The Four Seasons restaurant is located on E. 52nd street and Park Avenue in the Seagram Building, an Internationalist masterpiece designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. It is known less for its food and more for being the place where the power lunch was created.
The interior, which was also designed by van der Rohe and Johnson, has remained virtually unchanged since it was created along with the building in 1959 and the interior of the restaurant has been designated as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee in 1989. The design is very JFK-era, and this is the restaurant where Marilyn Monroe famously sung “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”.
The restaurant has two rooms: the Pool Room and the Grill Room. The Pool Room, is the room most often referenced to when talking about the Four Seasons, as it is the most photographed. As its name denotes, there is a large reflecting pool in the center of the restaurant, flanked by four potted trees. The Grill Room, is the famed haunt of the business community as they can meet to conduct business without any fancy trees or reflecting pools to distract the dealmaking.
When I went in March, it was before a theatre show, so we arrived at 6pm and as I expected, the clientele was gray-haired and quite aged. I noticed that most of them were remarking at how the restaurant has not changed since they were younger. I overheard one lady mention that she had dined here for every “season” (they change the menu four times a year, for each season) since it opened. Thats over 192 times.
Its very hard to tell whom are the waiters and whom are the diners, as the waiters all wear black suits, just like most of the diners. You can tell the difference, as the waiters wear red ties, that have little Four Seasons trees on them, or you can just remember who took your order. Do that right, and you won’t ask the wrong person twice like I did.
In ordering, the menu had many seasonal offerings, but had a few hold-overs from other seasons such as the Farmhouse Duck ($55) and the Short Ribs ($45). I asked the waiter which would be the best thing to order, and he told me that the Farmhouse Duck had been on the menu since he had been working there, so if it has been on there for that long, something must be right. So I got it. I wanted to have the Chilled Seafood as an appetizer, but in mentioning the specials, he mentioned Florida Stone Crab Claws, so I chose those instead. I guess Steven Schwarzman of Blackstone, must have came in and requested them.
The Florida Stone Crab claws were not as juicy as other crab claws that I have had, but they were meaty and the vegetable salad that is positioned behind them was good and made up for the crab claws short comings.
The timeless Long Island Farmhouse Duck ($55) is brought out whole to a cart near your table and is cut and sliced in half for two persons. The duck was the best duck that I have ever experienced, and that if you ever get anything at the Four Seasons, you should get the duck.
After being masterly cut and sliced tableside, the duck is presented to your table complete with juices and Cara Cara oranges, which were delicious and are just plain oranges. Nothing special, but it gives a good contrast to the duck.
For dessert, which was necessary, I chose the Chocolate Pot de Creme ($15), a cold dish filled with chocolate custard, which was quite thick, so I ordered a dish of Vanilla Ice Crem ($15), to cut the density of the Chocolate Custard. It worked out perfect.
In closing, the Four Seasons is not the restaurant for a hip young clientele, but a restaurant that you would bring your parents (or grandparents) to relive another era, or a client to show him the glories of New York. But I still recommend it. Oh, and don’t miss the Picasso in the lobby. If you can’t find it, ask one of the staff, they’ll gladly point you towards it.
The Four Seasons
99 E. 52nd Street (southwest corner of Park & E. 52nd)
New York City
Open: Mon-Fri, noon-2:15pm, 5pm-9:30pm; Sat, 5pm-11:30pm; Sun, closed
Matchbooks: Yes, but you must ask for them.