Finally got into Park Kitchen and now I'm wondering what took me so long.
North Park Blocks
422 NW 8th
You enter a narrow bar area, much like Noble Rot, which leads back to a larger dining room with about 8 tables plus some seats facing the kitchen. It's a little less "rustic" than Noble Rot, though, with pea green walls, copper-colored metal tables, chic hanging lights, and dark brown booth seats wrapping around the walls.
The menu is divided into four sections: small hot plates, small cold plates, large plates, and desserts. The small plates range in price from $5.50 to $9.50. The large plates were all $18.50 and the desserts were all $6.50 (though a cheese plate was $7.50).
I have to say there were many things I was interested in. There were some boring items, but also many interesting items. Ultimately, we settled on two small plates and two large plates (and two desserts).
My wife ordered the marinated scallops with blood oranges, fennel, and walnuts ($9.50) for her appetizer. It was very good. The scallops had no off flavor at all and I don't know that they were cooked in any traditional sense, maybe just "cooked" in the same sense that ceviche is. The walnuts were candied and the dish was served with a reduction of some sort, maybe a port reduction, something sweet and fruity with a wine finish. It was a very good dish overall.
I ordered an odd one for me: marinated anchovies with preserved lemon and fennel ($6.50). The anchovies were fileted and without any off taste either (just that strong anchovy flavor). The preserved lemon flavor could have been more pronounced, but the fennel slices went wonderfully with the anchovy and helped balance some of the strong flavor without obstructing it. Personally, I would have liked more of the fennel-lemon salad to balance the anchovy, but it was good overall. And I'm not inclined to actually like it.
My wife got the sliced duck breast with chestnut puree and caramel oranges ($18.50) for her large plate. The duck was nicely cooked medium-rare with crispy skin (though my wife, shame on her, cut it off and wouldn't let me eat it). The chestnut puree was quite tasty. I thought it was a root vegetable. It also came with spinach and crispy shredded duck. The oranges were disappointing. They weren't thinly sliced and the skin was left on so they were actually rather bitter. Not only that, but a lot of the juice had leeched out of them leaving them just pulpy and bland. My suggestion would be to slice them thinly and slightly candy them in the caramel sauce. They'd be much better. The sauce was decent, though had a little bitterness to it that I didn't enjoy. Still good overall.
I got the braised rabbit with preserved apricots and almonds and a side of au gratin greens ($18.50). The rabbit was quite tasty with an excellent sauce. The sauce was maybe a little salty, even for me, but had a lot of flavor. The dried fruit and nuts were great in the dish, of course. It also came with what looked like some grilled tenderloin of rabbit with rosemary, a nice touch, and some nicely roasted potato wedges that reminded me of high quality jo-jos with the wonderful sauce instead of Ranch. A very good dish.
For dessert my wife ordered the bittersweet chocolate terrine with port and caramel-poached winter fruits and hazelnuts ($6.50). I'm not sure exactly why they call it a terrine. It was really just a wedge of slightly soft chocolate, possibly with some espresso added, served with the tasty sauce and poached dried fruits.
I ordered the banana sorbet with chocolate shortbread sandwiches. Yum. The banana sorbet was excellent, very banana-y and very smooth, hardly icy at all. The chocolate shortbread sandwich cookies were tasty with a creamy filling, like the best Oreos ever.
Honestly, I could have gotten anything on the dessert menu. They all sounded good.
Park Kitchen deserves to be ranked right along the better small plate places such as Buckman Bistro, Tabla, and Noble Rot. I think that if you like these places, you'll like Park Kitchen. Even though Park Kitchen does have large plates, it has so many small plates and the feel is so much the same as the small plate places, that that's where I think it belongs. One thing I especially like is that they seem to deliver more than what the menu suggests, while what's on the menu still sounds good. I hate when I got to a restaurant (one of my problems with Higgins) and I'm excited about a menu item and it comes out and doesn't live up to the description. I don't think they're quite the deal that, eg, Lauro Kitchen is, but the portion sizes are fair and, like I said, you get more than what you ask for.
Side note: if you're a lesbian or young guy looking for a sugar-momma, you might try here. 90%+ of everyone there was a 35-60 year old middle and upper-middle class woman. I've never seen a restaurant so dominated by women. Odd.