I look forward to every Restaurant Week because it gives me a chance to try restaurants I normally couldn't afford to eat at on my poor student's budget. It may seem like a straightforward decision, but there's an art to choosing a restaurant during this week, or in this case weeks.
To get the best value, I typically troll online for reviews, check out recently-opened places, and select the most promising candidates. Then I ask myself, is this someplace I wouldn't normally go to? How much of a deal am I actually getting? What does the menu look like? Are there enough choices to satisfy a party of four? That said, it takes a lot for me to return to a place for Restaurant Week because there are so many new places I want to try. I'd already been to Park Avenue Winter for Restaurant Week earlier this year, but because of the changing season I deemed Park Avenue Summer worth a visit to sample the lunch menu ($24.07). [Note: There's only one different dish on the $30 dinner menu.]
Butter and Sugar Corn Soup with Tomato & Tomatillo: This didn't taste too rich, which is often a problem for me with restaurant soups. They usually add so much cream, I feel weighed down afterward. The soup was definitely creamy, but the tomatoes and tomatillos added another flavor dimension which brightened it up.
Salmon Tartare with Tomatoes and Basil: The salmon tartare was the group's favorite appetizer. With the simple and raw mix of ingredients, it was a perfect summer dish. If I could sum it up in one word? Refreshing.
Cured-Lemon Caesar Salad: Warning: if you're not a fan of whole anchovy fillets, don't order this. You might be horrified. The cured-lemon exemplifies the sharp flavors in the salad, but I prefer a lighter hit of flavors in my Caesar.
Caprese Ravioli with Yellow Tomato Coulis: A nice variation on the caprese salad you see on menus everywhere in the summer; the ravioli are filled with tomato and mozzarella.
Sliced Filet Mignon Sandwich with Cherry Tomatoes and Horseradish Creme: The sliced filet mignon sandwich was a replica of the one that I tried during the winter. The meat is perfectly seasoned, but it's just not a stand-out dish. It's something you feel you could easily make at home.
Seared Salmon with Crispy Taro and Cucumber Salad: An incredibly crispy seared salmon was moist and while the taro and cucumber salad was fine, the avocado puree was better. The avocado's the biggest flavor, but the dill and jalapeno also contribute something special.
Dr. Pepper Baby Back Ribs with Fresh Peach Slaw: Yes, Dr. Pepper ribs have made it to the Upper East Side. The meat was tender and had good flavor but I just don't think I'm a fan of Dr. Pepper ribs. They weren't too saucy, but the sauce was so sweet, it was overwhelming in that amount. The completely forgettable slaw didn't help.
Fire-Roasted Lamb Chops with Smoked Cherries ($10 supplement): I'm always a bit annoyed when there are supplements on the menu, but the lamb was worth it. It was cooked a juicy medium-rare and the little bits of fat around the outside of the chop only made it better. I found myself gnawing on the 8-inch bones to get to the scraps of meat; an experience that caused the hedonist inside to jump for joy.
Chilled Banana Parfait with Chocolate Crumbs & Banana Butterscotch Puree: Half the group loved this dessert, while the other half was just ehh. I would have loved it if not for the parfait presentation. I didn't like it when I had all the layers in one bite and the ratio of chocolate crumbs was just overpowering. Too many hard, crunchy bits do not make for a happy mouth.
Chocolate-Tea Ice Cream, Cantaloupe Sorbet: I usually veer away from the ice cream/sorbet portion of the dessert menu, but there were only three dessert choices and so the fourth was to be of the frozen variety. This was a big winner among the group. The chocolate-tea flavor was ultra-creamy and the Earl Grey tea made for an excellent partner. I had Earl Grey ice cream last week and enjoyed it, but the chocolate addition is definitely an improvement. Cantaloupe sorbet? It managed to carry the essence of creamy cantaloupe while refraining from being too sweet.
Peach Panna Cotta with Basil Foam and Lemon Cakes: I don't particularly like panna cotta and this dessert didn't change my mind. It was lackluster and the separate elements just didn't meld together the way I wanted them to.
Goat Cheese Mousse in Phyllo with Honeyed Raspberries: Eating this gave me the feeling I was eating frosting; it was tasty, but so decadent I could never finish one by myself.
The Bread Basket: The warm homemade breads were a nice touch (the warm cheddar biscuit with spicy pepper is a winner).
Wine: As in the winter, there is a specially priced wine selection. Add a glass of wine to your meal, and it goes up to $30 (that's 7¢ less than the winter!).
Lunch or Dinner? There's only one different dish on the dinner menu so lunch is definitely the better bargain if you're deciding between the two. Park Avenue Summer's Restaurant Week lunch makes for an entirely enjoyable experience. The elegant decor and polished service set you at ease and with the cheapest lunch entree at $24, this is certainly one of the better deals.
Park Avenue Summer
100 E 63rd Street, New York NY 10065 (map)