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Review of dinner at Park South Hotel's COVINA NYC

PHOTO: Hungarian Potato Fry Bread at COVINA NYC (c) Sery Kim

Before I left for Paris on an extended weekend (courtesy of Renaissance Paris Republique), I had a chance to review James Beard Award winning Chef Tim Cushman's COVINA NYC.

Located within the boutique and conveniently located, Park South Hotel, COVINA NYC is a comfortably, accessible entry for those who love food but aren't quite ready for the true gourmand experience of ... say ... oxtail. What Tim does at his hotel is, for me, make a few twisting combinations to food which the average eater can comprehend.

Take for instance my starter of Hungarian Potato Fry Bread. I would surmise that most people who go out to eat know what a potato is and they have basic concepts of what fry bread is so when they see this on the menu they can order it to feel "adventurous" without going so-far-beyond.

I ordered it because I actually have been trying to expand my palate to certain regional cuisines I don't always get to eat, i.e. in this instance Hungary. So when I saw the Hungarian Potato Fry Bread also came with smoked salmon, Kefir ranch, crispy capers, what I envisioned in my head was a twist on the classic New York brunch item of smoked salmon on a bagel with capers, tomato red onions. And that's exactly what came to my table. Neither too dense nor too light, the potato fry bread was half the height of a bagel and, of course, the accompanying ingredients were super fresh in a "farm-to-table" experience one would expect from Chef Tim Cushman.

PHOTO: Chicken Liver & Foie Gras Mousse (c) Sery Kim

I ordered two other appetizers and neither of them were as good as the first. For me, being a true Francophile (anyone who is basically obsessed with anything originating in France), foie gras is one of my favorite foods. In fact, if I had a deathbed wish it would be to eat at least a little bit of foie gras (along with a few other things). So when I saw I have a super high standard for foie gras, I have a SUPER HIGH STANDARD for foie gras.

The ideal foie gras dish, for me, is to get something pure. A slice of foie gras, with some perfectly toasted bread and a jam on the side, is all I need. Unfortunately, the dish Chef Cushman presented just had too much going on. Too many garnishes and tricks without a levity of sweet that jam provides. Additionally, I found it quite scandalous to turn the foie gras into a mousse but, again, this felt as if he was trying to make a somewhat unfamiliar dish to the average diner (foie gras) into something palatable. However, the foodie in me just did not like it.

Plus the bread was over-toasted and quite charred.

PHOTO: Caesar COVINA (c) Sery Kim

There really isn't much to say about the watery Caesar Covina which was simply too bland for words. I felt as if whatever line chef was manning the cleansing of the salad left the greens in the water too long, basically failing to drain it properly, so any flavor from the caesar dressing was literally washed away.

As for the anchovy taste, there wasn't any to be found, not even in the anchovy on top. This dish needs to be re-done so the caesar dressing itself has bites of anchovy in it OR they should use multiple pieces of anchovy because, clearly, if you advertise a salad as having anchovy the orderer knows the abrasive taste coming.

PHOTO: Entrees at COVINA (c) Sery Kim

The entree of Wood Grilled Lamb Kofte Skewer was fine. Three pieces of lamb arrived. Nothing special about it just solid, but the side of Summer Corn was fabulous. I loved the heartiness of the corn -- which was akin to the perfect al dente pasta -- lingering in a thick creamy composite of Chanterelle, Huitlacoche and Tarragon. So delicious.

Also wonderful was the Smashed and Smoked Marble Potatoes.

PHOTO: Pastry items from the COVINA Cafe at Breakfast (c) Sery Kim

I didn't take photos of the pastries or cocktails but of the two, I would say the Cocktails really stand out. I tried all of them and found each of them to be quite delightful -- no, I did not finish drinking all of them but rather just had a sip. The pastries, for me, just wasn't quite where the cocktails were in imagination. Either the Pastry Chef needs to accept that every dessert needs a twist (like Chef Cushman has done with the rest of the menu) or this person needs to stick with the basics. The donuts were over-cooked and totally lacking in sugar while the other pot de creme variation just needed a base of something more crunchy (though the popcorn was delicious). Perhaps a dessert of just caramel popcorn on ice cream would be fabulous.

Overall I found the restaurant to be quite good for the price. In NYC, you can't have dinner for two with multiple cocktails and wine, and several sides for the price we got out of COVINA. I highly recommend it if you are looking to venture into gourmand land so you can see how the other half lives!

Many thanks to the team at Park South Hotel for not only having me stay at the hotel but for arranging this meal. The hotel is so close to everything I love about New York City and the bed is super comfortable. Best part of the hotel? The pillows. So cushy yet firm!

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