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.
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.
450 East 29th Street
New York, NY 10016 (map)