By COURTNEY HO
Last Friday night, I stumbled out of an art gallery in the heart of Chelsea. And by “stumbled,” I mean physically and mentally. I still do not understand that piece of canvas that was just blue. Anyway, I was hungry, and I knew the Chelsea Market was closed. Suddenly, I walked by a beautiful stream of lights that illuminated the otherwise-dark 10th Avenue. They were coming from The Park.
Originally a taxi garage, The Park is a 7,800-square-foot “ingredient-based Mediterranean” restaurant that has five different sections: the atrium, main room, garden, red room and penthouse. The Park was designed by Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson, who are the faces behind The Bowery and The Maritime, to name a few. Each section has its own personality and atmosphere, yet it all feels fresh, open and sophisticated. Although the interior design is outstanding, I do not understand the seemingly-random Asian touches throughout the restaurant.
I chose to eat in the garden, which is where most people seemed to be dining. The garden is one of the most visually stunning dining spaces I have ever seen. Japanese maple trees covered in lights were strategically placed throughout the garden, vines elegantly draped the walls and the moonlight shone through high glass ceilings. To put it simply, sitting in the garden felt like a dream.
All dreams have to come to an end, however. I will start with some good news, and end with the bad.
It is important to note that the executive chef at The Park is David Coleman, who is the former chef de cuisine at Tocqueville. I am a big fan of Coleman’s exquisitely-crafted French dishes from Tocqueville. I am not a fan of Coleman’s uninspired work at The Park.
The dinner menu is an odd conglomerate of Italian, American, and Mediterranean-influenced dishes. There are, unnecessarily so, two sections of appetizers labeled “to share” and “to start.” When I ordered the appetizer, I had to request for it to be served before the entrée, because the waiter would not have done so otherwise (what is this, a parallel universe?).
From the “to share” section, I ordered the risotto croquettes ($9) and the crispy shrimp with lemon and oregano ($13). The risotto croquettes had the perfect consistency. The wonderfully fried breadcrumb shell held together the cheesy, al dente risotto hidden inside. Eating the risotto croquettes was equivalent to eating a perfectly fried piece of Italy, I presume. After those, however, it all went downhill. The crispy shrimp were under-seasoned, slightly burnt and came with unexceptional, Guy Fieri-grade dipping sauces.
Since I was so unimpressed by their burger selection (I would rather not eat a burger on an English muffin), and underwhelmed by their pizza options, I opted for the steak frites ($25) and the grilled daurade with fregola sarda, fennel and olives ($19). I am not sure when steak frites were declared a Mediterranean dish. In addition, the medium (I ordered medium-rare) NY strip was ordinary at best and was served with diner-quality fries.
For those of you who do not know, daurade is more commonly spelled as “dorade,” and is a type of bas, and fregola sarda is a nutty Sardinian pasta that is similar to Israeli couscous. The grilled daurade was overcooked and unevenly seasoned. The fregola sarda, for which I was excited, was more of an afterthought than an accompaniment. It was an overall disappointment.
I am assuming that the owner of this restaurant hopes that his customers will be so inebriated by the dim ceiling lights and alcoholic drinks, and so confused by the amount of nature around them, that they will forget how mediocre the food tastes. I think The Park is a great place to rent out for parties and for late-night drinks. This is not a place to eat.
Overall: 2 stars
Location: 3 stars
Food Quality: 2 stars
Atmosphere: 4 stars
Hospitality: 2 stars
(Out of 4 stars)