In May, the evil geniuses of Major Food Group — chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, and their business partner Jeff Zalaznick — opened The Grill, a Manhattan restaurant in what was once home to the Grill Room of the iconic Four Seasons.
Refresher: The Four Seasons, that famous bastion of old New York, power lunches, and midcentury decor, closed in 2016. It sent shockwaves through American fine dining (even if many wouldn’t exactly miss it). Even more major was the news that the team behind bonafide smash hit restaurants Carbone, Torrisi Italian Specialties, and Parm, were taking over the space. The Major Food Group brought to the Four Seasons their reputation for extraordinary theatricality, a love of tableside service, and exceptionally high prices.
To quote Eater editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt’s opening writeup: “It has all the elements of the best kind of restaurant story: a historic space (with an interior landmark to boot), a landlord you love to hate, a spurned (and criminal) restaurateur being shown the door, young chefs on a hot streak with ego and ambition to spare, a lawsuit over the name, $92 lobster Newberg, desserts set on fire tableside, and a chef’s hat that deserves its own Twitter feed. In an age where a quinoa automat and a salad-in-a-jar startup are making headlines, this is what I live for.”
But would it work?
A few months in, it seems like the answer is yes. Here now, what the critics are saying about The Grill. And stay tuned for updates — we’ll incorporate more reviews as they trickle in.
The First Four-Star NYC Restaurant of the Year News
In his Eater NY review, critic Ryan Sutton awards the restaurant the maximum four stars, the first restaurant to receive the perfect rating this year and the rare a la carte menu to ever achieve the distinction. Sutton especially loves the “spectacular” mushroom omelette and caviar vichyssoise, as well as the honey mustard duck, which he says “might be the city’s best canard.”
Sutton raves about the service: “A theme restaurant for the wealthy, but one that puts everyone under a spell that they belong here, on this stage, where it’s always 1950s Manhattan, rain or shine.” Sutton goes on to argue that The Grill is “gastro escapism in these Trumpian times, a restaurant that whisks you back to when JFK was president, to a time when the United States, not Germany or France, was the leader of the free world, to a time when people didn’t really wonder whether California does the best avo toast.”
The Best New Restaurant In the Country News
Eater’s roving restaurant editor Bill Addison unveiled his picks for this year’s best new restaurants in America in late July. The Grill earned its spot on the list of 12, with Addison declaring the pasta a la presse, in which pieces of various roast birds are sent through a duck press and the juices become a sauce for egg noodles, the restaurant’s “defining dish.” Addison describes the restaurant as “a literal spectacle: servers in $6,000 uniforms designed by Tom Ford; Richard Lippold’s timeless sculpture of brass rods, levitating over the square bar like magical organ pipes in a Harry Potter flick; trolleys (some costing $10,000) from which ebullient staffers slice prime rib, flip omelets tableside, and merge cherries jubilee and peach Melba in a flambeed finale.” He concludes that MFG has succeeded in restoring the Four Seasons space to its “its theatrical, continental, midcentury heyday.”
The A+ Celebrity Sightings News
Time Out New York’s five star (out of five) review sets the scene: “tuxedo-clad waiters still wheel $10,000 silver-domed service trolleys to tables populated with Jerry Seinfeld, Gwyneth Paltrow and Regis Philbin.” Regis. Freaking. Philbin.
The Watch Out for Unchecked Nostalgia News
In more a think piece than restaurant review, Joshua David Stein in the Village Voice questions the celebration of midcentury culture at the heart of the Four Seasons reboot. He points out, “one needn’t be a historian to realize that the very era to which the Grill pledges allegiance and pays homage is one premised on the supremacy of the white man.” He rightfully suggests that it would highly unlikely for anyone but a white male chef to open a restaurant based on such nostalgia, “and the reason is because the American chophouses of mid-century New York only let a certain type of person through the (front) door.” Stein also questions the dining public for their adoration: “That we still yearn to experience that world at places like the Grill — to Hoover up all the privilege of that era while deluding ourselves that we are not also condoning the weaponized power on which it relies — shows we still just don’t get it.”
The Ultimate Prime Rib News
Host of The Meat Show Nick Solares raves about The Grill’s signature prime rib as having “a really profound beefiness to it,” and calls it “American exceptionalism on a plate.”
