Riverpark, Kips Bay, NYC
Riverpark and Riverpark Farm photos above courtesy Riverpark
Last night, I went out to dinner to celebrate a friend's birthday at Tom Colicchio's Riverpark which is in Kips Bay — a new part of town for me. This elegant, upscale establishment is situated on an amazing plaza overlooking the East River right near Bellevue hospital (which is closed and more than a little creepy). The evening could not have been more perfect. We arrived early and had time to wander through the vegetable and herb gardens where the restaurant grows a good portion of what they use. Stacked and grouped recycled plastic milk cartons provide the containers they need. With a simple irrigation system, the results are impressive.
We then went inside and sat in the lounge area and had drinks. Drinks were three out of four good, mine tasted a little like Yuzu-scented compost tea, but everyone else loved theirs. I had two problems with the bar design: the swivel chairs were a little Jetson-ian, looked cool, but the only way to sit in them was to slump and getting out of them was awkward; and there was a translucent wall covering made up of little symbols which looked like cheap wrapping paper.
The dinning room, however, was flawless, The decor reminded me a little of The Four Seasons restaurant designed by Philip Johnson. Clean lines, tall windows, great color and textures, small, elegant white cube lighting, and fab leather chairs paired with earthy fabrics. There were even couches mixed in, which was where the birthday girl wanted to sit. The waitstaff was extremely well trained, very friendly yet professional, and made us feel very special — including a special menu for the birthday girl with her name and "happy birthday" printed on it. They were also all aware of her gluten-free status when we walked in, nicely done. The menu was enticing from start to finish so making a decision was difficult, but there were no bad choices.
I started with the hamachi crudo & tartare, which came with pickled strawberries, nasturtium leaves (from the garden), rhubarb, hazelnuts, jalapeños,and lime. Unbelievably fresh and delicious, a beautiful medley of texture and flavors. My friends shared the buffalo milk burrata with green apples, lavender, honey-spiced almonds, buttermilk — and no croutons. The kitchen split the plate and presentation was spot on.
Next, we ordered the spring onion soup with ramps, spring garlic, and Taleggio crouton. It had a deep, rich taste and velvety texture. For my main course, I choose the Pekin Duck breast garnished with white asparagus, French breakfast radishes, bee pollen, acacia honey, and rhubarb. The duck arrived a perfect, tender medium rare and the radish was an excellent compliment to the duck (who knew?). My only issue was with the white asparagus which visually faded onto the plate, a bit of green would have made a better presentation. My pal had the Berkshire pork chop with charred spring onions, fava beans, hazelnut romesco — it was simply amazing on every level. My other friend had the grilled rack of lamb with green chickpeas, almonds, lamb's quarters, and gnocchi. It was a fascinating combination of seasonal flavors. Needless to say, we all cleaned our plates and the portions were the perfect size.
Of course, we had to try a few desserts. "Cereal & Milk" was a Chocolate Ganache Cake with Caramelized Rice Puffs, and Vanilla Malt. It was a fun, interactive choice — it looked like a giant Mallomar but when you tapped the gold-leafed chocolate dome with a fork, out poured the vanilla malt which then covered the crispy rice — very cool! I had the olive oil cake with strawberries, vanilla crémeux, and pistachio ice cream. Sheer perfection, four excellent elements with a lovely variety of crispy texture, moist cake and tart strawberries, and to-die-for pistachio ice cream! My gluten-free friend had a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream which she loved. All in all, it was what an expensive, fine dining experience should be. I highly recommend it!