Fusty menus and nautical kitsch too often accompany sweeping water views, but thats not the case at Riverpark, the seriously soign restaurant occupying the ground floor of the Alexandria Center, a shiny new tower (the first of three, actually) bestriding the FDR between Bellevue and NYU hospitals. In a concerted effort to expand New Yorks biotech presence, Mayor Bloomberg extended 29th Street one block east to accommodate the science park, where tenants include ImClone, the cancer-research arm of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. Looking for a bit of culinary luster, Alexandrias builders approached Tom Colicchio to operate the restaurant and its conference center, and Colicchio entrusted the project to wichcraft honchos Jeffrey Zurofsky and chef Sisha Ortuzar, who launch dinner next week with lunch and breakfast to follow. (A 20 percent preview discount applies through October 12.)
The pair intend their foray into fine dining to become a destination restaurant, luring diners far beyond the underserved hospital hub, but also need to consider their built-in clientele. We want to be a pub for people who work here, says Ortuzar, who has designed separate menus for the platform-raised dining room and the loungier caf, but customers can order freely from both from any seat in the house (or outside of it, on the heated and somewhat sheltered patio). You neednt be a geneticist to detect the streamlined Craft DNA in the polished dcor, with its adjustable banquette armrests and textured-bronze surfaces, and in sophisticated dishes like diver scallops with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and kale-pear chutney ($26).
Ortuzar calls his style American from a New York point of view, or the food I like to eat. This translates into appetizers like squab mole with rice grits ($15), whole roasted striped bass for two ($66), and pastas like Swiss-chard ravioli in appetizer and entre portions. For something more casual, the bar menu offers the lobster-alternative octopus roll ($10), with garlic mayo and spicy cucumber relish, and fried chicken with baked-to-order biscuits ($17). More casual yet, a new wichcraft outpost inhabits an adjacent glass cube, blessed with that urban rarity: abundant outdoor seating on a virtually traffic-free block.
Riverpark opens for dinner on September 27 and lunch on October 5. Check out some of the dishes on offer in our slideshow, and the menus below.
Riverpark; 450 E. 29th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-729-9790