June 19, 2006 | Insatiable Critic

Central Park Boathouse Restaurant

It was only this spring that I belatedly discovered the dramatic makeover financed by its newest owner, Dean Poll, an ambitious restaurateur from Long Island. In the past, a Boathouse table was basically about inhaling nature—never mind the food. Today the kitchen sends out thrillingly pure crab cakes, and a lush salmon-and-oyster tartare with a dribble of caviar. What was once tented dock is now a solid structure—winterized for special events and out-of-season rendezvous at the tall windows overlooking the lake. Even though the swans are gone, there are still ducks and turtles, an occasional egret or vagrant raccoon, and the same dude, Andrea Garcia, poling a restored gondola. Though it feels like no one is in charge as we come in, we spy the maître d’ in the distance and score a lakeside table to watch darkness creeping in as we share a citrusy fresh hearts-of-palm salad with an impressive cargo of lobster on top. Properly grilled filet pleases our meat-and-potatoes guest. And my roasted salmon with porcini-asparagus risotto is cooked minimally, as I like it. After dividing a well-made rhubarb crisp and suitably decadent chocolate tart, we wander outside to find the house trolley waiting to drop us at Fifth Avenue.

E. 72nd St. and Park Dr. N 212 517 2233

Patina Restaurant Group