Saturday, June 27, 2009

ParkAve (Stanton, CA)

11200 Beach Blvd, Stanton, CA 90680
Sat 06/27/2009, 07:35p-10:00p

In terms of gastronomy, Stanton, CA is somewhat of a culinary wasteland, home to notable Thai eatery Thai Nakorn, but not much else. According to Yelp, the City's best restaurant is Yuki Sushi, one of those notorious Korean-owned sushi joints that serves up treats such as the "Spicy Lover's Roll," "Hot Night Roll," and the creatively-named "Stanton Roll." Yeah.

As such, you can imagine my surprise when I heard people raving about ParkAve, a relatively new eatery that claims to serve up first-rate New American fare. ParkAve's chef/owner is St. Louis native David Slay, a veteran restaurateur who toque'd with Gerard Vié at the Michelin two-star Les Trois Marches in Versailles and Marc Angel at A. Beauvilliers in Paris, afterwards opening up the lauded La Veranda in Beverly Hills. Thus, I was curious to give ParkAve a try. Is it actually a top-notch restaurant, or have Stantonians (Stantonites? Stantonese?) had their palates dulled to the point that they simply don't know any better?

ParkAve Sign ParkAve Exterior
The exterior screams mid-century modern, with a twist of Googie thrown in for good measure. Parking in the attached lot is free and plentiful (ah, the beauty of OC).

ParkAve Dining Room ParkAve Dining Room
The inside is a bit more staid, and I could've mistaken the dining room for that of a Coco's.

ParkAve Menu ParkAve Menu
The menu is a straightforward spread of apps, soups, salads, and mains, mostly consisting of creative interpretations of traditional American fare. Click for larger versions.

Bread & Butter
Two types of bread were offered: a soft walnut bread, and a crunchy sesame bread. Pesto butter was addicting.

Tommy Bahama Mojito Ginger Grant
I hadn't had a mojito in a while, so I went with ParkAve's Tommy Bahama Mojito [$8], a decent, but blunt rendition. My dining companion had a Ginger Grant [$9], made with Gin, Fresh Ginger Syrup, Lime and Dash of Bitters; this was a stiff one, and the ginger could've been more apparent.

Lobster Mac N Cheese with a Spicy Cheese Sauce
Lobster Mac N Cheese with a Spicy Cheese Sauce [$12.00]
We started with this, a combination of two of my favorite foodstuffs--there was almost no way that this could turn out bad. And it didn't. Initially, all I got was a spicy cheesiness, but the natural sweetness of lobster came in through the finish, while the greens provided a subtle vegetal tang to balance things out. Meanwhile, the breadcrumb topping gave the dish a pleasing crunch that set off the creamy texture of the rest of the course. The best item of the night, one I could eat all day, and an excellent start to the meal.

Lobster and Roasted Corn Fritters, Red Pepper Mayonnaise
Lobster and Roasted Corn Fritters, Red Pepper Mayonnaise [$8.00]
Next was another lobster course. Here, the sweetness of the corn actually went well with the crustacean's natural sapor, and the Sriracha added a nice spiciness that lightened the dish. Tasty, but the fritters were a bit stingy on the lobster!

Heidsieck Monopole Champagne Blue Top Brut
With our cocktails downed, it was time for a sparkler. We ended up with a half-bottle of the Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut [$27], which turned out better than I expected, showing typical Champagne notes, but in a soft, round body with fun bubbles.

Marinated Tenderloin Bites with Soy, Lime and Garlic
Marinated Tenderloin Bites with Soy, Lime and Garlic [$7.00]
When these arrived on the table, both my dining companion and I thought that they'd be tough, chewy morsels. We were pleasantly surprised, thus, when the beef turned out to be rather tender. Flavor-wise, they were reminiscent of the Korean grilled meat galbi, rich with a bit of sweetness countered by the tangy, crisp slaw. Quite nice.

Seafood Risotto, Peas, Pesto
Seafood Risotto, Peas, Pesto [$20.00]
If risotto's on offer, then I pretty much have to order it, hence this course, a special of the night. I'm uncertain as to what type of fish was used here, but I can say that it was quite heavy, oily, and strong-tasting. The use of peas was much appreciated, and along with the pesto, it did do an admirable job in mitigating the gravitas of the fish. Perhaps some citrus or mushroom would've help in balancing things out? All in all, a tasty dish, but one lacking in finesse.

2006 Bibich Riserva
For the meat entrées, a strong red wine was in order. Perusing the wine list, the 2006 Bibich Riserva, Skradin [$40] stood out to me--it was a Croatian wine, and I'd never had Croatian wine before, thus I had to have it. Initially, it was almost Pinot Noir-esque, with a lightness, softness, and peppery attack reminiscent of the varietal. However, as time passed, the wine turned into a more Cabernet-type animal, with strong meaty and smoky flavors coming to the fore. Not bad.

Grilled Skirt Steak, Molasses, Soy and Ginger Marinade
Grilled Skirt Steak, Molasses, Soy and Ginger Marinade, Cauliflower and Pesto Risotto [$18.00]
Unfortunately, the best part of this course was the risotto, which was imbued with a hearty meatiness, and which, according to my dining companion, was almost stew-like. The steak itself was unimpressive, with an almost fishy taste to it that was rather disconcerting. The mushrooms, with their earthiness, were instrumental in balancing things out, but couldn't prevent the beef from tasting a bit institutional.

