The bar at Park Place on Main.
The Park Place Burger and macaroni and cheese from Park Place on Main.
Lemon-blueberry cookies from Park Place on Main.
The tomahawk Wagyu steak from Park Place on Main.
Park Place on Main still accentuates elegance.
Steak Tartare from Park Place on Main.
Poutine from Park Place on Main.
Carbonara from Park Place on Main.
The cassoulet from Park Place on Main.
Park Place on Main still accentuates elegance.
French Onion soup from Park Place on Main.
Sunday, September 03, 2017 1:00 am
Familiar name returns, but menu changes
RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette
Out of a possible five
It never really should have been anything other than Park Place.
Though I enjoyed one of the two restaurants that took up residence in the 1st Source Center building downtown after Park Place on Main closed in 2008, it just didn't seem right to have a different name on the door.
So when owner Bill Bean finally took back the restaurant this year and put the right name back on those doors, I was eager to return.
The place still looks perfect. It still defines classy – a business lunch place through and through with its touches of brass accenting dark cherry wood and black walls – but is not too stuffy to just hang out at the bar or on the patio to have a few cocktails with friends.
The menu, however, was not as seamless. Its lack of direction was not at all what Park Place was all about in its heyday.
My first taste took me back to my first meal there years ago. The steak tartare was a wonderful classic, old-school dish. Topped with a runny egg yolk and dotted with capers, the raw beef was perfectly dressed, the toast points were on point and it could not have been better.
I also enjoyed a Canadian bar staple, poutine, that is growing in popularity in this country but belongs more in a bar than a place like Park Place. Other choices included Asian-style seared tuna and a south of the border-inspired shrimp ceviche. Was this my old favorite or a fusion spot?
The poutine had thick, crispy steak fries, pulled pork cheese curds, bacon pork gravy and was topped with diced bacon and scallions. It was a tasty dish but needed more gravy. The curds – which I doubted they actually were – melted into a giant glob on top and I had to cut it with a knife to evenly distribute it.
The soups were all good with the French onion – another fitting classic – far and away the best. It had a nicely seasoned beef base, had a kiss of sweetness from the caramelized onions and plenty of cheese and croûtons on top.
The Gumbo Ya-Ya, featuring beef tortilla and chicken noodle, were tasty but not exemplary by any means.
The best entrée did not arrive without issues. And though it was the best entrée I had, it actually ended up disappointing.
The 26-ounce tomahawk steak was just the kind of dish that could be a signature for Park Place on Main. It was market priced, but just before it was served, my server warned me that it was a Wagyu tomahawk, which was not included in the menu description.
The steak was good, but not great. It was nicely grilled and the fat was delicious, but there was a large piece of gristle. I would have thought it was OK if it was not Wagyu, but it was not as good as a Wagyu should be and it sure wasn't worth the $135 they charged me for it.
I found it odd that a cassoulet was on the menu in the summer, but the slow-cooked classic French bean dish was a fine choice.
The cannelloni beans were al dente; the ham bone used to prepare it seasoned the entire crock; it had plenty of duck and pork along with carrots and onions; and the crunchy bread-crumb topping was the crowning touch. It was a hearty belly-warmer that I hope remains on the menu this winter when it would be more fitting.
The menu's misdirection was most evident at lunch. In addition to the Asian and Mexican appetizer offerings, there were Italian pastas, Philly cheesesteaks, ramen noodles and even a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich to choose from.
Seeking help from my server was useless as my server couldn't tell me the best lunch dish, what was popular and admitted to not having tried anything on the menu.
I experienced the same lack of knowledge at dinner as my server walked around to read from my menu to answer my questions as if I couldn't read it myself.
I had my burger topped with a runny egg and bacon – an additional charge for each – in addition to the provided cheddar cheese and standard accompaniments. Its shiny brioche bun was nice, but the burger was pretty mediocre. With craft burgers being all the rage and every upscale restaurant offering one, Park Place's was not worth having.
But it was still better than the carbonara, which may have been the worst version of this Italian staple I have ever had.
It turned me off from the first glance with an egg yolk sitting on top of shiny, oily noodles instead of being incorporated into the sauce with cream and Parmesan. There was no sign of any cream or Parmesan despite “Parmesan cream” being part of the menu description.
It looked so little like carbonara, I asked if I received the right dish. My server checked with the kitchen, said it was right and gave me a little ramekin of grated Parmesan. I took two bites and wanted no more.
A promised thing missing from pasta must be a theme at the new Park Place because the side of lobster mac and cheese I upgraded to as a side with my burger was missing – you guessed it – lobster.
My server told me they ran out of lobster and assured me I would not be charged extra. So I was left with just poor mac and cheese that was oily and gloppy like leftover mac and cheese after you reheat it. No creaminess again.
And when it came to dessert, I was again disappointed as the only house-made offerings were blueberry-lemon cookies, which were OK but not upscale enough for a place like this that once served the best desserts I have ever had in this city.
The most surprising part about my visits to Park Place on Main was the service, especially given Bean's fine reputation as a restaurateur. And, honestly, if there was any other name on the door or any other owner, I probably would not return.
Restaurant: Park Place on Main
Address: 200 E. Main St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Tartare ($12), poutine ($10), soup ($4 cup; $6 bowl), cassoulet ($22), burger ($10), carbonara ($9), cookies ($8)
Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.