Would I normally pay $15 for a butternut squash soup appetizer on any other weeknight? Probably not. But outside of Restaurant Week, I'd certainly visit Park Avenue Winter again for the outstanding service I received during dinner last night.
When making reservations via OpenTable.com, I always indicate that I'm a vegetarian. Some restaurants pay no mind to it, others usually have at least one entree that is vegetarian-friendly, so it's a non-issue. But soon after checking in with the maitre d` at Park Avenue Winter, an upscale, modern looking resto on the corner of Park Avenue and 63rd Street with no veg-friendly main menu items, she immediately called someone from the kitchen to talk with me about how they could best accommodate me. I was asked if I ate cheese or eggs, if I would like the chef to see what was fresh and what they could create, if I would rather upgrade an appetizer to an entree portion. Wow! It's VERY rare that I receive such personal attention from the kitchen... and honestly, why not? If you're a fine restaurant that prides yourself on service, it's really your job to see what you can do to accommodate me, sans attitude. Park Avenue Winter, you automatically get five stars in my book for your flexibility and for making a great first impression!
And luckily, we were not disappointed by the food either. Our server, who was also a vegetarian, recommended the Cured Lemon Caesar Salad (a cured lemon dressing instead of an anchovy spiked dressing) and the Porcini Ravioli on the Restaurant Week Menu, and said that the ravioli, an appetizer, could easily be upgraded to an entree if I liked. Yes, I like!
The Caesar salad was served Napolean-style- layers of romaine hearts, thin crouton crackers, a generous layer (perhaps too much so) of shredded parmesan, and drizzles of cured lemon. Though a sweet lemon dressing is nothing new, I definitely enjoyed the pairing with a caesar salad. Cutting through the layers of salad actually made for a more satisfying salad-eating experience! My overstuffed porcini ravioli, (which, happily, were overstuffed with plenty of mushroom rather than ricotta filling) were drenched in a mild gorgonzola cream sauce that only had a very slight tang indicative of gorgonzola- a relief for me personally, as I'm not a fan of really strong gorgonzola. Served atop a bed of wilted, creamy Swiss chard, I struggled to finish my very generous entree. For dessert, I chose a winter spice cake, served as three finger-sized cake logs, with apple puree and a wonderfully sweetened, whipped goat cheese. The hearty, spiced cake was a perfect end to my meal and the sweetened goat cheese really rounded out the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors in the cake.
Maybe it was Restaurant Week, but I saw more of the Gossip Girl-esque Park Avenue youth as well as an after-work crowd dining in the resto than I did ladies with fur coats; with the crisp, minimalist environment, it's hard to believe that you're still dining in the heart of the Upper East Side. A quick glance at the regular priced menu will tell you otherwise. Vegetarian options are limited, and except for a salad and sides, vegan dishes are nonexistent. But considering how wonderfully accommodating the staff was and how satisfied I felt, I'd certainly visit Park Avenue Winter again for a special occasion. First impressions truly are everything.
Park Avenue Winter, 100 E. 63rd Street at Park Avenue, 212-644-1900