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Washington Park

This choice threw me for a loop. James called me up Thursday night to
announce he'd made reservations at "Jonathan Waxman's new restaurant." Er,
okay. He's not retarded, but he's not really up on chefs, recent openings,
what's hot and all that crap. (He'd also made reservations for Les Halles
the following night, but that choice wasn't surprising considering Mr.
Bourdain's recent successes as author and television show commentator.) It
weirded me out a bit, but who am I to look an expensive gift horse in the

The vibe is sort of an anachronistically yuppie, business casual affair.
James claimed a table of men behind me were very "Bonfire of the Vanities."
And without ever having seen that movie, I'm pretty sure what he meant. But
the '80s are big at the moment, right?

The menu is all about the market (not the stock market), what's fresh,
what's in season, all that Chez Panisse philosophy. I had to question James,
"You know this is California cuisine, right?" knowing his fear and
disdain for all things West Coast. But if a menu is going to be seasonal,
for my taste, autumn is the time to go. I had red pepper pancakes with
salmon, caviar and creme fraiche for a starter (James the lobster taco),
then the duck breast with roasted acorn squash and chestnut puree (James
couldn't resist the name-dropping Niman Ranch pork). The dessert was
something pecany, possibly gingery, artfully arranged with a crispy
caramelized sugar decoration and a small scoop of pumpkin ice cream.

The waitstaff was all tricked out in Thomas Pink, the linens were Frette, and the silverware was all
silver, duh. Come to think of it, I doubt I've ever actually eaten
with real silverware. The meal was fun, if not a tad decadent for an
unemployed sap like me.

*Hmm, Washington Park's sudden demise baffles me. (6/11/04)

WashingtonPark * Fifth Ave., New York, NY

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