I remember the Park Avenue Cafe as a lovely, upscale neighborhood restaurant which I occasionally enjoyed, but my recent trip to Park Avenue Summer has me yearning for more. A few years ago the Cafe was reinvented and every season it becomes a different restaurant. The concept is ingenious -- as the seasons change, the restaurant is renamed (it is now Park Avenue Autumn, and will be come Park Avenue Winter in November). And it is completed restyled, from from the physical side (lighting, flower arrangements, tablecloths and cushions) to the menu (food, wine and specialty drinks.)
I had the pleasure of enjoying a private dinner at Park Avenue Summer with a few friends in the Kitchen Table room -- a glassed-in, sound proof room in the middle of the kitchen. While enjoying our wonderful meal, we could also watch the chefs prepare and plate our food as well as food for the main restaurant (which makes you realize how hard they work), which became part of the entertainment. (I have to give a shout out to our waiter, Larry, who has been with the restaurant for over 20 years, and filled in some of the history, while taking wonderful care of us for the evening!)
We started out with fresh breads -- warm cheddar biscuits (white cheddar cheese and spicy pepper - for a kick) and summer corn rolls (polenta and fresch corn) which are made by the summer pastry chefs in house. One basket was not enough, so Larry graciously brought us a refill.
Our appetizer menu choices included Roasted Baby Beets with lemon-pepper & kunik goat cheese, and Potato Gnocchi, with sweet corn and summer truffles. The hit at our table was the Yellowfin Tuna & Avocado with soy-Kamansi and radish.
We had a choice of four main courses for our private dinner: Surf & Turf with fresh corn and red pepper butter, Free Range Chicken with summer squash and romesco, and the two favorites were Halbut with Black Truffles and brioche-crusted poached egg and the Prime Sirloin Au Poivre with a green peppercorn crust.
Each dish was beautifully prepared -- and there was some "surprise" that made them special. The black truffles and the red pepper butter, as well as the side dishes for the table -- brie-stuffed tomatoes and roasted pepper poppers with fresh ricotta -- gave the meal an extra special twist.
When I told Larry the waiter that I didn't drink wine, he went out of his way to bring me a couple of the restaurants non-alcoholic mixers -- I especially loved the sweet-tart Rhubarb-Lime juice with a dash of seltzer, and the Peach with Lemon was a nice second.
The desserts were equally fabulous. We could choose between The Chocolate Cube (a square layered cake with a chocolate coating), Peaches & Grits with a roasted peach crepe, sweet corn panna cotta & peach sorbet (my favorite -- I loved the different textures and temperatures of the various peach dishes) or a Chocolate & Pepperment trio. On the lighter side was a selection of summer market fruits, or summer ice creams & sorbets (including Basil or Toasted Almond ice cream and Peach or Cantaloupe sorbet) which were very refreshing. There was something for everyone on the menu, and no one felt that their choice was an afterthought.
I'm sorry I have to wait until next summer to taste some of these again, but I just took a quick peak at the Park Avenue Autumn menus, which are now in season. I think a lovely brunch with my family is in the cards, and maybe lunch with friends and dinner with clients...I've got to squeeze in several trips before Winter!