Texas Antelope Medallions, Pear Risotto, Red Wine Demi
Texas Antelope Medallions, Pear Risotto, Red Wine Demi [$22.00]
The antelope was better thankfully. I believe this was my first time having it, and though the flesh was a bit chewy, it did have a pleasing sweetness on the attack, leading to a slight gamy, smoky flavor.

ParkAve Dessert Menu ParkAve Dessert Menu
Desserts, made on premise, are an uncomplicated affair. Click for larger versions.

Strawberry and Blueberry Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream
Strawberry and Blueberry Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream [$7.00]
The cake was light and airy as expected, with a delicate sweetness nicely countered by the tanginess of its berry filling.

Cream Cheese Ice Cream Sage Ranch Honey Ice Cream
Cream Cheese Ice Cream & Sage Ranch Honey Ice Cream [$6.00]
For what I believe was the first time ever, I actually ordered ice cream for dessert, mostly because the other desserts didn't looking particularly interesting. It turned out to be a great decision. I first sampled the cream cheese ice cream, which I liken to a hybrid between cheesecake and a Danish butter cookie--very good. The honey ice cream was even better; it had a very conventional, almost vanilla taste at first, but the finish was pure, decadent honey. Take a pint to go.

My experience here left me a bit puzzled as to what I'd just gone through. The service at ParkAve left me wanting: plates were taken away before our mains, courses were served unannounced, and the screaming kids were far worse than anything I'd encountered previously (even at Napa Rose). It was like eating at Marie Callender's, but with the kitchen actually giving a damn. As for the food, it's mostly competent, with some of it actually quite tasty. But this begs the question: if ParkAve were located on Melrose Ave, would anyone care?


Blogger weezermonkey said...

A fancy Coco's wouldn't survive on Melrose.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 8:22:00 AM  
Blogger citynitz said...

Hmmm....your dishes look much more appetizing than the last time I visited this spot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 8:27:00 AM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

Love the sign! And the Lobster and Roasted Corn Fritters look tasty too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 9:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Gastronomer said...

The discrepancy between the atmosphere and the food is jarring! The resto is screaming for a makeover. I'm glad to read that most of the food was good to great though. Very promising.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

was there a stuffed animal vending game by the front door?


Tuesday, July 14, 2009 3:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got the Filet Mignon there and it was perfect done, medium rare. The atmosphere is horrible but after a long day at the firm, a nice steak always cheers me up. Keep up the awesome posts!

Michael Kim

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 6:21:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Sharon: What about Marie Callender's? ;)

Jackie: Uhh, should I be scared as to what your food looked like then?

Jo: Googie is fun. Fritters were good but needed more lobster!

Cathy: Though the decor is somewhat of an eyesore, I'd rather they put their energy into revamping some of the menu.

Paul: Thankfully no. Had there been, I may have been scared off right then and there.

Michael: Thanks! The filet (not the medallions I assume) seems like a good choice. Do you work nearby?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 1:31:00 AM  
Blogger digkv said...

Great post Kevin. I remember eating here a couple years ago expecting something great from all the raves I was hearing. I was extremely disappointed though. There were a few good things but it was really a major miss, kind of like my meal at Stonehill Tavern. I really agree that it probably wouldn't survive if it was in a real trendy area. The dining area is even worst at dinner time: very, very dim lights + more screaming kids= horrible

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 2:46:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Kevin, it was very dim indeed (my dining companion had problems taking photos), and the screaming kids were grating to say the least. I do think Stonehill Tavern is a cut above this place, though.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 2:33:00 PM  
Blogger digkv said...

Oh stonehill is for sure much better than this unremarkable place that really should not have lasted this long but I'm just really expressing my discontent with my meal at stonehill, i wish that some restaurant's would be able to maintain consistency, especially a place that charges $40+ a plate but such is not true in the restaurant world.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger citynitz said...

Kevin, let's just say it was probably a good thing that it was so dim in there....

Thursday, July 16, 2009 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Kevin: I remember being fairly satisfied with my meal at Stonehill, though admittedly, it's been nearly three years since then. I definitely agree that consistency sometimes leaves much to be desired though.

Jackie: Ouch. So why did you decide to come here?

Thursday, July 16, 2009 4:01:00 PM  
Blogger Right Way to Eat said...

Considering this place is next door to a trailer park and a few streets down from several XXX book stores. You can sort of guess what type of clientele they attract.

When I was there a few times, they were probably one of the top place to go in Northern OC (which is not saying very much). With the times, they would have to "settle".

As in for being in Melrose, I think the fair comparison would be to Taste.

Let's just say if Taste switch places with Park Ave, can Park Ave live up to hipster's taste and can Taste handle the kids and the poor atmosphere? Interesting...but we'll never know if a fair switch is possible.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

But most of Stanton seems to be in the vicinity of trailer parks and sex shops. ;)

I reread your post on ParkAve, and it sounds like you had a pretty positive impression of the place though.

I just looked up Taste's menu, and it's actually a very apt analogue. Maybe you should go there sometime and do a comparison!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 4:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too noisy for conversation. Three people ordered ribeye , all were gritty.

Saturday, September 12, 2009 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Sounds about par for the course, unfortunately.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 1:04:00 AM  

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