New York has lately seen quite a few chefs outside the city come over and open a new restaurant to make their names in Big Apple. One of them is Tim Cushman, known for the expensive but supposedly fabulous omakase palace O Ya in Boston, who opened the New York outpost of O Ya recently. I haven’t been to O Ya due to its prohibitively expensive price (I still wouldn’t mind going for a splurge, but it’s been hard to find a dining companion who would tag along with me), but not shortly after opening that spot, chef Cushman decided to open another spot in Park South hotel, this time showcasing a blend of California and Mediterranean cuisine. The concept seemed all too predictable and I was wondering whether Covina was opened just for playing safe and making money, showcasing a lot of crowd-pleasers without really pushing the culinary envelope. For me, while creativity is an important factor in rating a restaurant, execution is just as important. Even if you play with safe menus but execute them beautifully, I still would remember that restaurant. Fortunately, Covina is that type of restaurant where I had some really nice dishes.
My meal at Covina didn’t start particularly well. Everyone who had visited the restaurant has talked about the Hungarian fry bread with smoked salmon, kefir ranch and fresh herbs. Fry bread was something new to me, and while I did like the texture of the bread, I felt the combination of smoked salmon and ranch was a bit too imposing. I was debating between curried cauliflower and spring asparagus “cacao e pepe” and chose the latter just for novelty factor based on its name, but it wasn’t wonderful enough, just shaved piles of asparagus that weren’t particularly memorable.
Things started to get a whole lot better afterwards, though. The colorful mandilli pasta was a joy to look at, and I was a fan of the nice balance of flavor coming from the basil almond pesto (hence the green color of the shell) and the housemade ricotta inside. The star of the dinner, however, clearly belonged to fontina and brussel sprout pizza. There was $2 supplement for adding egg at the center of the pie. I asked the server whether we should play along with what I conceived as a rip-off. Well, I didn’t realize that egg could make so much difference; along with the flavorful fontina cheese, it turned a very good pizza into one of the best I’ve had in a while! The crust was on the thin side to my liking, and I just couldn’t stop eating slice after slice even after my dining companion was nearly stuffed. For dessert, the warm medjool date cake was absolutely delightful, working beautifully with earl grey ice cream, caramel and roasted pear for an earthy feel without being overly sweet.
While the restaurant’s dining space is relatively large, booking in advance is always recommended (or you can take your chance at the bar). Covina has a full bar with quite a diverse range of wines from all over the world that you could complement your meal with. Overall, the vibe is pretty casual and not really stuffy or kitschy like you may see at other hotel restaurants. I would be happy to try other dishes at Covina to see how the kitchen is approaching them. It certainly is more of a crowd-pleaser than a restaurant with experimental spirit, but I’m not complaining as long as the kitchen continues to make solid dishes. Now that the summer is approaching, perhaps you can go to the rooftop at the hotel before or after your meal to enjoy the beautiful view of NYC, an added bonus to your dining experience.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 127 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016
Telephone: (212) 204-0225