Saturday Ijust attended a press event at Park. I liked the food. But there were many things surrounding the event that make it harder than it should be to enjoy Chef Garreth Dickey’s menu items. I have put together some of them in a list at the bottom.
We started with the fried okra. I chose this for the most nefarious motives. Okra is difficult for chefs. It is too easy for the cooked results to appear like pea pods in frog spawn, or the results of a pathology practical at Southwestern Medical Center. My ploy didn’t work at Park. Each whole pod was crisply fried with a sweet batter clinging to the exterior and the interior a tart and fibrous center. I experimented with eating pods either straight, or drizzled with lemon. I think both worked.
Our other starter was the shrimp and avocado which we spread onto crackers. This is a bit like a ceviche that you lift up. I could sit in front of the television for hours eating this and swigging Albariño. It is that tasty.
On to the mains: The seared salmon with avocado was as good as it looks in the picture. The sear was deep and absolutely perfect and the whole taken off the heat nice and early, keeping the inside fleshy.
For my main course I thought I would continue my path of nefariousness. That meant choosing chicken which, across town, is either dry (the bad experience). Or tasteless (the most common experience). Or good (unusual – and likely found in an Asian restaurant where sauce is invariably part of the recipe). However, before I tried this test at Park, I spied an even better candidate on the menu: plaice. Plaice is a fish that makes pollock
look interesting, or tilapia look tasty. At Park the plaice was breaded and fried and I think they did about as well as one could. But it was still plaice. I am sure that Dickey can come up with a better neuro-protein.
We skipped desert. However, a few words on the non-food aspects of Park. First, the valet parking: The company that runs it appears to be staffed by guys who were thrown out of the Albanian mafia for human rights violations. They expect to be paid $5 up front, and they are pushy about it. I know they are a legally separate entity from Park but they are the first link in the chain of hospitality of a night out, and they put me in the wrong mood to appreciate the work involved in the restaurant. Park: get one of the other valet companies around town.
Next, the wine glasses: We learned wine glasses must be stemmed (to prevent warming the wine as you hold the glass); thin, for a pleasant tactile mouth feel; and, most crucially, the right shape to funnel the wine’s aromas. Park’s molded, stem-less tumblers fail on all three counts. The wine list is currently being reworked (that is why I am not commenting on it) so, guys, use the opportunity to have a tumbler-smashing party this week. These tumblers are so bad you might as well cut costs further by not serving wine at all.
Last, smoke wafts inside from the patio. Move the smokers up to the roof where the bees are. They won’t survive the stings, but smoking deaths will fall.
So if you want to appreciate everything at Park, be a chain-smoking Albanian British teetotaler with a penchant for good food. For myself, the food is the most important thing, and for that I will surely go back.
Ed. note: apologies to all of my Albanian friends.