Written by Marilyn Hansen with M.J. Boyer
From the moment you step through the revolving doors, the sheer luxury of the place is evident: discreet lighting, soft pink and green colors, lush carpeting and a soaring three-story ceiling. You settle comfortably into a deep, damask banquette or pink upholstered chair. You might just as well enjoy this sumptuous world; it comes with a cost, to be sure. However there are prix fixe menus at lunch and dinner that are appealingly priced.
Are you coming in for lunch before a matinee? Complementing the a la carte menu, the prix fixe lunch, regular or vegetarian ($25.00 per person), offers your choice of any combination of three courses: appetizer, soup, entree, plus dessert and coffee or tea. At dinner too, besides the a la carte menu, the prix fixe menu, regular or vegetarian, is available at $45.00 per person. It consists of four courses: appetizer, soup, Peking duck, entree and dessert, coffee or tea.
We can't critique everything on the menu, so I'd like to describe several dishes that I've enjoyed from each course. Appetizers: Shanghai spring roll is crisp, crunchy and chockful of shrimp and chicken. Crispy, tangy beef, thin strips of tender beef flavored with hot chile and soy is my favorite. Tangy, spicy-hot shrimp thin-skin won tons are very good, too. Soup: Soups are delicious and soothing, each is served in a miniature candle-lit tureen. Recommended: vegetarian hot and sour, filled with tofu, wood ear mushrooms and more; fisherman's delight, a clear fish broth with watercress and chunks of sea bass, is refined, light: bean curd and vegetable, restorative with fresh tofu and watercress in a clear broth.
Peking Duck: Many are those who crave this specialty, including me! Mr. K's presents a great Peking Duck, both as a separate appetizer course on the prix fixe dinner, and in its own splendor as entree, $37.95, on the a la carte dinner menu. Ask for it with the scallions, they are zestier than the cucumber variation.
Entrees: With so many to choose from, it helps to first decide if you want chicken, meat, seafood or vegetarian. The firecracker fish, chunks of fish filet in a spicy hot Szechuan sauce, is good - you can also have the same preparation with lobster or prawns (prawns being my favorite). Basil-ginger chicken, boneless strips of chicken sauteed then finished with a wine, soy and fresh basil leaf-chicken broth sauce, tasty, not too spicy. Lemon chicken is a classic, here the breast of chicken is dipped in ground water chestnuts, crisply fried, sliced and served in a delicate lemon sauce. In a word, elegant.
For vegetarians, the vegetarian's treasure is a truly savory dish with winter mushrooms and a variety of flavored tofu in a soy-sherry sauce. Love eggplant, crave garlic? Eggplant in garlic sauce is vibrant with flavor boasting fresh ginger, scallions and lots of garlic! As a cook myself, I like to tailor the flavor of dishes to my own taste. So I ask for the decanters of rice vinegar and soy sauce, a little hot chile paste and mustard to judiciously play around with pleasing my own palate.
Something sweet: a surprise at Me. K's is the artful French pastries and seasonal fresh fruits offered. I liked the lemon tart best. Of course, I always do. The chocolate cheesecake was delicious. Tea is served in silver pots on top of candle warmers. Coffee is brewed at the table in a two-tiered vacuum process, producing a very mellow brew.
Mr. K's is definitely a place to come to when you have the time to enjoy the ambiance, the food and its presentation, and the exceptional service. Manager John Fong notes that increasingly at Mr. K's, patrons are coming in for leisurely dining after the theatre.
Hours: Mr. K's is open every day. Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Dinner: Monday-Friday, 3:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. Lunch: Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Dinner: Saturday and Sunday, 3:00 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
It is a splendid experience to enter the spacious Pool Room with its soaring ceiling and central focal point of the square, raised white marble edged pool, at each corner of which is a tree of the season, The four Seasons signature. The classic Philip Johnson design has withstood the test of time; it is 39 years since the restaurant first opened in 1959. The restaurant has the distinction of being the only Manhattan restaurant designated an architectural landmark by the landmark Commission. Your hosts are co-owners Julian Niccolini and Alex Von Bidder. The kitchen is under the direction of Chef Christian Albin with Pastry Chef Patrick Lemble and Sous Chefs, Fred Mero and Pecko Zantilaveevan.
Get comfortable with a well-made cocktail or glass of wine - many selections are available by the glass. The Four Seasons has an impressive wine list with many notable vintages. If you are in doubt about your choice, ask for assistance and you will be provided with excellent advice. The Pre-Theatre Menu has three courses: appetizer, main course and dessert for forty-five dollars, tax and gratuity are extra. This specially priced menu is available from 5:00 p.m.-6:15 p.m., diners must be seated at that time.
Seafood is always well prepared at The Four Seasons and on the pre-theatre appetizer list are grilled baby octopus salad with red pepper marmalade, tuna tartare, ginger-yuzu vinaigrette and oysters, littleneck or cherrystone clams. Do you want to start with a little pasta? Your answer is the smoked chicken, prosciutto and sage ravioli. It may be another on the day you come, as the menu changes frequently, the entire menu seasonally.
Main course listings begin with a risotto of the day - it might be pesto risotto with grilled scallops and balsamic vinegar, delicious; seafood, watercress and saffron risotto or any one of additional preparations. Other entrees are roasted monkfish, soft polenta, wild mushrooms and mushroom broth; crisp farmhouse duck, quince compote; crabmeat cakes with mustard sauce. Crabmeat cakes are the rage these days, a full spectrum of restaurants are offering them to the delight of crab cake aficionados! There is beef, too, medallions of beef, black truffle mashed potatoes and red wine sauce. Every dish is beautifully garnished and plated. The whole menu changes with each season; winter, spring, summer and fall.
For dessert you might want to have the Pear William Souffle, flavored with that unique fruit liqueur - if so, you'll have to tell your waiter at the beginning of the meal, allowing ample time to make your curtain. Additional desserts include a smooth, dark, Valrona chocolate tart; Apple Cinnamon Tart, and Lemon Semifreddo. If you have time, you might enjoy an after dinner drink with your coffee.
Hours: The Four Seasons is open Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. Lunch: Monday-Friday: 12:00 p.m.-2:15 p.m. Dinner: Monday-Thursday: 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. Dinner: Friday and Saturday: 5:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. Pre-Fixe Dinner: Monday-Saturday, diners must be seated between 5:00 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.