"I was struck by the way it felt so thoroughly like New York—its buzz, its excitement, the way the room nearly vibrates with everyone coming and going."
If the Big Apple ever had an iconic restaurant, it was the Four Seasons, first opened in 1959 and reinvented this year as The Grill and The Pool. Together, these restaurants encapsulate everything we’ve always loved about dining out in this town: extravagance, ingenuity, that see-and-be-seen energy. Legendary food writer Mimi Sheraton—who consulted on both the original and current projects—looks back and ahead.
Like the city itself, New York restaurants have a way of reflecting the past even as they reach toward the future, with an enticing mélange of the classic and the innovative. That mix is epitomized by the two generations of restaurants that have inhabited the historic Seagram Building: the Four Seasons, which Joe Baum opened in 1959, recently replaced by The Grill and The Pool from Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone and Jeff Zalaznick. I worked on the original project as a researcher, looking for seasonal foods, ingredients and dishes that would fit Joe’s theme. Joe was the Cecil B. DeMille of restaurateurs, and he had very lofty, unconventional ideas.
This was long before Alice Waters would leave her mark on the local foods movement, but we already had a mushroom forager and a school in the Bronx growing our herbs. At lunch I would stand on the steps and watch the room fill up. It was like a curtain rising on act one: People were fired. Romances began and ended. Nearly 60 years later I stood there again, now as a consultant for Rich, Mario and Jeff. And again I was struck by the way it felt so thoroughly like New York—its buzz, its excitement, the way the room nearly vibrates with everyone coming and going.
This city is a very different place in 2017 than it was in 1959, but the original Four Seasons and The Grill both tell their own version of a New York story. Together they serve as a reminder that for every loss this city suffers there is, almost always, a gain. You might not be able to eat a Scandinavian skillet steak as you could in 1960, but today you can have a spit-roast prime rib carved tableside, or excellent triple lamb chops with mint jelly presented like a little beehive. And, of course, there are some things that never change. Now as then, I cannot be in The Grill without feeling the magic of the things about to happen as the crowd gathers and the curtain rises. —As told to Jordana Rothman