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The Early Word on Tom Colicchio's Riverpark

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Krieger, 9/28/10

Riverpark, Tom Colicchio's latest restaurant located, naturally, by a river - East, to be exact - opened last week and opens today for lunch. It features wonderful views of the river and the view inside isn't too shabby either. At the head is 'wichcraft exec chef/partner Sisha Ortuzar whose modern American offerings keep it clearly within the Colicchio niche. Are diners comforted by the classic Colicchio touch? Is it just more of the same? Is it worth the trek? To the early word:

The "Curious Seating" News: A tipster sends us their take on the odd decision to reward the bar area with a better view than the formal dining room. "One of the ill-conceived ideas at Riverpark is to seat the diners wanting the 'grown up' menu (instead of the bar menu) in the least desirable space -- i.e., not by the windows overlooking the East River (that view if for people who want the much less expensive bar menu). Very curious. It turns out you can get the 'grown up' menu in the bar, but why design a restaurant facing the water with the fancy part of the restaurant hidden from the view? The food was good, but the restaurant is a bit of a slog to get to. The jury is out on whether this one will succeed over time." [Eater Tipline]

The "Long Hike" News: Another one from the tipline. "The space is extremely pleasant and the food exceeded my expectations. It is a hike to get there, though, and I doubt that I will make the journey back any time soon." [Eater Tipline]

The "Simply Amazing" News: Yelper Keith G. visits on the restaurant's third night and sounds like a fan. "The decor is fantastic. its very modern but classy at the same time. The food was simply amazing." In particular, it sounds like the cavatelli with smoked lamb was the big winner. "but far and beyond the cavatelli was soooo good. it had such a fantastic smoky flavor to it too. we were all fighting over the last bites." The fries merit some praise too. "the fries were sooo good too. they came out with normal tomato ketchup and an aioli which was so tasty." He sounds like he'll be back for more so the hike can't be too big a deal for him. "anyway, such a fantastic meal. cant wait to try the bar menu." [Yelp]

The Terrible News: An anonymous poster on MenuPages takes a not so subtle dig at one of Colicchio's favorite critiques on Top Chef - the misuse of salt. "Food is terrible and over salted across the board. Would never make it past the judge's table. Tom should take some tips from Top Chef." [MenuPages]

The "Surprisingly Reasonably Priced" News: Blogger New York Journal makes the trek over and is pleased by the experience, especially considering that it's a Tom Colicchio joint. "Though Riverpark is billed as “A Tom Colicchio Restaurant,” it doesn’t charge Tom Colicchio prices. Except for a few entrées “for two,” all of the mains are $28 or less. There’s also a separate bar menu, with entrées all under $20. That $55 chicken is an anomaly; everything else is quite reasonable, especially given the tariff at Colicchio’s other places." The food gets some decent praise but the review ends on the obvious - the location. "Keeping it full will be a challenge, as there is no history of fine dining in this neighborhood, and as a destination Riverpark is a very long hike from just about anywhere. On a value basis, this is probably the best of Colicchio’s New York restaurants, but I don’t know how often he’ll lure diners this far east." [New York Journal]

The Good Food Bad Service News: A Tiger in the Kitchen reports that some kinks in the service need to be worked out: "Granted, this is the restaurant's first week of service but we have to wait an inexcusably long time before our cocktails arrive -- so long, in fact, that our waitress feels the need to apologize profusely. What we get is a mixed bag -- the Blackwell's Cove ($12; pictured below), a blend of rum, cointreau, pineapple, lime and house-made orgeat (a sweet syrup made flavored with almonds, sugar and orange-flower or rose water), which the waitress highly recommended, packed some punch and was a zingy, refreshing start to the meal. The Scarlet Rose ($11), combining prosecco with pomegranate and rose flower water, on the other hand, was disappointingly bland. To whet our appetites, we start by splitting the steak and sea urchin tartare ($14) from the raw bar. The dish is a knockout...Our appetizers were a little less impressive overall...We fared better on the entrees...For its first week, Riverpark was doing OK. Sure, there was some unevenness, which is to be expected. In food, it's forgivable -- the kitchen may still be working out its kinks, after all. But in service? Less so. The incredibly long wait for cocktails was OK but combined with other little details, it seemed indicative of a larger problem that needs to be fixed." [A Tiger in the Kitchen]

—Gary Wong


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