Parsing The Park’s seasonal shifts:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
It wasn’t that long ago that the menu at the Park read like a mid-summer supper, a complete seasonal experience full of heirloom tomatoes and grilled vegetables that seemed only to be missing a gingham tablecloth. But even as those dishes dragged their way into October, they still felt right, with the Santa Anas sweeping in and trailing Didion references behind them.
The Park’s menu is crawling along toward cooler times, shifting to fit autumn in an interesting transition that will be the young restaurant’s first chance to pair itself with proper fall flavors. Judging from its easy experience with summertime plates, that won’t be a problem.
The Park is a quick find on Sunset, replacing a Mexican joint that used to command the corner. As such, the restaurant perfectly marks Echo Park’s sometimes indelicate boom. But that stature almost always spells out a wait. And for that, the Park entertains with cookbooks, stacks filled with everything from the standard Keller to bibles of baking. The downtime can wear you out, though, stretching on a bit too long thanks to lingering eaters taking time to savor the restaurant’s nonexistent corkage fees. That’s one of the place’s biggest draws – pay enough attention and you can catch couples coddling bottles of wine and, in a sign of that neighborly change, a couple cans of Miller Lite.
On its recent summer menu, the Park was represented best with pulled chipotle Kurobuta pork good enough to reign over any season. The dish might initially sound as though it smacked of trendspotting – chipotle! – but there was nothing gimmicky about the pork, siphoning off just enough smokiness to make the chipotle completely worthwhile. Sides matched well, keeping up a thoroughly Southern theme with the pork’s peach chutney topping and the accompanying sweet corn pudding and Napa cabbage slaw. Given certain atmospheric conditions, the dish would make a picnic-perfect meal.
More likely to survive the Park’s seasonal shift is its hanger steak. Though the steak might find itself served with flavors better aimed at autumn, its most recent iteration was great, brightened by a barely there chimichurri sauce and accompanied by a finely layered potato and onion cake.
Also sure to see spots in future menus (along with the ubiquitous Park burger and pasta plates) are the braised brisket in a red wine reduction with horseradish potatoes and wilted escarole – slivers of beef tender to the tiniest touch – and the roast Jidori chicken, half of the bird served with French fries.
Diners used to be able to finish things off with a stone fruit and blueberry cobbler, but that has given way to an equally classic apple tart. For the sweetest teeth, there’s also a timeless pot de creme thick enough to stand your spoon straight up.
No matter how you finish off a meal here, there’s a good chance that the Park will lead you to a night spent on Sunset. And the restaurant did just that when it prefaced a few hours at the Echoplex sunk down to swamp level with New Orleans’s Quintron and Miss Pussycat. It wasn’t noticeable through Quintron’s rhinestoned set – banging away on his Lincoln-logoed organ and proprietary Drum Buddy – but the Park is the perfect match for that kind of itinerary. When the lights ease back on and everything gets packed away, you’ll be glad that it’s the Park sopping up the remnants of your night.
The Park, 1400 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, (213) 482-9209. thepark1400sunset.com. Open Wed.-Thurs. & Sun., 5:30-10 p.m. and Fri.-Sat., 5:30-10:30 p.m. Vegetarian friendly. No corkage fee. Food for two, $30-$50.