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Riverpark (Tom Colicchio's new restaurant)--Any reviews?


ellenost
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Riverpark is the new gem in the Tom Colicchio empire! It is definitely out of the way in a Life Science building on E. 29 St. between First Ave. and the FDR (with a very small sign on First Ave--need bigger sign). Definitely worth the visit. Food is excellent--I ate half of the menu, and everything was wonderful: cavatelli with lamb and mint--yummy; hamachi crudo and tartare; beet flavored deviled eggs with smoked fish; pork belly with pickled vegetables; potato chips with blue cheese dressing (okay, the dressing needs to be thicker--it drips on everything). Main dishes were the duck breast and the rack of lamb; the duck breast was sensational! You must order the french fries; ask for an extra portion of the delicious garlic aloli. Desserts were great too!--malt ice cream; beignets with two sauces--chocolate and cream; and lemon meringue with a lemon/mustard ice cream--okay, that was a weird combo that needs to be rethought. Service was very friendly and accommodating. Lovely view. In the warm weather, the outdoor tables will be the most sought after tables in all of NYC--gorgeous view! Kind of strange that the restrooms are outside of the restaurant in the lobby of the office building though. Definitely plan to return many times. Thank you Tom for opening a great restaurant in this part of town!

Edited by ellenost (log)
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I can't claim to have eaten "half of the menu" (not sure how you managed that in one visit), but I agree that Riverpark just might be Colicchio's best NYC restaurant, on a value basis (my blog post is here). Craft might be better in the absolute sense, but you pay a lot more for it. Our meal at Colicchio & Sons was extremely disappointing; he may well have improved the place since then, but at those prices we aren't inclined to try again any time soon. Riverpark is Colicchio-style food, without the price premium that his name usually attracts.

It's not that Colicchio has suddenly become generous. He must know that attracting diners to this remote location will be difficult. The nearest subway station is half-a-mile away, and the neighborhood has no history of supporting fine dining. The Alexandria Center isn't going to fill the place all by itself, and the two other new buildings planned for that area are still a long way off.

The riskiest restaurants are those that buck the prevailing ambiance of the neighborhood. When there are no notable destination restaurants in a 5-10 block radius, there is usually a reason for it. I do agree that the view from the outdoor terrace is the one "it" factor that distinguishes Riverpark, beyond its very good food. But the outdoor dining season is now over, and it will be a long winter before the terrace can be used again.

In one of the more peculiar design decisions I've seen, the indoor area the staff consider to be the "main dining room" has its view blocked by a bar. Even in winter, the view would be spectacular, but many tables cannot see it due to this very odd layout.

Kind of strange that the restrooms are outside of the restaurant in the lobby of the office building though.

It's very much like a hotel restaurant in that regard.

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I decided to try out River Park last night for dinner, and I agree that it is one of Tom Colicchio's better endeavors. He has always been known for clean flavors and uncomplicated dishes, but the food at River Park has zest and complexity not seen at his other restaurants. Beautiful view of the East River, too. My absolute favorite dish was the sardine escabeche served with crispy paella cake and jamon Iberico: a wonderful symphony of nutty and savory flavors. The rack of lamb was also delicious and perfectly cooked. Wine list also not expensive, compared to Colicchio and Sons and Craft.

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We visited Riverpark a week ago. Talk about a remote location! The cab driver had to go around several blocks before finding the correct street and we walked the block east to the building. However, very worthwhile. Without reservations, we were seated at a twotop at the window in the bar. All in all an exceptional evening. Good drinks, good food and a very pleasant room.

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Riverpark is Colicchio-style food, without the price premium that his name usually attracts.

That sounds like exactly the proffer at Craftbar. How do you think they compare in terms of value proposition?

In one of the more peculiar design decisions I've seen, the indoor area the staff consider to be the "main dining room" has its view blocked by a bar. Even in winter, the view would be spectacular, but many tables cannot see it due to this very odd layout.

That reminds me of the decision to put the Cafe Gray kitchen between the dining room and the windows overlooking Columbus Circle.

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Riverpark is Colicchio-style food, without the price premium that his name usually attracts.

That sounds like exactly the proffer at Craftbar. How do you think they compare in terms of value proposition?

I haven't eaten at Craftbar in quite a while, so I can only compare menus. The price points are similar. Unlike Riverpark, the Craftbar menu clearly has the Craft DNA, with its in-your-face emphasis on local farms. Riverpark has: the view.

