The iconic Four Seasons Restaurant is reopening in Manhattan on Wednesday after a two-year hiatus and a $30 million buildout. After vacating the landmarked Seagram Building in 2016 (Major Food Group has since taken over, transforming it into The Grill), there had been speculation about where the new Four Seasons would land—“probably downtown,” co-owner Julian Niccolini had told GQ in 2015.The bigger question on New Yorkers’ minds for the last two years, however, had been: would the restaurant actually come back?
Indeed it would, and the new address, a bi-level space at 42 East 49th Street, is located just three street blocks and one avenue away from the original.
When Seagram Building landlord Aby J.Rosen announced that he was not renewing the lease for the group in May 2015, the restaurant’s future seemed uncertain. It hosted its final night of service in July 2016, a few months after Niccolini had pled guilty to a sexual assault case, cloaking the eatery in controversy.
Outlets like Forbes and GQ had painted the closing as the end of an era, implying that the restaurant’s legacy would live on, if at all, through the Major Food Group’s new interpretation. But owners Alex von Bidder and Niccolini (who had been running it since 1995) weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet, excitedly announcing plans to relocate.
The Four Seasons established itself as one of the most important restaurants in NYC history when it debuted in 1959, as the first eatery to change its menu and decor with the seasons, a concept culinary godfather James Beard had a hand in shaping.
But its space has always been the real showstopper: The Seagram Building in which the original restaurant was housed, was designed by minimalist mastermind Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, and contained art from the likes of Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko.
While it’s hard to match the grandiosity of the iconic original, the new location (the first U.S. project from modernist Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld) is warm and impressive, spanning 19,000 square feet. Upon entrance, guests walk into the more casual gold-flecked Bar Room which is connected to the 110-seat main dining room via oxidized brass-plated hallway, which will pipe in sounds like birds chirping. Mid-century modern furniture can be found throughout (much like the original, but updated) as well as an impressive light installation in the main room. Upstairs, there’s a large private dining room space complete with open kitchen, plus a lounge called the Treehouse.
One thing the Four Seasons has never really been touted for (at least not since the early days) has been the food, but executive chef Diego Garcia, hardly 30 years old, has the talent to make it great—those lucky enough to try his cooking during his stint at Hell’s Kitchen seafood specialist, Gloria, will likely agree.
Born in coastal northern Mexico, Garcia grew up working in his family’s restaurant as a child, before moving to Napa with his artist mother at age 12. He studied at CIA and afterward worked at The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, and later at prestigious restaurants like Le Bernardin and Contra.
Garcia, who is known for his exquisite seafood dishes, will bring back a few of the Four Seasons classics like the steak tartare; Farmhouse Duck with cherry sauce; and the Dover Sole Meunière.
The crab cakes, a longtime menu staple, have been tweaked by Garcia and are now served with a warm green garlic emulsion (poured tableside) and studded with diced kohlrabi for texture. “To me, in cooking it’s more than just flavor that makes a dish great, it’s about the layers — acid, texture, the play of hot and cold temperatures together,” says Garcia.
One thing that hasn’t changed from the original Four Seasons are the eye-popping prices. The famous crab cake, which Garcia tells us is done in a “fine dining preparation,” will set you back $64. (Major Food Group, masters of the price gouge, are serving their homage at The Grill for $39.) The least expensive item on the menu is a Vegetable Crudité with hummus at $25, with entree prices in the $44-85 range.
As for new dishes, there’s a Fluke Crudo with radish and seaweed vinaigrette to start, as well as Grilled Langoustine with wakame butter; and a Black Bass and Scallop Ceviche. For mains, you’ll see a take on Côte de Boeuf Bearnaise, served also with Chimichurri (for two) which is priced per person at $85. Check out the full menu below (note: these are not final).
Former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses is heading up desserts and will reinterpret old favorites like the iconic Four Seasons Cotton Candy and the Bar Room Chocolate Cake Napoleon. New signatures include a Pavlova (meringue cake) with tangerine sorbet, spiced ice cream and almond brittle; and a Pistachio Puff with strawberries and apricot sorbet.
There’s an epic wine list sourced mostly from the U.S. with several selections from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The cocktail menu was designed by Mark Drew (Milk & Honey London, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon) and features riffs on classic combinations like a Blood Orange Collins; or the Big Apple Martini: apple brandy, ice cider, apple cider vinegar, apple cider and pomme vert liqueur. (Prices are $21+.)
There’s a lot to take in, and it’s unclear how the restaurant will be received, now that it’s removed from its original iconic walls (and pool, which remains in the old space). Many of its regulars have since moved on, but others will return and are already picking out their tables, at least according to the NY Times. Will the Four Seasons 2.0 take back some of the business it has since lost to The Grill? Let the surf and turf wars begin.
The Four Seasons Restaurant is located at 42 E. 49th Street; 212-754-9494. Hours: Monday through Friday from 11:45 a.m. - 11 p.m., dinner only on Saturday from 5 p.m. - 11 p.m. and closed on Sundays.