- scene: Legendary 80's opulence updated for the selfie-taking generation
- sip: Sip Sip Sip until you are numb enough to get the bill
- savor: Pasta A La Presse; Dover Sole; Prime Rib; mashed potatoes
- sit: With your hubby for a special night out; With co-workers to celebrate a big deal; With friends from out of town, or your parents.
- spend: $$$$
- address: 99 East 52nd Street
- phone number: 212 375 9001
- website: www.thegrillnewyork.com
Ugh, it would be very easy to hate the Grill. A staunch loyalty to the disappearing Manhattan of yore, a predisposition towards hating obnoxious/elitst reservation systems, an aversion to hype and an allergy to pretense are all possible justifications towards a prejudiced attitude towards The Grill. However, as it turns it out, it is very, very easy to love The Grill.
The Grill is like your friend’s new girlfriend who moves herself right into the home the ex built for them and insists on “freshening up;” at first you dismiss her out of loyalty to the ex and then you realize that the new girlfriend is really lovely and has great taste and makes your friend really happy.
There is nothing under the radar about a Major Food Group opening (they are the people that act like they invented vodka sauce and bagels, in case you forgot) and coupled with the landmarked venue of the old Four Seasons, The Grill is earnedly the most anticipated opening of the season. Reservations for mere mortals are taken over email, and require a credit card, and are often offered at the glamorous time of 530pm. All of this makes it a bit of a mission and commitement to dine at The Grill, but any inconvenience is forgotten when you arrive for your meal. (Note: you are able to eat and drink at the bar without a reservation.)
The doorman actually holds the door for guests, and the host stand is on the lower level, which helps to build anticipation as you ascend the stairs and come to see the legendary dancing curtains, the dramatic bar, and bustling scene of tuxedo-clad servers. The room maintains the same feeling as the original Four Seasons, which is a mix of corporate masculinity with a tiny bit of magic thrown in. The music was a bit surprising, jazz and blues standards with some lively tunes mixed in that kept us from feeling too shitty about eating at 530pm.
Our server was patient and answered all of our questions, of which we had several, since many dishes are old-school throwbacks and referenced only by name on the menu. The menu is set up similarly to a steak house, with many of the proteins arriving with little adornment, waiting to be mixed and matched with the many side dishes on offer. The room was heavily staffed and several managerial types had eyes on each table- we heard a lot of talk and directions given to servers, referencing each table by number.
We enjoyed every bite of food that we ate, starting with the bread basket. We might have approached the Grill with a bit of an attitude, but the food was much better than anticipated; nothing was overdone or fussy, and I was surprised by the NOLA slant to the menu. There is spectacle involved in the meal, but it is not gratuitous. The Pasta a la Presse is pressed tableside by a woman manning an antique press from 1901, created in Paris and found in NOLA. The Prime Rib is a whole show, arriving in a proper domed gueridon and carved into a large, juicy, meaty chunk right in front of your eyes. Opulent and showy, yes; satisfying and unforgettable, also yes.
Now about that bread; each table is served all three options, a, brioche, a soft, hot pretzel bread, and slices of a crusty rustic wheat, accompanied by scallion butter that tastes like it should be available at Sadelle’s, as it would be perfect as a shmear with smoked salmon. Life is too short to skip these carbs. Ditto with the Pasta a la Presse, which is is made from an assortment of game birds (duck, chicken, squab, hen) squeezed in the aforementioned press, resulting in a dark, rich, fragrant broth that is finished in the kitchen and served over pasta. The resulting dish is big on flavor but not overly heavy, making it pasta perfection.
The gumbo was refined but still summoned the jazzy flair of New Orleans, a true surprise and a starter worth sharing. My dover sole was elegant with a horseradish sauce, and the mashed potatoes with a pool of butter in the center were some of the best I ever had. Husband shockingly ordered the Spring Chicken a la Queen, and cleared his plate. The Filet Mignon Au Poivre sent our filet-adverse friends into a tizzy, questioning everything they thought they knew about steak and how tasty filet could be.The one disappointment was the crab cake, which sounded heavenly in description but failed to deliver on their promise in texture and taste.
Dessert was rich but not mind-blowing, much like the clientele. Although socialites and stars are the norm at The Grill, our night fell short in the sightings department, possibly due to our Early-Bird Special dining time. The Grill is a restaurant that demands you dress up, if for no other reason than dressing up is fun and the fabulous setting supports it, even if it still light out when you finish your meal. It might go without saying, but a meal at the Grill will be expensive, so be prepared, but it will also be dazzling.
For reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org