Friday, April 02, 2010

Bryant Park Grill: A Midtown Disappointment

With This Location and These Prices... What The Hell?

It’s a sad day when I have to blog that one of New York’s most picturesque restaurants serves what may possibly be the worst food in the city.

One thing I am not, is a negative food blogger. I spend my time hunting down terrific places to eat… and then spread the news. I live to gush over restaurants. I love them. But when I encounter such a disaster as the Bryant Park Grill, I just can’t keep it to myself.

I’ve visited this restaurant several times over the past year, being under whelmed each visit. But at lunch this week, the low quality of their food fell below the bar, into the inedible category.

Lunch started with a salad for myself and lunch guest. My salad, an artichoke heart with tender greens salad, was a disappointment. Why? Mainly because the artichoke mixture had been mixed well before hand, and it tasted so. This wasn’t a “fresh” dish, but something thrown together out of a few refrigerated containers in the cooler, topped off with a few over ripe cherry tomatoes.

Then came the entrees.

I need to tell you now… avoid pasta dishes at Bryant Park Grill. My dish, the Strozzapreti Pasta (jumbo shrimp, broccoli florets, pomodoro sauce) was an overcooked bowl of mush. Again, the dish was thrown together – and when you uncovered the mushy pasta, fishy tasting shrimp, overcooked broccoli and jar-like tomato sauce… well I’d been much happier with a frozen Stouffer’s entrée popped in the microwave. Honest.

My friend also ordered pasta… the Wild Mushroom and Fontina Ravioli.. a dish with spinach, peas, blistered tomatoes (?) in a parmesan broth. What arrived were ravioli in a bowl of yellow soup… possibly the most unappetizing dish I have ever seen. To make matters worse, the waiter (who spoke such poor english he couldn’t really explain the menu what so ever) had told us the “blistered” tomatoes were cherry-like tomatoes… when in fact they were not. They were stewed… specifically what my colleague had asked to avoid.

What all of this screams is a kitchen and/or chef that doesn’t care. There is no respectable chef in this city (I would hope) that would ever send one of these dishes out of the kitchen… no matter how bad a day they were having. In this setting, for these prices… I expect much much more…. and so should you.

Thinking a good dessert would help ease the disaster of our main course, I ordered the “Bananas For Bananas”… a banana brioche pudding, salty peanut ice cream, peanut butter caramel bananas, fudge sauce with a dab of whip cream. The brioche was cold and was fresh from the cooler, the ice cream has a piece of peanut brittle that was nearly frozen and the rest was grocery store quality. This was a dish thrown together by a line cook or waiter. $9.50 down the drain. Again, what the hell.

I am guessing the safe bets at Bryant Park Grill would be lunch-type salads and sandwiches, which can be hard to ruin… although the deft approach of this kitchen would certainly give it a try.

Note to the management at Bryant Park Grill: have a sit down meeting with your chef (or kitchen manager, whoever) and actually sit down and eat this food. Look at your menu. Adapt a “fresh” approach to your park side location with more emphasis on local farmers who supply bright, robust flavors. Local bakers who can supply artisan breads and desserts. Rethink the entire approach to foods that are simple and fresh.

You have one of the best locations in Manhattan… create a menu to match.

+ the setting, indoors and out, is superb

+ easy to reach from anywhere in the city

+ easy to reserve a table ahead of time

- some of the food is inedible

- some of the wait staff can’t communicate at all due to language barriers