Therein lies my skepticism. It's tough to support a place like that with a neighborhood crowd. And I am not sure whether they can attract destination diners for the view alone, when there are other ways to get the Colicchio experience (assuming you want that) without traveling across town.

In one of the more peculiar design decisions I've seen, the indoor area the staff consider to be the "main dining room" has its view blocked by a bar. Even in winter, the view would be spectacular, but many tables cannot see it due to this very odd layout.

That reminds me of the decision to put the Cafe Gray kitchen between the dining room and the windows overlooking Columbus Circle.

It is a very similar error. The only difference is that, at Café Gray, it was literally impossible to sit next to the window, whereas at Riverpark you can.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I returned to Riverpark last night for a birthday celebration for my aunt, and it was another great dinner. We had a great table by the window. Service was very attentive and friendly (as well as very professional). Appetizers included the cavatelli with lamb that remains outstanding. My sister had the swiss chard ravioli with chanterelles and lemon, and she loved it. Our aunt started with the lobster and artichoke salad that had a gigantic piece of lobster that was tender. Entrees included the wonderful duck that I had previously loved that remains delicious. Our aunt had the rack of lamb that now has three generous chops. I had the scallops that were lovely. Desserts included a trio of ice creams sorbets (wonderful malt ice cream and concord grape sorbet), the delicious beignets with two sauces, the molasses pound cake, and a complimentary lemon meringue with the lemon/mustard ice cream that now tastes much better.

Riverpark is quickly becoming a new favorite restaurant of mine. The restaurant was almost full by 8:30 when we left. I look forward to many more visits.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Went to Riverpark with a few family members tonight and totally concur with the above reviews. Everything we ate was good, some of it REALLY good, and the prices are very reasonable for the level of refinement in the cuisine. As also stated by others, the location is bizarre, and eating there feels like you're not in Manhattan at all, but some random (yet modern) other city somewhere. It had shades of Canoe in Toronto, and many other places.

To start, we tried the steak and sea urchin tartare, which was mostly like a steak tartare, with the sea urchin playing a supporting role to add richness and unctuousness. It succeeded. We also tried the squab mole (spicy, interesting and very good), the lobster and artichoke salad (subtle, tender, very nice), the braised octopus (very tender and delicious, with a special broth worth sopping with bread), and a pork tortelloni (which was spectacularly good...maybe the best dish of the night). Our mains included the smoked sturgeon (surprisingly rich and quite nice), and the scallops with hen of the woods mushrooms, kale-pear chutney and squash purée (very nice and competent, but not unique or transcendent).

I think oakapple was dead right that this may be the strongest restaurant in the Colicchio empire right now, in terms of value for dollar. The food is sophisticated and very well prepared. The room is elegant and interesting, with nice views in spots, if a bit strangely conceived.

However, I can't figure out for the life of me what TC had in mind when he created the place. Certainly, as a New Yorker, he knew that the location was a potential non-starter. And with the amount of space they have and the money obviously put into creating the room, I just don't see how they can make any profit. Tonight was a Sunday, and the room was barely a third full. And there will be essentially no foot traffic ever. Even with a full room (which holds 100+ diners) and two turns, it would seem that they'd have to be packed all the time to break even. So in addition to packing them in on Thursday through Saturday, I'd think they'd need to get a lot of business on other nights, too. And it's not the kind of neighborhood that's rife with diners who consume high-ish end food every night. Is there something I'm missing here? A mysterious benefactor or subsidy? Either way, I hope they make it, as it's a really fine restaurant.

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Riverpark is Colicchio-style food, without the price premium that his name usually attracts.

That sounds like exactly the proffer at Craftbar. How do you think they compare in terms of value proposition?

In one of the more peculiar design decisions I've seen, the indoor area the staff consider to be the "main dining room" has its view blocked by a bar. Even in winter, the view would be spectacular, but many tables cannot see it due to this very odd layout.

That reminds me of the decision to put the Cafe Gray kitchen between the dining room and the windows overlooking Columbus Circle.

I felt that the main differences between Crafbar and Riverpark were in the "tone" of the place and menus. Craftbar is more rustic and market-driven in theme and in cuisine, with bolder flavors, whereas Riverpark is a little more elegant and subtle/sophisticated, both in terms of food and decor. It's just a different style. And Riverpark feels a bit "fancier" and more urbane for lack of better terms. I think the value of Riverpark is greater for that reason.

