Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tavern on the Green - New York

Here's yet another restaurant that we have been dying to try, so when Zelda asked where I would like to go for my birthday dinner, we decided to try Tavern on the Green in New York's Central Park. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating all that much this morning, so we didn't take the train up early to walk around and do some shopping. The weather did finally clear up around 4PM, and it turned out to be a gorgeous day. We hailed a cab at Penn Station, and off to Central Park we went. We had a little run in with Ray Kottner, the oldest and crabbiest cab driver in New York City (LINK), and then we arrived at 67th and Central Park. From the exterior, Tavern on the Green looks great. Upon arriving, you are greeted, if you want to call it that, by a grumpy old man wearing his Tavern on the Green tux and top hat. I suppose if I had to dress like that I would be a little grumpy too! We had about 45 minutes to kill, so we walked down to the corner to get a good look through Central Park. Tons of runners, bikers, and tourists were out in full force since the rain had subsided. We headed back to Tavern a few minutes early, checked in for our reservation, and went to enjoy the outdoor seating at the outdoor bar. What a great little area, with plenty of room for live entertainment, seating, etc. Gorgeous silk lanterns were strung from the trees in many colors, and it just made for some nice decor. Before we even received our glasses of wine, our buzzer was buzzing, and off to our table we went. The place is a bit of a maze, and you walk down a mirrored hallway, with stained glass lamps hanging from the ceiling. We were then greeted at another host stand, and brought to our table in the atrium. The first thing that we noticed in the atrium was the noise! Good lord, this was kid central, and very loud. It immediately screamed tourist trap. The place however is gorgeous minus the noise, although it could use a bit of updating. There were nice 180 degree views of the courtyard outside, and the colors inside are comprised of a lot of pastel, including the flowery, pastel carpet, and painted wood work on the ceiling. Gorgeous chandeliers are hung from the ceiling as well. At first it reminded me a bit of a hotel dining room in Florida, but that is not such a bad thing. Upon being seated we were greeted by our Captain, and our waiter brought over some rolls and butter. We already had our glasses of wine from outside that we never even got a chance to sip, so we didn't end up ordering any wine with dinner, although, the 1998 Marcassin pinot noir was very tempting. ;-) For an appetizer, Zelda opted for the BLUE CRAB BISQUE TARRAGON, TOMATO AND CREAM, and I opted for the CARAMELIZED ONION SOUP-EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, CHIVES, PARMESAN CROSTINI. As we waited for appetizers, we were amazed by how many kids were here, and how loud the place was. We were also shocked at some of the attire that people wore here, but God knows that the tourists just stumble in, and they have no problem going out in their sleeveless t-shirt and hole filled shorts or blue jeans. This is also the a venue that I would expect to see people playing the game where you flick a paper triangle football through field goals made of two fingers, but we did. We could also tell that this was a bit of a tourist trap with the photographers walking around, taking your picture for $25 and selling them to the various tables. I guess you have to do what you have to do to make a few dollars. Kind of sad though, and it takes a bit away from the experience...but after the behavior we had already seen, there is not a lot of ambiance left. Tourist trap or not, the soups came and they were both delicious. My french onion was not the best I have ever had, but it was good. Nice onion taste with a good beef stock, garnished with a Parmesan covered crouton. Zelda's soup had a nice creamy orange color and texture, and nice flavors as well, but we have both had better. For dinner, Zelda ordered the SHELLFISH CIOPPINO-LOBSTER, CLAMS, MUSSELS, PRAWNS, CRAB LEGS PEARL PASTA, SAFFRON AIOLI. This was served in a giant bowl with all kinds of fresh seafood. The seafood was cook absolutely beautifully, and the sauce had a nice flavor that did not mask the taste or over power the fresh seafood. This definitely was not mind blownig, but it was good. I opted for the HERB-CRUSTED FILET OF BEEF-POTATO GRATIN, ASPARAGUS, ROSEMARY, PINOT NOIR WINE SAUCE. I ordered it medium, and it came out closer to well done, but the meat was still moist, and not dried out. I probably should have sent it back,but with hundreds of people here, I didn't feel like waiting. The pinot noir sauce was a nice treat, and the asparagus was a great pairing and a good side. The potato gratin was almost cooked like a lasagna and sliced into squares, with flavors of parm, basil, and thyme. Very good! The herb crust on the filet definitely had some basil on it, as well as parm and bread crumbs, and was good, although it did take away from the flavor of the meat. If this were a Flannery cut, I might be disappointed that the crust took away from the flavors of the meat, but to me, this was a "wedding catered steak" at best. We opted to skip dessert as we really weren't all that impressed with dinner, and I don't think the desserts that we saw were knock your socks off looking either. All in all, the ambiance was ok, minus the noise and kids misbehaving at the tables. The food was a touch above a banquet facility, and pricing for Manhattan was not nearly as high as you would expect based on how much of a tourist trap this place is. Would I go back, not likely unless we had some friends from out of town that really wanted to go there. Long story short, for the money, there are definitely much better options, and I consider this one NYC's tourist traps. At these prices, I'd be surprised if they make it another 2 years with the turning economy without some serious menu revamping. Time will tell! Cheers! Central Park at West 67th Street New York City, NY 10023 Phone: 212.873.3200 Fax: 212.580.4265

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