On our first visit to The Park Steakhouse, the evening got off to a less-than-auspicious start. Our group of four was seated promptly in an attractive ? albeit somewhat chilly ? area near the greenhouse-style front window, where we noticed with satisfaction that the tables had not been crammed together to maximize seating capacity at the expense of comfort.
However, the spacing did not prevent us from also noticing that an adjacent table of six was treated with special care by no fewer than four waiters, while we were virtually ignored, despite the restaurant not being especially busy. We felt for a moment that we were in the scene from Woody Allen?s Stardust Memories where Allen?s character is sitting on a train filled with miserable people, while on the train next to them, a wild party is raging.
Any miserable feelings vanished when our meals finally arrived. Oysters were perfectly plump and briny on their icy tray, and dry-aged Angus steaks ? a 24-ounce porterhouse and 12-ounce filet mignon ? were cooked just as requested. The accompanying bevy of sauces ? house steak sauce, bearnaise, port wine bordelaise and creamy blue cheese ? added interest to the excellent meat. The sides we chose ? ?Mother Halligan?s famous lumpy? mashed potatoes, and grilled asparagus with lemon and parmesan ? also demonstrated the kitchen's attention to detail.
At our second visit, the menu had changed to reflect the spring season, and the service had improved considerably. Our wine-by-the-glass order was poured ? generously ? at the table, a nice touch that made us feel we were now the ones being doted on.
A delightful ?trio of tuna? appetizer offered an appealing presentation of tiny tastes, each nestled in its own hollow in a sea-green glass dish. Slices of smoked tuna were paired with pickled cucumber and shitake mushrooms ? the vinegary pickle an inspired companion to the smoky fish. Crispy tuna tempura rested on tangy seaweed salad, and a glimmering disc of tuna tartare included finely minced lemon.
Another first course, Maine lobster cannelloni flecked with tarragon, was light and luscious. However, the lobster's mild flavor was overpowered by the sherry-flavored sauce.
A carryover from the winter menu (a "keeper," the waiter said), is an entr饠of pan-seared sea scallops with a wild mushroom crust. The jumbo scallops were tender, enhanced by the taste ? if not the too-soft texture ? of the earthy, mushroom souffl魬ike mixture that was dolloped atop each one. A bed of braised leeks and vanilla-infused carrot coulis provided bright color contrast and a delicate flavor balance.
Fresh ricotta cavatelli with braised short ribs in a creamy mushroom and black truffle sauce packed a taste and texture wallop of over-the-top richness that seemed perhaps more appropriate for a cold winter?s night.
Desserts were all lovely, including a full-flavored Bailey's Irish Cr譥 Br? a richly caramelized banana upside-down cake and an ethereal steamed lemon pudding with fresh strawberries.
The Park also has a small bar with a good-natured buzz from a "mature singles" crowd on weekends. The two dining areas are decorated to reflect classic steakhouse style, with dark woodwork and walls painted the russet hue of old bricks and hung with sepia-toned photographs. When the service is up to snuff, it is a comfortable venue for a superb dining experience.