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Feb 17, 2007 11:59 AM

Central Park, Round 2

Last night I was given yet another birthday dinner at Central Park, this a belated one courtesy of the in-laws. They had never heard of the place, so we felt duty-bound to introduce them...SO nice of us!

We had the same waiter as last time, who recognized and welcomed us. It's a little cramped and noisy in there, and as our drink orders were constantly being interrupted and he wasn't writing anything down I was wondering how he'd keep'em straight, but he did. He brought the wines and water, then the bread: same floppy foccacia as before, plus a crackly crisp flatbread with crusty cheese, very good, and the olive oil/balsamic/tapenade dipping sauce.

I ordered the 10 oz. New York steak, rare; Maman wanted the scampi, and Papa and Mrs. O asked for sand dabs. Papa does not enjoy crunchy vegetables, and as I'd clued him that the side veges here are essentially hot crudités, he demanded and received an extra helping of the mashed potatoes instead. The food appeared after a commendably brief wait, and was served in the proper professional manner by four waiters: the two aisle diners first, then the two on the wall side. Very smooth.

The food itself was all good, but not all flawless. Maman loved her shrimp (and gave her crunchy vegetables to her daughter); Papa and Mrs. O were ecstatic about their sand dabs. My steak seemed to be the poor relation here - much thinner than any I've gotten this side of Sizzler, and of a strangely flabby consistency, as though it had been knitted from some kind of Meat Yarn; there were real enough grill marks, but on a pinkish field, and the flavor was much more of grill than of beef. It was not totally unpleasant and I ate it, all except for the huge strip of fat and gristle I cut off the side. As for the potatoes, I would have paid extra for the glorious gratin I had last time here. These were not awful, but had been whipped to the edge of glueyness.

A pleasant meal, though, and the parents loved the place and thanked us for suggesting it. We finished up with the White Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream dessert again, this time with three spoons (Papa abstaining). As is usual when he's treating none of the rest of us saw the tab, but with all the foregoing and one glass of a cabernet, one of zinfandel, one itty bitty bottle of Spanish bubbly and a big bottle of San Pellegrino, I figure it just over $100 before tax and tip. Not bad at all.

Now I need to try them for lunch...

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  1. Hmmm...floppy foccacia....and, hmm... I don't eat red meat, so the image of a flabbly knitted Meat Yarn is not likely to bring me back to the dark side, and hmmm....gluey potatoes, and raw "cooked" vegetables (i'm okay but S.O. is like your papa)..hmmm.... somehow not nearly as persuasive as your previous review or that of others recently convince me...the seafood, dessert, and the ambiance (?) swing the pendulum to the positive side?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Local

      My wife has gotten fish there twice, and as you'll notice the in-laws got fish and shrimp, and they loved every bite of everything. And I was the only one who whined about the potatoes - I just don't like them in a whipped purée. Lots of people do, and they can have it.

      I have a takeaway menu here, which tells me that if I wanted some other vegetable I could have gotten the Au Gratin Potatoes for a bit extra, or on the side for $3.50. I could also have fries (House or Garlic) for $3.95, sautéed mushrooms ($5.95), fresh asparagus ($4.75, and I bet it's crunchy too but that's OK), or sautéed spinach ($4.50). A bit of polite arm-twisting could probably get any of these subbed in for a reasonable adjustment, especially as the Vegetable Medley, which I assume is our Crunchy Buddies, lists alone for $5.25.

      I've got no excuse for the floppy foccacia, except that it does an amazingly good job of sopping up that smart dipping sauce, an effort at which the otherwise fine flatbread did not excel.

      1. re: Will Owen

        Well, i'm a fiend for good seafood, so the A+ sand dabs essentially had me there, but sensed some mixed emotions...apparently not ;-) ....

        The options for asparagus, mushrooms, or spinach has me ready to make a reservation. Bread has never been a priority for me ( I know, pray for my salvation), so I'll report back after we go. Thanks for all the info. L.