that's been flavored with the juice from the mussels and the spicy sweet curry/diavolo sauce.
Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Avocado, Strawberry & Passion Fruit ($5 supplement): great portion and very well done soft shell crab although slightly salty. however, when eaten together with the sweet and softly textured accompaniments, it made for a perfect bite.

honestly, the appetizers were the highlight of the meal. for entrees we ordered:
Grilled Rainbow Trout with Kale, Lemon Aioli, White Anchovies: the trout was well cooked with a crispy skin and moist flesh. again the flavors remained fresh and not heavy most likely due to the lemon aioli and the kale is fried and retains its crisp.
Organic Scottish Salmon with Crispy Taro and Cucumber Salad: a well cooked fish, if a little bland. i also sometimes forget how much meat is in a salmon filet, which i categorize with cooked tuna as "steaks of the sea." due to the accompaniments, it was once again the most "summer" of the entrees, including the slightly bland salmon meat.
Potato Gnocchi with Sweet Corn and Summer Truffles: i've actually already had this dish since it was offered as an appetizer for last summer's Restaurant Week. but it was still great to watch Bubby and Kik's "ecstasy" face when they got a bite of this super rich, super buttery dish. aside from the "sweet corn" and the "summer truffles" this dish is pretty heavy since it's laden with what tastes like a whole bar of butter. but it is SO good.

no surprise that we were pretty full by this time dessert rolled around. but that never really stops us. we ordered:
Chilled Praline Parfait with Chocolate Crumbs and Caramel: you really can't go wrong with this dish if you like traditional chocolate or sweet desserts.
Creme Fraiche Cheese Cake Mousse with Blueberries and Lemon Semolina Cake: i just realized as i copied this item from the Park Avenue Summer Restaurant Week menu why this dessert tasted slightly bland to me. it hadn't registered that the "cake" in this dessert was a lemon semolina cake. i had just assumed it would be a cheese cake since i saw the words "creme fraiche cheese cake." oops. this was a good light dessert that will satisfy those that don't have a strong sweet tooth.
2 scoops of ice cream (Summer Corn and Basil): having learned my lesson from my last venture with Kiddo, i made sure we ordered ice cream instead of the panna cotta being offered. i'm a big fan of the summer corn which is sweet like corn in ice cream form. the basil wasn't my favorite as it kind of reminded me like mint but Kiks loved it.

as always, the bi-annual restaurant week dinner with my girls was a great experience and an opportunity for all 3 of us to get together and catch up (which doesn't happen as often as i would like).

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