Family Powerlunch at The Four Seasons, Or “I Can’t Believe Food That Mediocre Costs That Much!”

My parents and brother came in to town last night because it’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow (yikes! I better get a card) and, of course, to see my new apartment. We ate last night at Fresco’s which was decent and mostly tasty, but not worth blogging about since I blogged about it last time we were there. Actually last night’s dinner was just ok. I think I drank a little too much wine, which is always dangerous with my parents. I began lambasting them on political issues. My dad responded, “It’s a free country.”

Today mom called in the morning and told me to dress sharp because we were going to The Four Seasons for lunch. Now mom and dad had been there once before and had a fulfilling meal which, for them, means they saw their fair share of celebrities. Mario Cuomo, for example. Nowadays I pray that we won’t see celebrities when we go out because the process is so embarassing. (Case in point.) Alas, I had nothing to worry about—it may be summer, but inside the Four Seasons it was winter. Meaning: it was dead.


Outside the Four Seasons, it was pouring:


We came inside with wet umbrellas and checked them with the coat check. We made our way up a flight of stairs and we were greeted by a genial host. The space in the Four Seasons is two-tiered: the ground level is for VIPs, and the upper level is for people who like looking at VIPs. However, because it was so dead in there today we were seated in the VIP section.

This meant little for my brother and I, who were facing a wall. Mom and dad faced inward and scanned the room for familiar faces. There were none.

“Is that John Kerry’s daughter?” I offered, twisting my neck 180 degrees.

“No,” said my dad.

“Ok,” I said, twisting back. “I give up.”

The place was very woody and reminded me of a wing of a museum not often visited: stuffy, quaint. Over the bar was a giant wooden mobile that was pretty cool. Mom and dad sipped wine and enjoyed the ambience.


Michael and I attempted to broker a deal. He was all smiles, I was dead serious:


As you can see in the picture, I am holding a menu. When I finally set upon the task of reading its contents, my head unleashed itself and spun a full 360 degrees. My God! The prices!

“Holy expletive!” I said. “It’s so expensive!”

“Tell your mother,” grumbled my dad.

“Oh Brad stop,” she replied. “You won’t be complaining if a celebrity walks in.”

No celebrity walked in. And to be honest, it didn’t seem very likely they would. Instead, rich white men walked in with other rich white men and sat at tables with leather-bound books in front of them, calculators and Blackberries. Serious conversations ensued. I felt like I was back in law school.

As for the menu, I settled on what I thought sounded like tasty dishes. First, prosciutto and melon:


It may look tasty, but considering how much it cost and how little flavor there was it wasn’t tasty: it was wasty. That’s the word to be coined for The Four Seasons: wasty food.

Like this $42 lobster salad. You heard me right. $42:


The rare exception was my dad’s tomato and mozzarella salad which dad photographed poorly:


Pretty presentation, indeed. But worth $25? I don’t think so.

Sometimes food IS worth that much money. William Grimes wrote a great piece a few months ago in the New York Times justifying the expense of great sums for great food. I agree—great food is worth great moolah. Great food can be the greatest of spiritual drugs—some forkfuls are worth weeks in Maui or years of therapy. But The Four Seasons is no such place. The Four Seasons is an outrage–a facade of fine dining with a heftier pricetag. Our lunch for four at The Four Seasons cost more than dinner for two at Charlie Trotter’s. As we all know, I was less than keen on my Charlie Trotter’s meal, but I’d sell my soul to Charlie Trotter to avoid another meal at The Four Seasons. At least Charlie has integrity: I’ll take my powerlunches in Chicago from now on, thank you.

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