Ever wondered how Park Avenue Winter changes seasons so quickly? Needless to say, it takes slightly more than a coat of paint. The restaurant, which switched its red-hued autumnal finery for wintry white right after Thanksgiving, undergoes a 48-hour transition that, says Allison Good, its director of marketing, makes it resemble “the Willy Wonka factory.”
As Good explains, the walls of the restaurant, which was designed by AvroKO, are built on a steel structure, with movable panels that provide the foundation for each seasonal design. The upholstery on the banquette seating and cushioning has a snap motif that allows it to be quickly converted — the two sides of each piece of reversible fabric represent two seasons: one set has summer and autumn, while the other has spring and winter. The restaurant’s decoration, Good says, takes its cues from the travels of Captain Cook: for the summer, map references were the source of inspiration, while spring was designed to look like “a mossy English garden.”
While the dining room is being transformed, so is the food: in the kitchen, Chef Craig Koketsu holds staff tastings, and the servers learn the new menu over the two-day period. This season, it features cold-weather vittles like venison steak tartare and stout-braised lamb shank. The wine list is also updated — each season, winemakers make the restaurant a custom blend of wine. This winter, it’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah from the Hedges Family Estate in Washington state.
When they’re not in use, the restaurant’s decorations go to a warehouse in Queens where, Good says, “they’re labeled, numbered, and put away; it’s almost like cataloging a library.”
Park Avenue Spring will commence on March 14. Typically, Good says, the restaurant closes after Sunday brunch service and re-opens for dinner on Tuesday. And on a 53 degree day in December, that’s a seasonal shift far that seems far more reliable than any that the natural world has to offer.