Park Avenue Winter is an explosion of the senses that is felt from the moment you step through its elegant doors. Located off Park at 63rd Street, the restaurant (formerly Park Avenue Café) has been transforming every three months for the past few years to dramatically evoke each season. If Santa started wearing a tux, he might outfit the North Pole with a dining room like the one created by the design firm AvroKO. The interestingly punctuated company also did Public and Stanton Social, but it looks like they really poured their heart out here. The fur-covered walls add warmth while muffling the sound, and the cozy benches invite lingering. It's remarkable how classy yet un-stuffy the place feels, and the waiters echo that vibe. They provide wine suggestions -- an excellent 2007 Etude Pinot Noir from Carneros, CA -- and know their menus inside out.
Chef Kevin Lasko's food is good, really good. We started out with the porcini ravioli coated lightly in a Gorgonzola cream. An appetizer contains only four, but they are hearty and topped with crunchy Swiss chard. We also couldn't resist the salmon tartare, served with toast but great alone, and the Park Avenue Winter, their signature open-faced sandwich that combines the buttery goodness of scallops with the richness of bacon crumbled on top. For entrees, we opted to create a surf-and-turf, splitting the filet mignon with braised short ribs and the miso-glazed lobster. Both were cooked perfectly and oozed flavor. The miso glaze was particularly refreshing, while the filet was done in a heavy, dark sauce that almost overwhelmed the tender beef but paired nicely with the small pieces of short rib. Sides of mini potato latkes and broccoli and cheetos were satisfying, with the latter being far better than expected. Dessert's a whole production unto itself, to which I devoted my Classical TV column this week. With the restaurant's rotating menu connected to each season, I can't wait for spring.
Some things are good regardless of the season. Sitting on my couch last week with a glass of bourbon, I rediscovered my love for Broadcast News. The recently released Criterion double DVD has a slew of special features and an interesting essay on that particular moment in time in the '80s when James L. Brooks made the film as hard news was slowly being softened, but the real star is still the film. Watching it, an instant rush of emotion came back to me as I embraced Albert Brooks (Aaron Altman) and Holly Hunter (Jane Craig) passionately discussing the tenets of journalism, and well, passion. Brooks has some of the best lines as the brilliant reporter who lacks the charisma to "sell" the news the way William Hurt's suave character (Tom Grunick) does so effortlessly. Tom doesn't know what he's saying half the time but has the charm to convince other people he does. This leads him to initially triumph over Aaron both professionally (he's groomed to be the next national anchor) and romantically (Jane falls for him while keeping Aaron in the friend zone) causing Aaron to lament, "Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive?"
The sentiment carries through the film but as more of a childlike fantasy than a serious approach to the world. As much as Tom is despised by Aaron, we find ourselves liking him at moments. Part of what makes the film great is the shades of gray we have to sort through to get to the truth, which, it turns out, is not absolute. At its heart, Broadcast News is a feel-good romantic comedy for highly articulate people whose ideas often complicate their amorous feelings -- and just in time for Valentine's Day.
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