Auden is the new restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park South, in the space that used to be BLT Market, and before that Atelier. The name is Old English for “old friend,” and has nothing to do with the poet W. H. Auden.
The new décor, from starchitect David Rockwell, is in the muscular, country club style that he has deployed all over town. It’s a comfortable, upscale but not fancy space, more suited to a business meeting than a romantic night out.
The chef, Mark Arnao, comes from a career of hotel gigs. The menu trumpets a commitment to local produce, in a fashion that is now so commonplace that it’s old hat.
This is the Ritz, and you’re going to pay a premium for the privilege of dining here. Appetizers are $18–23, entrees $32–46, side dishes $10–12. Cocktails are $18, and you’ll pay north of $60 for most bottles of wine.
What you’ll get is standard American bistro cuisine. Though not at all inventive or adventurous, the food is well prepared, as it ought to be at these prices. But in other neighborhoods, without the Central Park premium, you can find similar quality for $20–30 less per person.
The meal begins with an excellent bread service, a tray of warm rolls (above left).
The Flatbread ($22; above left) is made with heirloom tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella, crushed olives, and fried capers. It’s an enjoyable dish that two could easily share. I didn’t try my friend’s Duck Confit and Chicory Salad ($23; above right), but he wasn’t especially impressed with it.
We both had the barbecue beef short ribs ($36; above left) in a roasted shallot sauce, a good enough dish if only you can forget how expensive it is. For reference, Il Buco Alimentari offers a better short rib dish for $38, and theirs serves two. However, Il Buco doesn’t serve it with the Auden Frites (above right), which are excellent.
Little pieces of chocolate on lollipop sticks (right) are what pass for petits fours.
The service was polite, friendly and efficient—as it ought to be. Really, there’s nothing much to complain of at Auden. There’s a steep price premium for dining on Central Park South, but you’ll pay that at any of the various hotels in the area.
Auden (The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 50 Central Park South at Sixth Ave., West Midtown)
Food: Expensive American bistro cuisine
Service: Crisp, efficient, competent
Ambiance: A masculine, clubby hotel setting
Why? If you must spend Central Park prices, you might as well do so here