Monday, March 28, 2011

The Four Seasons

The lobster bisque
Classic food is classic for a reason.  While perhaps less intriguing, it can be reliably sublime.  Add giant endless tall sprays of flowers amidst wood paneling and banquettes, and a server who kisses your hand when you leave, you could only have the Four Seasons, which has been delivering such classics  for fifty years here in Philadelphia.

I received the invitation through the Four Seasons' email list -- $50 for three courses (and what turned out to be several amuse bouche's) and a champagne toast, in celebration of their fifty years.  I stayed on the wait list for several weeks, before receiving a kind call from the maitre d'hotel that I had made it into the dinner.  Was I excited?  Having never had Beef Wellington or Baked Alaska, why yes, yes I was.

I am tempted to say that the tarragon, purple potato and plenty of lump lobster meat made the bisque, but in reality, it was the servers' gently pouring the bisque into our bowls, on top of the solid ingredients, that made it special.  Similarly, the tenderloin of Beef Wellington did melt in my mouth, aided by the strong but nuanced red wine sauce.  But what stood out was how the tiny vegetables were each delicately carved.  The grouper, pictured at left, was topped with a medley of spinach, golden raisins, carrots and, of course, preserved kumquat.

I probably don't need to tell you that my Sidecar, served with the classic sugar rim, was amazing.  It's precisely this kind of place that can make a perfect Sidecar.

But the Baked Alaska -- several hosts were carrying around the larger flaming volcanic version -- was classically fun.  A meringue exterior insulates ice cream from melting.  The textures are appealing and the ice cream refreshing.

Was the food great?  Of course it was.  But what makes the Four Seasons special is its consistent priority on service and reliability.  Whether it's the maitre d' personally introducing himself to me, or how, when I used to walk to work every day past it, the door man would go out of his way to say hello, the Four Seasons remembers what great manners and service mean.  The excellent food is superfluous.

The Four Seasons is located at 18th and the Parkway, Philadelphia,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can agree more on every point! Bravo to the Four Seasons on a job well done.