Mid-week outings are some of my favorite things, they are the perfect way to break up the week. Six previous co-workers/friends and I met up to celebrate the departure of Renay from my old company. She took a fantastic position at QVC, closer to home in Philly! We all first gathered at a local rooftop bar and then decided to head to The Park for dinner and more drinks. I had heard a lot about its aesthetic and was warned that the food is not what attracts people to this trendy Chelsea hot-spot.
Upon arrival, I was instantly stuck by the fact that it was not at all crowded. Still, the hostess said that we’d have to wait about twenty to thirty minutes to be seated since we had requested the garden area. We waited at the bar which was completely empty. The high ceilings, bamboo and floral themes, and dim candle and lantern lighting, made for a romantic, serene atmosphere. The bartender was chatty but a little serious as well. One instant sense of disappointment came when I was asked to put away my camera because no pictures are allowed of the space. All of the drinks were reasonably priced, ranging from $9-$12. After about what felt like over thirty minutes, I went back to the hostess to ask for an ETA; five minutes later, we were seated.
The garden at The Park is more of an indoor-outdoor garden. The Japanese/Asian inspired décor from the main room was carried through with the Japanese Maples and Wisteria vines. The hanging flowers, birdfeeders, and tin deer by our table made us feel like we were in an actual garden or greenhouse. Everything down to the wooden and metal tables and chairs were reminiscent of the outdoors. I was surprised that this space was enclosed in glass and not opened for the summer. For an open space in the summer or a view from above year-round, one would have to head to the Penthouse, their rooftop patio.
The garden was rather empty and I was confused as to why we had to wait for a table. It was also dimmer that the main room and we had to read the menu close to the candles at our table. We placed one order of the Portobello Mushroom Fries, three of the Park Burgers (one turkey and two beef) with avocado and cheese, one of the Filet Mignon (in a port wine reduction with rosemary mashed potatoes and jumbo asparagus), one Grilled Atlantic Salmon (with avocado tomatillo salsa, asparagus and corn on the cob), one Prosciutto and Baby Arugula wood oven pizza, and one of the Margherita wood oven pizza (mine). The presentation of the food made everything appear very appetizing. The general consensus was that the food was middle-of-the-road. As a starter, our host brought us some focaccia and olive oil. Though the bread was warm, the consistency was off. It was too soft and reminded me of white bread (only with some herbs on top). The mushroom fries, cut like potato wedges, were a little oily, to taste, and lacked flavor when consumed without the creamy horseradish dipping sauce. While the girls enjoyed their burgers, two were off put by the English muffin on which it was served. They complained that it was too small for the meatiness provided by the burger. The salmon was overdone on top, making it dry. My margherita was very good, probably even more so because I was starving. The cheese was a little overdone but the fresh and fragrant (I could smell the basil) sauce is what made the pizza. The dish of the night, as a few at the table informed me, was the filet. It was done just right and all of the flavors really complemented each other.
I will definitely come back here for a drink because I will remember the gorgeous décor and cozy mood but not the food. What we all really appreciated was that it was not crowded or loud. (I am sure it’s a different story when it’s busy.)
Recap: Amazing ambiance. Very large and spacious venue, would be ideal for a party. Good service and prices. Mediocre food. Gets busy later in the week, reservations are advised. Decent number of vegetarian options.
Food Tally: House cocktails, $12; beers, $8; wines by the glass, $9-$12; Portobello Mushroom Fries, $7; Filet Mignon, $28; Salmon, $18; Burgers, $11; Margherita pizza, $11; Prosciutto and Baby Arugula pizza, $13. Total per person with tax and tip (we evenly split the bill and chipped in for Renay; someone left extra to add to the tip): $30.
Score: 4.5/5 (for the aesthetic) 3/5 (for the food)
Address: 118 10th Avenue at 18th Street, New York City; www.theparknyc.com