The Potential Institution Status News
In a Tables for Two writeup in the New Yorker, Nicolas Niarchos finds that the new Grill “feels darker and more polished” than the original Four Seasons grill room. He asserts that the “supreme fiction of the old Four Seasons restaurant was that it would last forever.” With food he describes as “undeniably delicious,” Niarchos wagers that “[e]ven nostalgists will agree that the new iteration has institutional potential.”
The Better Than the Four Seasons News
New York Times critic Pete Wells begins his August review by recounting a disastrous meal at the Four Seasons of 2013. Fortunately for Wells, he had a better time at 2017’s the Grill. Although “the preposterous expense” remains intact, the new restaurant has none of the original’s failings, according to the critic. Instead, it is “confident, theatrical, retro, unsentimental, sharp and New Yorky.”
Wells goes on to devote a full seven paragraphs to the dishes that are “among the most delicious things [he’s] eaten this year,” including “spectacularly good guinea hen” and honey-mustard duck breast that is “dry aged for a month until it is supernaturally tender.” He gives the Grill just three stars because Major Food Group’s “postmodern approach to modernism leads to some self-conscious nonsense,” like a buffet that is a “buffet in name only” and some “pointless” tableside theatrics. Plus, Wells writes, some dishes were “merely very, very good.”
The Everything Great About New York News
Brett Martin waxes nostalgic in GQ. His parents ate at the Four Seasons in the ’60s, and again in the ’80s. Martin himself visited in the ’90s, and the new iteration of the Four Seasons evokes nostalgia for the New York of these decades. In fact, Martin posits, the Grill and the Pool lead a genre he dubs “the New Nostalgia: a notable pendulum swing back toward the traditional rituals and comforts of fine dining.”
Sure, the prices are high, but in these spaces — “monuments to conspicuous wealth and luxury” — they’re worth it. "[Major Food Group] may glorify an old-fashioned, elitist clubbiness (not to say cultivate a new-fashioned douchiness), but there’s never any doubt that Torrisi and Carbone are real chefs or that they’re working,” Martin writes. Ultimately, the Grill, “a menu historian’s fever dream,” is “everything great about New York.” This, despite the fact that it’s the the only restaurant Martin’s been to this year at which he “seriously worried that Trump might show up.”
The Grill’s a Thrill News
In his August review, longtime New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo aptly points out that the Grill was “Manhattan’s most eagerly anticipated new eatery in eons.” Cuozzo’s a fan. His lede proclaims “The Grill’s a thrill,” and he goes on to explain that while both lovers and haters of the original Four Seasons might worry, “the Grill’s new identity will win over doubters on both sides.” When it comes to food, Cuozzo agrees with the general consensus that the prime rib “is a superstar,” and calls the blue crab gumbo “soul-satisying.” His one quibble seems to be with service: “[A]t no time in a restaurant this classy should waiters interrupt patrons mid-bite to ask, “How are you enjoying the flavors?” If we wanted to field childish questions, we’d head to Chuck E. Cheese’s, where the burgers are way cheaper.”
The Problem Is the Price News
The headline for New York Magazine critic Adam Platt’s review, filed just before the end of July, sums up his case: “The New Version of the Four Seasons’ Grill Room Is Worth a Visit, If Someone Else Is Paying.”
In his two-star (out of five) review, Platt explains that, “[i]n accordance with midtown (and Major Food Group) tradition, some of the prices here border on the insane ($26 for the misbegotten frittata, $98 for the lobster Newburg).” While he does find some of the dishes worth it, he also finds some of the throwback dishes “feel strained” and some feel “entirely forgettable.”
Sutton doesn’t find the price a deterrent: “You will still spend a ton of money here. But now, you will eat well.” And his kicker: “May we all be rich enough to eat here more
• The Grill Is the City’s Only Four-Star Ode to the Past [ENY]
• The 12 Best New Restaurants in America [E]
• The New Version of the Four Seasons’ Grill Room Is Worth a Visit, If Someone Else Is Paying [NYM]
• The Grill Is Confident, Theatrical, Sharp and New Yorky [NYT]
• The Return of the Power Restaurant [GQ]