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24 Fifth Ave. (Ninth St.) Send to Phone
: A, C, E, F, V, S to W 4th St.

Dinner nightly

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THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED Washington Park Restaurant Review

: As a wunderkind, Jonathan Waxman brought California cuisine to New York with his 1980s hit Jams. Then it seemed like he disappeared. But far from falling off the radar, the chef has been toiling on consulting forays and false starts (Bryant Park Grill, Nick & Toni’s Manhattan branch, the ill-fated Colina). With the opening of Washington Park in spring 2002, a grown-up Waxman has regained his place in the sun. Rest assured this isn’t like a seductively nostalgic compilation of Culture Club and Katrina and the Waves tunes. Waxman is still learning new tricks, combining extreme seasonality with an almost classic temperament to create sweetness and light---the operative word being light. Even a rich dish of foie gras gets a visit of diced roasted apples and pears, rather than a heavy, cloying sauce. Lobster salad is a sweet and bitter breeze of flavor. A skin-on sliver of pompano looks like a strip of bark, the firm, white flesh’s flavor brought out magically---and simply---with capers, pepper, white wine and lemon. No trickery, no basil foam, no starfruit confit, just good cooking. Although the menu is anything but low-budget, the staff doesn’t put on airs. If you’re lucky, you’ll get knowledgeable sommelier Sean Toussaint, who is earnest and affable in his guidance whether you’re prepared to drop $40 or $400 on a bottle. The crowd morphs from early-evening, over-60 residents of the surrounding affluent apartment houses (you may see Waxman himself cajoling a crotchety diner) to younger, slicker, name-that-chef professionals. The food may have roots in the other coast, but when you go outside and see Washington Arch to your right, you know this Waxman triumph is all New York.
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