I know what you’re thinking. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could tell you something new about a chain restaurant like California Pizza Kitchen either. I don’t write about a lot of chains mostly because NYC has so much variety. That’s not a knock on chains, but I personally feel like you come to NYC to try all those quaint, unique places that make the city so exciting to experience. But when I was invited to check out CPK’s new menu, and it really did exceed my expectations, mostly because this time I tried dishes beyond just their pizza.
A good way to start: Guac, and lobster flatbread
With our main plates, we tried a variety of dishes. We had to get one order of their classic Thai Chicken pizzas, but we also dipped into their kung pao shrimp pasta, refreshing watermelon salad, and must-try new items: Roasted halibut, garlic chicken, and fire-grilled ribeye. Everything had so much flavor and cooked perfectly.
I normally don’t go straight for fish, but this wild-caught Alaskan halibut roasted on a cedar plank with butternut squash farro, baby kale, and grilled asparagus was too good to pass up:
My friends who tried the chicken and steak couldn’t get over how much flavor they both had. The chicken was cooked perfectly with a lemon-garlic sauce, and served with fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. The chicken was juicy and tender and served with seasonal vegetables.
I was a little nervous for the fire-grilled ribeye – I wasn’t sure how much even the reimagined menu at CPK would deliver. Surprisingly, my friends loved it. They topped the steak with bleu cheese butter that complemented the steak well without taking over. It’s served with roasted fingerling potatoes in a rich pesto sauce, and a lemon-garlic arugala salad.
Finally, when it came to dessert, we immediately ordered the chocolate shuffle cake but our waiter insisted we also tried the butter cake. Twist our arm. I had no idea their classic butter cake was THIS good, especially looking so unassuming. Soft, creamy, and sweet, it might be all you need. But a spoon of the chocolate souffle didn’t hurt either.
Overall CPK’s reimagined menu shows promise — enough that I’ve been craving to go back since this visit. The one we visited on Park Avenue South is also perfect for big groups with so many seating areas. Check it out and let me know what you think!
California Pizza Kitchen
440, 386 Park Avenue South,
New York, NY 10016
Occasion: Catching up with friends
(Out of three stars)
Would I go back?: Yes!
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