Last night I ventured up to Park Avenue Autumn in the upper east side, a neighborhood more foreign to me than any other in New York City. I lived on 60th and 1st Ave the summer of 2007 with my good friend Sarah, but we never really exposed ourselves to the genre of people that I saw last night: an older crowd sprinkled with blazers, pearls, and touches of plastic surgery – a crossbreed of my grandma’s country club and New York Housewives. A very well-dressed group helped adorn the restaurant to say the least. White table cloths, waiters in suits, and a gorgeous, wedding-style room set up is just the setting I would imagine in this situation.
My (playful) snobbiness aside, the restaurant truly evokes the warm and cozy feeling of fall, and the concept of switching menu, decor, and front entrance every season is a clever one. The bread basket, filled with fresh pumpkin loaves, onion rolls, and hearty cheddar crackers even made me feel one with the season. Our autumn cabbage salad with crispy shrimp tasted a little bit like the tangy sweet and sour salad I used to get at Wolfgang Puck in Macy’s, but was crunchy, cold, and delicious nonetheless. My halibut, which was seared to a crisp and served with black truffles and a breaded poached egg, was simple and well cooked. But never once have I ordered halibut and not regretted it. It’s often bland, dry, and uninteresting.
Dessert was the real shocker because after the somewhat approachable appetizers and main courses, out came what they called a carrot cake but really looked like cubes of cheese exploding with dollops of unknown purees. I should have suspected that a carrot cake described as accompanying a “brie fritter” would taste a little off, too. One bite and I couldn’t decide if I was eating a cheese plate or a dessert. Do what you want with savory food, but dessert is never better when fussed with. Give me a brownie and a scoop of ice cream and I’m a happy camper.
Park Avenue Autumn fills the frequent need of providing an older, sophisticated crowd with interesting but familiar food – broccoli with cheetos is really on the menu – in an impressive space. When my grandma comes back in town, I won’t hesitate to bring her back here for visit number 2, but I’ll no doubt wait until then to return. It just ain’t my scene!
Grade: B+ (extra points for bread basket)
Location: 100 East 63rd between Park and Lex