First look: Park 52 | Bleader

First look: Park 52

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Populist Jerry Kleiner's long-awaited answer to the void in Hyde Park's mid-range dining options is admirable—the crowd on my Saturday-night visit to this manifestation of his lurid red-velvet vision of urbanity was integrated to a degree I'm not sure exists anywhere else in town. But while the "classic American" dishes may seem attractive, larded with enough trendy ingredients and nods toward seasonality to set the casual diner's mind at ease, in execution many of those I tasted were middling: crayfish ragout failed to ignite glazed salmon, overroasted roasted halibut filet fused prosaically with its pureed cauliflower, a Spanish chorizo stuffing emphasized the dryness of a roasted chicken. These dull dishes set a tone that now makes it difficult to recall the better things I tried—lamb brochettes with black quinoa were an appealing curiosity, and a superfresh fried calamari salad was simple and well done. Our waiter steered us toward a perfectly good and affordable malbec. He'd had nearly a year to get intimate with the wine list, broken into “sexy reds” and “sexy whites"--whatever that means. That's about how long it took for the liquor license to come through, he said, though the private upper perch, which requires a separate license, was still closed. Is the otherwise swift and efficient bureaucratic process haunted by the ghosts of E2?

All that aside, there's not much here to distinguish Park 52 from the rest in the pack of numerically named restaurants. You can almost hear the ambivalence inside dozens of cars inching down the south-bound Kennedy: "Hyde Park? I thought our reservation was at Table Fifty-Two. Oh, forget it—let's go to Zed 451."    

Park 52, 5201 South Harper, 773-241-5200

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