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Riverpark Review + Photos (Spoiler: Not Impressed!)

plumpdumpling May 4, 2011 01:00 PM

Photos are here: http://www.donuts4dinner.com/2011/05/...

For the longest time, I was saying that the best meal I’ve ever had was at Tom Colicchio’s Craft. And maybe it still is the best meal I’ve ever had. It was my first tasting menu, my first meal over $100, my first time eating bay scallops and sturgeon and cocoa nib. Since then, I’ve had meals that have blown my mind more, but there’s sure a lot to be said for almost being made to cry over some Brussels sprouts for the first time.

Since then, I’ve had pretty stellar experiences at Craftbar and Colicchio & Sons, so my boyfriend and I were pleased to get to try Chef Colicchio’s newest venue, Riverpark, which is situated aaaaaaaaaall the way over on 29th Street behind the infamous Bellevue Hospital, overlooking the East River. It turns out that the interesting views are really the only reason to go.

• baby octopus, Manilla clams, shishito peppers, lime, cilantro
My boyfriend was a little surprised when an entire baby octopus was planted in front of him, but it was pretty impressive. Chargrilled and just slightly fishy, it had a great firm-but-not-chewy texture. We both loved the cilantro on top, but I thought the clams tasted of funk. In general, it was just a little overwhelming to be handed the whole mollusk; a thoughtful preparation of octopus parts is more our speed.

• cavatelli, braised lamb, sweet peas, mint, horseradish
The dense pasta coupled with the thick sauce made for a rich, homey dish. I loved the crispy herbs in contrast to the soft peas, and the classic combination of long-cooked lamb and mint proved its worth once again. I was looking forward to what the horseradish would bring to the dish but unfortunately couldn’t taste it. If I think about one dish from this night, it’s this one, just for those paper-thin greens.

• merluza (kind of like cod), clams, fennel, potato purée, Finocchiono (salami
)Served over super-buttery potatoes, this was mushy texture after mushy texture, so every bit of that crunchy fennel was welcome. I liked all of the flavors that were present but noticed almost immediately that something was missing: spice. For me, the dish really needed something to brighten it up.

• diver scallops, asparagus, spring onions, bacon-ramp vinaigrette
I’m only now beginning to actually enjoy seafood a little, so it was a major step for me to order this as my main dish, and luckily, it didn’t let me down. The sear on the scallops was just perfect, and I loved the lemony flavor of them. The bacon on top was extra-crunchy, and the vegetables on the side were extra-tender. I love the onions, especially. It maybe wasn’t the most soul-satisfying dish I’ve had, but I pleased myself by enjoying it.

• goat cheese soufflé, tarragon créme anglaise, beet sorbet, pistachio
The entire dessert menu was impressive, but my boyfriend and I decided we had to go for the very craziest thing on it. We love soufflés, and we love beets, so how could it be bad? Well, it was bad, and we knew it was going to be from the very moment it hit our table. It just looked wrong. And then our server took a spoon to scoop the center of it out and pour in the créme, and it was clear that the thing was much less a soufflé and much more an omelet.

It was so eggy. So eggy that we couldn’t eat it. We tried the beet sorbet and liked the way it was not sweet at all on its own but actually tasted like dessert when eaten with the pistachio brittle. Still, we were so disappointed with the soufflé that we couldn’t even enjoy it.

To tell the truth, I was almost a little excited to write a negative review about it, because we’ve been going to so many great restaurants lately that everything has been four and five stars. But when I almost apologetically mentioned to our server that the egginess had turned us off a bit, he said that the chef would be happy for our feedback, because it was the first night the soufflé had appeared on the menu, and they weren’t sure how it was going to go over.

The restaurant entirely made up for it by sending us a plate of the most wonderful housemade sorbets and ice creams in creamsicle, brown butter, and pineapple.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

It kind of pains me to give Riverpark such a low rating, but all of the dishes were just so-so. Nothing blew our minds, and nothing offended us, but we had such better meals at Craft and Craftbar that our expectations were high. The most my boyfriend could muster was, “It was amazing . . . that I ate a whole octopus.” And I think that about sums up my feelings, too. Go for the views of the water and the creepy old Bellevue buildings, but try one of the other Colicchio restaurants for the food.

