“Ohhh, I love the Four Seasons!” my grandmother exclaims upon hearing of my upcoming reservation. Opened in 1959, the restaurant—a date-night hot spot for my grandparents and other “seasoned” patrons—became synonymous with New York glamour, sending out fancy French fare in an ornate dining room. It was where you could find businessmen talking shop, New York’s elite throwing back martinis and even the occasional celebrity. So while it was sad to see the spot close in 2016 (the Grill and the Pool are there now), I was hoping the new iteration a few blocks south of the original would proffer even a small taste of that classic charm.
When I entered the new Midtown East location, the host guided me and my dining companion through a long, spacious hallway, building up a feeling of grandeur, only to end in a rather lackluster dining room.
Smaller than the restaurant’s former dining room, the space sports retro furniture underneath a modern, angular light fixture that, unfortunately, takes over the entire room due to the low ceilings. And while you still have a white-tablecloth experience, you now have the added benefit of being uncomfortably close to your neighbors.
Our meal began with a $38 tableside preparation of a simple but pleasant steak tartare. A $32 tomato salad highlighted a lump of burrata surrounded by ice-cold, flavorless chunks of tomato. The most interesting starter was a salad of charred squid with beurre blanc, offering contrasting textures and a nice hit of acid. Most of the dishes lacked a seasoning that works well in all four seasons: salt.
I’m not going to lie: There’s something super suave about a suited waiter expertly filleting the sole meunière right in front of you. While slightly overcooked, it was still better than the monotone filet of bison, crowned with an unnecessary slice of seared foie gras (probably to justify its $75 price tag).
The peak of the meal was dessert, when a predictably lovely chocolate-caramel tart arrived alongside a mountain of pink cotton candy. A staple from the old location, the cotton candy is a treat reserved for special occasions. But if you ask nicely (or pretend to be celebrating something), they probably won’t deprive you of this sugar rush.
When we left, I called my grandmother to relay the bad news. Seasons change, but this time it was for the worse.