With the dining room half-empty tonight, I didn't even realize one part was meant to be the "main room" and the other "the pub". I think they may not be making that distinction specifically any more, at least in the cold months. All of the diners were seated on the window side, and the other side was actually completely devoid of customers. Things aren't as bad/wasteful as the Cafe Gray debacle, but it certainly is odd (and not advantageous, that the bar interrupts the (otherwise quite handsome) room as it does.

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However, I can't figure out for the life of me what TC had in mind when he created the place. Certainly, as a New Yorker, he knew that the location was a potential non-starter. And with the amount of space they have and the money obviously put into creating the room, I just don't see how they can make any profit. Tonight was a Sunday, and the room was barely a third full. And there will be essentially no foot traffic ever. Even with a full room (which holds 100+ diners) and two turns, it would seem that they'd have to be packed all the time to break even. So in addition to packing them in on Thursday through Saturday, I'd think they'd need to get a lot of business on other nights, too. And it's not the kind of neighborhood that's rife with diners who consume high-ish end food every night. Is there something I'm missing here? A mysterious benefactor or subsidy? Either way, I hope they make it, as it's a really fine restaurant.

I think TC is there as an _operator_, and is not assuming the full (or perhaps, not any) financial risk. I also guessing that the landlord subsidized the build-out or funded it outright; and that the restaurant is charged below-market rent.

What probably happened, is that the landlord wanted to use the restaurant as a magnet to attract tenants. Besides this building, which is probably not yet fully occupied, they are supposed to be constructing two or three more, all of which would feed business into the restaurant.

Still, it could be a long time before this hypothesis can be fully tested. How long are they willing to absorb losses? I think there are reasons why notable restaurants do not exist in this neighborhood. To attract diners who wouldn’t otherwise have reasons to be here, they’ll need an extremely strong tailwind from positive reviews, and customers willing to go out of their way for repeat business.

With the dining room half-empty tonight, I didn't even realize one part was meant to be the "main room" and the other "the pub". I think they may not be making that distinction specifically any more, at least in the cold months. All of the diners were seated on the window side, and the other side was actually completely devoid of customers. Things aren't as bad/wasteful as the Cafe Gray debacle, but it certainly is odd (and not advantageous, that the bar interrupts the (otherwise quite handsome) room as it does.

Perhaps they are realizing that the distinction was a blunder. The seats closer to the window seem to me the more desirable ones. And yes, it is not as bad as the Café Gray debacle, because here you can at least GET a window seat.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Very nice review in today's Dining Section by Sam Sifton (two stars).

It was nice, but I feel he could have really spent less time talking about how difficult the place was to get to and spent more time talking about the food. Almost the full first page of the internet version of the review was spent on coming up with witty ways to describe how difficult it was to get there (eg. "If you haven’t been in the area since your child had ear surgery or after your aunt had that episode on the bus, Riverpark is a fine adventure to take."). It just seems like he's trying too hard.

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Very nice review in today's Dining Section by Sam Sifton (two stars).

It was nice, but I feel he could have really spent less time talking about how difficult the place was to get to and spent more time talking about the food. Almost the full first page of the internet version of the review was spent on coming up with witty ways to describe how difficult it was to get there (eg. "If you haven’t been in the area since your child had ear surgery or after your aunt had that episode on the bus, Riverpark is a fine adventure to take."). It just seems like he's trying too hard.

I skipped over Sifton's complaint about the difficulty of finding the restaurant. I used to live in the neighborhood, and my sister still does, so I'm thrilled that Kips Bay has a great new restaurant. I was pleased to read that some of my favorite dishes received praise (cavatelli with lamb, scallops). I'm heading back for another dinner in a few weeks so I'm looking forward to trying some new dishes.

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Very nice review in today's Dining Section by Sam Sifton (two stars).

It was nice, but I feel he could have really spent less time talking about how difficult the place was to get to and spent more time talking about the food. Almost the full first page of the internet version of the review was spent on coming up with witty ways to describe how difficult it was to get there (eg. "If you haven’t been in the area since your child had ear surgery or after your aunt had that episode on the bus, Riverpark is a fine adventure to take."). It just seems like he's trying too hard.

I had the same reaction. It is a legitimate point, but he hit it over the head with a sledgehammer, then hit it again and again for good measure. I think restaurants bore Sifton, and when he can waste space talking about something else...he does.

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