July 9, 2007 | Insatiable Critic

Just for Now: Park Avenue Summer Watermelon on a stick with savory topping amuses the summer bouche. Photo: Steven Richter

 Watermelon on a stick with savory topping amuses the summer bouche. Photo: Steven Richter

        No surprise at all that Park Avenue Summer feels so summery -- shiny white panels glowing, tall reeds and grasses dividing the room in a smart AvroKO design. Chef Craig Koketsu’s smartly tailored kitchen tunic is never-before-seen seersucker. The pleasant surprise is how good his food is: subtle peekytoe crab has found gregarious mates in silken avocado and a potent gazpacho julienne. Tired old caprese is born again inside ravioli with a scintillating yellow tomato coulis.  Soft shell crab couldn’t be crisper, with strawberry balanced against passion fruit, white soy and avocado, an unlikely gathering that works.

        Has the chef got an avocado fixation? Here it comes again, with fennel in a citrus vinaigrette shoring up exquisitely cooked lobster. Alas, John Dory is sadly over-cooked, though I’m wild for its brioche-crusted poached egg with summer truffles, and the excellent lamb chops. Adventurous cocktail fans will love the do-it-yourself bar, an inviting playground with fresh-squeezed juices and pile-ons stashed in drifts of ice.

Sweet peekytoe crab gets a kick from spicy gazpacho julienne.             Photo: Steven Richter

        Yes, it’s expensive, but I doubt upper east siders will be put off by high-priced starters and entrees up to $45 with food this delicious. Still, some training would help. Managers cringe as runners and bus boys run amok. I worry about a waiter who touches and the maitre d’ who urges us to “Enjoy. Okay?”

         Soon enough, walls, snap-on seat covers, flowers, the chef’s tunic no doubt, menus, of course, will morph into Park Avenue Autumn.

         “Do you think it will work?” Alan Stillman asks of his son Michael’s homage to Joe Baum’s Four Seasons.  Why not?  Especially if it lures critics and neophiliacs back when the leaves turn scarlet and gold to see and taste what’s new.

100 East 63rd St at Park Av. 212 644 1900


        To be frank, Joe Baum’s Four Seasons -- flauntng a no-expense-spared makeover every three months -- never made a profit, and Restaurant Associates rudely evicted him from its head office, as well as the Park Avenue pad that was a fine perk.  Baum’s fantasy was left to be orchestrated by a trio of clever and passionately theatrical Hungarians. First, George Lang, then Paul Kovi and Tom Margittai, who bought the place when RA fell into a swoon. So Joe Baum’s revolutionary concept made history and thrives today under its third regime  with its still handsome Philip Johnson designed interior and the endlessly fascinating power surges of its long-running Power Lunch. 

        Click here to read my feature, Can Spring Be Far Behind? from the January 12, 1970 issue of New York.