The Four Seasons Plays On

August 18, 2018

It’s going to be interesting watching them duke it out.  The new Four Seasons just opened a few blocks from the old one (now part of Major Food Group and named The Pool and The Grill).  Will the faithful return to the tender ministrations of Alex Von Bidder and Julian Niccolini? There are no better front of house people than these two, who know exactly how to seat a room.  The question, however, is going to be this: does it matter any more?  And in this #metoo era, are people going to give Julian, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for groping a woman, a pass?

The new place designed by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, is splendid, but there’s no way it could possibly equal the grandeur of the soaring space designed by Philip Johnson. A contemporary interpretation of mid-century modern this one’s comfortable (the seats are upholstered in suede), and almost cozy but it’s not the grande dame that the old place is.  The Bar, on the other hand, is really swell. At the original Four Seasons sitting at the bar ale ways had a wistful feeling, as if you had your nose pressed up against the window, looking at the chosen people dining in the restaurant.  Here you drink in a separate room dominated by a glowing sunken rectangle of a bar (which is meant to remind you of the pool you left behind).  It feels both powerful and sexy.

And how’s the food?  It’s no secret I’m a fan of the chef, Diego Garcia.  This is what I wrote about what he was serfing at his last post, Gloria. Here, however,  he’s really in his element.  Consider the skate, which he makes entirely his own, pairing it with a celery sabayon and almost translucent sheets of kohlrabi.  Skate has never looked or tasted so delicious.

And that raw fluke at the top, with its little cucumber and caviar hats, is just what you want to eat in the heat of summer. I loved the giant carabinero shrimp too, simply grilled with lardo.  (The point, incidentally, is to suck all the juices out of the head.  And yet I felt a kind of shock run through the dining room when I picked the first one up in my fingers. Someone at the next table gasped as those seductive juices came spurting out. This is a very polite place.)

There are all the old favorites too – the duck, of course, the steak tartare, the ubiquitous Dover sole, steaks, salmon…  If you’ve read up on the old Four Seasons, you know the drill.

Desserts – at least the ones I tried – were fantastic.  The great Bill Yosses (he worked in the Obama White House) is making a creamy peach tart that is just about perfect…

And a deep, dark, very grown up chocolate confection

And the prices?  If you have to ask, this place is not for you. They are as astonishingly high as they were at the old place – or as they are in the restaurant now occupying that space.  This has never been our Manhattan; it’s the one that belongs to the very, very rich.


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