Hey folks -
Since some of you gave some advice prior to our recent meal at the Pool Room of the Four Seasons, I thought I'd give you a quick review.
Went with my wife last Sat evening to celebrate our 2nd anniversary ... the only other time we had been there was three years ago when I surprised her after a play by taking her to the restaurant and to a great table next to the pool and proposing ... needless to say that neither of us remember that meal too well. One of the only times in my life I've spent that much for dinner and been completely unable to remember a week later what I'd ordered or how it tasted.
Anyway, short version: Very good food (but not quite great), fantastic old-school service from a staff that cares about making special occasions extra special, and IMHO the greatest room in the city ...
Longer version: We arrived just in time for our 8pm reservation, and - as I had emailed ahead to let them know the nature of the occasion - we were led to a great table close to the pool. Cherry trees had just been put at the pool's four corners to mark the beginning of spring, and the metallic drapes were shimmering.
We started with a glass of champagne - Tattinger NV - while we abosrbed the room. A few staff stopped by the table to congratulate us on our anniversary - a nice touch. Our own captain was polite and efficient, kept a low profile, but was always there when we needed him ...
The bread basket was unusual but great. One doesn't normally expect warm croissants before dinner, but they were fantastic and perfectly buttery (but not greasy) and flaky.
I began with a warm app of grilled rabbit and morel sausage, served with wilted ramps. The rabbit (loin) was a bit on the dry and bland side but the morel sausage was wonderful and packed with flavour. I'd also forgotten how much I like ramps ... Cathy started with a special - Austrian (I think) speck with melon, which was very nice.
We then shared the farmhouse duck - on the recommendation of folks on this board ... it was lovely, carved tableside, and served with wild rice and a rich, sweet plum compote. Bits of the duck were a little dry, but the portions were so huge (1/2 a duck each!) that there was more than enough succulent meat to enjoy. The skin was perfect ... crispy and melty at the same time if you know what I mean. Why can't I do that at home?
Oh right, wine ... I think the biggest surprise for me was how many good values we found on the wine list. Our previous visit we'd had a Chalone pinot noir for around $100 ... nice but not worth the $ ... this time we did much better with a '99 Bonny Doon "Le Cigare Volant" which was lovely - and only $53 for a wine that sells for $32 at Zachys ... a very reasonable markup ... I was worried the wine would be too big for the duck but such was not the case.
Then the comps arrived - we hadn't ordered dessert yet when our captain arrived with plates for us, on the house ... One was a gorgeous rhubarb strudel which had been high on my list anyway ... wonderful, tart, early spring rhubarb in phylo, with cardomom ice cream. Great stuff. The other dessert they brought us - one that I never would have ordered - was the mocha parfait. It was kind of an amalgom of a bombe, a frozen parfait, and a tartuffo. Served in a whiskey sauce with bits of hazelnut and chocolate covered cherries (reminded me of Glossett Raisins if there are any Canadians reading this!) and was really nice.
After dessert our captain was back again asking that we let him buy us a drink. I had a grappa, and our captain relaxed a bit, wanting to know about the details of our last visit. We asked and learned about him and his family and then he gave us his card so that we could let him know the next time we're coming back. He also offered some good advice, pointing at the balcony tables ... "if you come back and they try to seat you in Siberia ... just refuse. Just refuse."
All in all a lovely evening. Total tab was $225 before the tip ... would have been more if we'd paid for the desserts and the appetizers, naturally, but I saw more than a few comps heading to tables celebrating birthdays, etc ... sometimes flutes of champagne, sometimes huge towers of cotton candy (with a birthday candle poking out the top) and sometimes both.
A final thought ... isn't it nice when a restaurant makes your special occasion feel really special? We celebrated our first anniversary at Eleven Madison ... it was a very nice room, very nice food, and mostly good service, but the only time anyone acknowledged our occasion was when the manager/sommelier was at our table chatting with ... we'd offered him a taste of the '88 Rubicon we'd brought with us ... and his acknowledgement was to point out all the other tables celebrating anniversaries in the restaurant that night. I think he was just trying to brag about how many people choose to spend special events at his restaurant, but it sort of made us feel like we were just another table to them - another anniversary notch on their belt ... And I'm saying this as a guy who is generally blown away by what Danny Meyer does with restaurants.
But back to the Four Seasons: Is there better food in the city? Of course. A more romantic room? If there is I haven't been there yet. This place is definitely something greater than the sum of its parts and is worth the trip for the whole package ...