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Craftbar
900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

Craft
43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

Colicchio & Sons
85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

Riverpark
450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

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  1. ellenost RE: plumpdumpling May 4, 2011 01:21 PM

    Sorry to hear that Riverpark didn't live up to your expectations. I haven't been there since February, and am eagerly looking forward to being able to enjoy the outdoor dining now that the weather is getting warmer. I have always enjoyed their food (as well as the service and decor). I hope your experience was a one-time misstep for them.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ellenost
      plumpdumpling RE: ellenost May 5, 2011 06:15 AM

      Our service was fantastic, and although we didn't think to ask to be seated near the windows (major fail!), we loved the patterned light walls. So hopefully the kitchen was just having an off night, or maybe we just happened to get some lackluster dishes. Glad your experience was better!

    2. r
      RGR RE: plumpdumpling May 4, 2011 02:26 PM

      The way I understand it, Colicchio is the owner, but he has little to do with the menu. It and the execution of the dishes are the responsibilities of the executive chef, Sishar Otuzar. So, in essence, you were not eating Colicchio's food. I'm guessing that these days, the only one of his restaurants in which he is actually involved -- when he isn't traveling or on t.v. -- is his eponymous one.

      We were not blown away by our one dinner at Riverpark though nothing was even close to being bad (a la your soufflé). Our first courses outshone the mains, and my dessert (Mr. R. passed) was delicious.

      As I've mentioned on other threads, I think the space is very poorly designed. After our initial experience of being seated in the area behing the bar where the view is totally blocked, we will not go again if they can't guarantee us a table either along the windows or in the area in front of the bar.

      Riverpark photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

      ETA: I just looked at your photos. Whoa! That "soufflé" does look awful!

      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

      1 Reply
      1. re: RGR
        plumpdumpling RE: RGR May 5, 2011 06:19 AM

        Ah, see, I assumed that if he was putting his name on it, he had a hand in what was being served. I guess going into it thinking that was a mistake. Your dessert looks quite nice, though, and I love that you apparently love vanilla ice cream, too.

        We got a table on the far end of the little raised area, nearest to the kitchen, so while our view wasn't as bad as I imagine yours was, I was really disappointed that so much of the space was non-water-view. I'll follow your lead and demand a window seat next time!

      2. loratliff RE: plumpdumpling May 4, 2011 02:59 PM

        Wow, that souffle... Ick! (Am I the only one who thinks that the cavatelli looks like frozen Ore-Ida French fries too?)

        1 Reply
        1. re: loratliff
          plumpdumpling RE: loratliff May 5, 2011 08:41 AM

          I want to be snarky and say I'd actually prefer the fries, but no!, the pasta was really nice, and I'll keep my snark in check.

        2. s
          sambolef RE: plumpdumpling May 5, 2011 06:32 AM

          not that it matters--having tried some of the same dishes you ordered--i can honestly say --you're way off! seasoning is not one the things their food lacks. coming out of the gate--the food is much better than collichio & sons ever was & for that matter, still is. if anything--the staff at riverpark is too honest & never should have confided in you that the beet souffle was not yet ready for prime time. most restaurants would have advised you that this how our chef likes it & is supposed to be. however, if it's not up to your expectations--we will be happy to replace it with another one of our fine desserts.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sambolef
            plumpdumpling RE: sambolef May 5, 2011 08:47 AM

            Haha, I think that would've been waaaay worse, as far as my feelings toward the restaurant go. I don't mind "oops, we made a mistake this one time," but "oh, uh, your taste buds are totally off; everyone else loves a sunken, eggy mess for dessert" would be pretty unforgivable.

            But I'm glad you had better food than we did, and I'd be happy to give the restaurant another shot if the overwhelming feeling is that we just had a bad night.

            1. re: plumpdumpling
              a
              americanafan RE: plumpdumpling May 5, 2011 09:33 AM

              We had a better experience last Saturday night. I agree that the baby octopus was unusual, relative to the usual hunks of tentacle, but it was a baby, and tender, and I thought that it worked well with the clams, peppers, and broth. That's the only dish we had that overlapped with your experience. We also had the avocado and hamachi salad, which was okay but not remarkable, as a starter. My wife enjoyed the Arctic char, and the small amount she shared with me went well with the charred tomatoes and julienned haricots verts. I thought the sliced roasted lamb leg was very good, if slightly oversalted. We chose a more traditional dessert, the coconut panna cotta, which was garnished with roasted pineapple and macadamia brittle, and topped with a lime granita, and it was fairly light and refreshing.

              Sorry to hear about your experience -- that souffle is just horrible -- but I'd give it another chance.

              1. re: americanafan
                plumpdumpling RE: americanafan May 6, 2011 11:01 AM

                Your dessert sounds pretty wonderful and summery. There were plenty of other dishes on the menu that I wanted to try, so maaaaaybe we'll have to try again when it gets nicer outside and the outdoor seating starts to call to me. Glad you enjoyed your meal!

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