I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to go out to dinner. Getting ready to dine at The Grill felt like prom night, butterflies and all. Which shoes should I wear? Do I put on the diamond earrings?! The rest of the evening lived up to the anticipation, making for a very big night.
By now you’ve probably read about how the chefs behind Carbone and Parm partnered with real-estate (and art) powerhouse Aby Rosen to take over the original Four Seasons space in May. We can skip over the part about how they left Philip Johnson’s room fairly intact, adding some high-gloss theatrics and sparing no expense—from the servers’ alleged $6,000 Tom Ford tuxedos to the gleaming $10,000 silver prime rib trolleys that circle the room, dispensing a $68 slice (or two) of the truly prime beef at a time. So let’s just talk about what it’s like to be there.
Sometimes, you just want a “jazz hands” restaurant. Those Brooklyn-esque farm-to-table favorites can wait. The Grill experience begins the moment the ground-floor doors are opened for you. Music spills out of the space: Bossa nova. Rat Pack–ish tunes. Belters and crooners from the ’50s. Music that makes you feel like you’re gliding on rails as you make your way to the check-in desk, where a suited gentleman and a smiling woman in a sleeveless Zac Posen dress await to guide you up the stairs.
Make time to start your evening with a cocktail at The Bar. Set beneath hundreds of glowing glass rods, it is a flatteringly lit perch from which to survey who’s currently putting the power in the walnut-paneled power room that is The Grill. Or make your way into the recently opened Pool Room, which has its own seafood menu and is, according to reports, stiffer and, for the moment, less fun. Barman Warren and his team concoct retro cocktails with finesse. Now is the time to opt for a martini—served from a crystal decanter—or, if you want to make it through your meal intact, a fifty-fifty martini (half booze, half vermouth; tell them your spirit of choice and let them pair). Somehow even the spiced nuts and potato chips that are set before you feel snazzy.
And then, let yourself be tucked into a table. I wasn’t as impressed by the selections we chose from the Buffet (yes, capital B) section of the menu, though the domestic ham was a welcome alternative to prosciutto. Rather, the evening’s poached Santa Barbara spot prawns, a raw bar special, were spectacular, arranged on a silver platter with tartar, cocktail, and Dijonnaise sauces. Worth the $80 price tag? When shared with good friends, yes.
Also well worth sharing: Dover sole, three preparations of which are offered. (We went for meunière, goosed with horseradish, though the Neptune’s Crown sounded tempting.) Delicate, decadent, and expertly cooked, the classic fish dish somehow felt new again. The chefs have done extensive historical research to create their dishes, going from 1960s New York Times writer Craig Claiborne all the way back to the 1800s French master Auguste Escoffier. As a result, the menu reads like a lavish presidential banquet that JFK (or even FDR) could have enjoyed: caviar vichyssoise, triple lamb chops with mint jelly, hash browns O’Brien, and grasshopper pie and soufflés for dessert. The prime rib, a fat, rosy-to-the-edges slice of rotisseried beef topped with an optional grating of fresh horseradish, stole the show, causing our table to be silent (in a good way) for long periods of ecstatic contemplation. We barely got to the deviled bone served alongside. Did we need to order the hash browns, Chinese-style broccoli, and rice pilaf as well? Absolutely not. But so glad we did.
The desserts felt the most retro, from that grasshopper pie to an ambrosia salad served with whipped coconut cream that will hopefully bring fruit salads back in vogue. At this point in the meal, I was decades away from 2017 anyway—until I noticed Mario Batali a few tables over, and heard whispers from the staff that New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells was dining in The Pool next door.
So magical was the spell, my portion of the bill—$233, including a modest bottle of Beaujolais that stumped the sommelier, who was more suited to neighboring Burgundy—seemed, well, not fair, but not the end of the world that I’d been bracing for. Besides, it was less than the cost of a plane ticket, and I’d been transported, however temporarily, to a much-needed world of make-believe.
The Grill (at the Seagram Building)
99 East 52nd Street (between Lexington and Park Avenues), Midtown East