Two weeks ago on a Friday night, I had dinner at Riverpark from the good things I’ve been hearing for the past few months in the food forums like Chowhound and Sam Sifton’s review at The NY Times. Curious about Executive Chef Sisha Ortúzar’s food, I thought it would be worthwhile to try it out with a friend for Restaurant Week. Granted, it may not be the best time to go but it’s my excuse to experiment something different and it’s one of the handful of good restaurants on the list of venues who are participating for this event. (Disclaimer: No, I do not watch Top Chef but am aware of Chef Colicchio’s ownership of Riverpark and my past experiences with his other restaurants such as Craft.)
Coming over to Riverpark is a bit of a stretch in itself to travel this far for food. It’s all the way out east in between First Avenue and the FDR Drive. Walking into this sleek office building, the Alexandria Center, I was greeted by a security officer and I inquired where is the restaurant? The gentleman pointed out it’s toward the back and on the right when I reach to the curved stairs. Lo and behold, there was a doorway leading me to a convivially loud restaurant with the hostess stand. The dining room is set on an elevated platform, so to speak, and it looked dazzling with the streams of lights along the walls and ceiling.
Setting down and made our food selections of the night, my friend ordered the Founders Centennial IPA Beer (supplement $5). It was a very good pale ale that had a pleasant floral scent with toasty, slightly hoppy flavors. We noshed on their warm, miniature baguettes flecked with coarse sea salt and spreadable butter, while waiting for our first course.
My friend’s first course was Spaghetti with lobster, golden raisins, capers, pignoli. Super fine strands of fresh pasta that’s in between al dente and soft, mingled with rehydrated sweet, golden raisins, and small chunks of lobster. What surprised me, when I tried a bite, was the zesty, refreshing flavors from the lemon zest. It didn’t overwhelm the dish but it was the prevalent, persistent flavor of the dish. The capers added the salty bite but it’s not an issue.
My Mackerel escabeche with crispy paella, Ibérico “pata negra”, aioli was a Spanish influenced dish, which reflects on Chef Ortúzar’s upbringing from Chile. It was light-handed, fun dish to eat. The fish was lightly fried, tender and perfectly seasoned with a touch of acid. The aioli gave it a nice garlic-y hit with the salty Ibérico ham. The crispy paella reminds me vaguely of pan fried, flattened version of arancina except it’s more paprika flavored than cheese.
Moving on to our second courses, my friend had the Short rib ravioli with mushrooms, raddichio, salsify, and red wine. This version of short rib ravioli was unexpectedly light. Usually when I try any short rib dish most of the time they tend to be very hearty. The short rib filling was tender, almost melt in your mouth while the pasta was a touch past al dente but had a good chew.The red wine sauce more like a thin soup (not necessarily a bad thing) but it brings the flavors together of rosemary, mushrooms, and bitter raddichio.
My duck breast with celery, trumpet mushrooms, and pomegranate was on the lighter side like my friend’s dish. The duck was cooked perfectly at a medium-rare that it’s juicy and tender. The pomegranate seeds added an almost crunchy texture along with the celery. The mushrooms played around the hearty, earthy flavor of the duck. It was very good, to say the least.
My friend wanted something fried for dessert, so he picked beignets. It was served hot and along with two dipping sauces: vanilla custard and kumquat marmalade. When I ate a beignet, I was enamored as to how light, fluffy with a touch of crispiness on the edges. My favorite of the two sauces was the kumquat marmalade just because I love the bright, citrus flavor of that fruit and the acid was a good accompaniment to this fried dessert.
I ordered the hazelnut financier with vanilla semifreddo, pomegranate consommé. Isn’t it pretty? Beyond it’s aesthetic beauty, it does taste delicious. I liked how light the financier was but still had hazelnut flavor. The vanilla semifreddo was sandwiched in between the financier added a dense, creamy texture and a faint vanilla flavor. The pomegranate consommé was barely tart so it would not overshadow the cake. This was a very good dessert but just be warned that one shouldn’t let it sit in the consommé so long before the cake gets soggy.
Overall, my Restaurant Week experience here was very good. In the beginning, the timing was a bit slow for the first course. Possibly due to the kitchen being overwhelmed with orders(?) but our waitress followed up without us saying anything and they found its bearings after first course. Service was friendly and professional. The food was great; flavorful and filling without being too heavy. I would consider coming back here again on a non-Restaurant Week day and bring my parents as well, as I can see them being comfortable here.
For more photos of my meal here, please see the slideshow below: