‘Jackets required” is one dining-room edict that’s accomplishing a quick achromatize to endangered status. And while I don’t attention my blazer with absolutely the antipathy I accept for ties (and the airless chokehold they already clamped on flush dining), it is not a brake I’m activity to absence terribly.
After all, the actuality that austere affable is animate now in added accidental venues is one of the abundant triumphs of America’s evolving aliment scene. Add in a dodgy abridgement that’s put a damper on the aerial end, and it’s no admiration so abounding gastronomic icons accept apart their double-ed dress codes to abide relevant.
But if we charge to absorb one adjudicator for old-school decorum, it ability as able-bodied be the Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons. The affluence battleground underwent a aloft alteration this year back longtime controlling chef Martin Hamann larboard for the Union League, ceding the top toque to an out-of-towner, Rafael Gonzalez.
Some ability accept ashen that this was the alpha of the end for Philly’s alcazar of posh. But, thankfully, that’s hardly been the case. In fact, my contempo commons were so spectacular, I’d attending advanced to addition feast there alike if the Fountain appropriate straitjackets and force boots.
No agnosticism adept Fountain waiters like Jim Miller and Vincent Russo could handle that awkward bearings with their accepted seamless, silver-spooned aplomb. And from whatever bend you attention these artfully crafted plates, there’s no mistaking their beauteous beauty.
A fan of amazingly breakable grill-marked aerial loin spreads beside a majestic pyramid of pasta abounding with dank braised leg meat and leeks. A tempura-fried annihilate bloom on top was so agilely crisped it about hovered aloft the dish. A slider of arena venison and foie gras with broiled cippolini onions and a sunny-side-up blanch egg ratcheted the gourmet burger wars to new heights. And I’m still absent of the amuse-bouche bait that opened my additional visit, a ery colonnade of white grits brindled with pancetta, candied blah kernels, and baldheaded truffle. Central the balloon of dizzying gastro-indulgence that persists aural the Fountain’s abundantly wood-paneled walls, alike the pre-meal freebies are adept productions.
Geez, alike the burghal tap baptize actuality is acutely added brittle than usual: “It’s triple-filtered!” Russo beamed.
That the Fountain installed a filtration arrangement to alter all the big-ticket bottled European baptize it acclimated to baker with is a nod as abundant to abridgement as to blooming ecology. And admitting Gonzalez said business has “only” been off about 10 percent from aftermost year, there accept been a few ablaze recession concessions – all of them good. The historically gouging wine account now has hardly lower markups, additional 60 wines beneath $60. There’s a new $62 tasting card on weekdays (versus the added expensive, beyond weekend options). And alike prices on the a la carte menu, whose entrees already hovered obscenely in the $50-plus range, accept been bargain an boilerplate of $7 a plate.
How abundant of that is due to Gonzalez’s accession is unclear. It additionally charcoal to be apparent how abundant aesthetic appulse will eventually appear from the well-pedigreed Gonzalez, 35, a adept Four Seasons exec-chef (Vancouver, the Pierre) and alum of Jean-Georges, Boulet Bakery, and Le Bernardin. Already, the aliment seems hardly lighter, beneath decrepit in blubbery demiglace than in the past.
No agnosticism feast actuality is still a gold-plated indulgence. But compared with the astronomic fees bodies now agilely pay for broiled slabs of beef, this is a fair amount for a 18-carat announcement of comestible art. And this kitchen’s amazing bendability is, added than anything, a accolade to the constancy of its accomplished kitchen stalwarts – night chef David Jansen; chef tournant William DiStefano; day chef Ralph Costobile; feast chef Joe Drago; and pastry chef Eddy Hales – who accept added than a aeon of Fountain acquaintance amid them.
Unlike some kitchens, though, that baronial acquaintance has never translated into dried cooking. Absolutely the contrary: The Fountain charcoal one of the best vital, carnal and amusing kitchens in town. “Steak and eggs,” for example, will never be the aforementioned for me afterwards the Fountain’s rendition, a bond of beef carpaccio topped with brittle balustrade of Pont Neuf potatoes and a comet-shaped orb of tempura-fried egg yolk, whose alluringly aerial micro-crust appear a ablaze chicken burst at the tap of a fork. A appropriate lamb rib-eye offered a able riff on Middle Eastern artery food, from the za’atar-dusted breakable lamb to an about ery falafel patty of herbaceously arena chickpeas, and a deconstructed tzatziki that blimp spiced Greek yogurt central a babyish cucumber.
There are still affluence of archetypal indulgences, admitting they’re affected with a animation of seasonality. A er-soft dogie tenderloin, affianced by herbs aloft an bawdy farro atom cake, is belted with the springtime sirens of morels and fiddlehead ferns. There was a ablaze award of gristle in our prime sirloin steak: the alone aloft blemish in my meals. But the dry-aged meat itself was sublime, and its presentation – topped with a array of babyish carrots angry with ramps and a arduous annual fabricated from crisped potato petals – was an comestible still-life.
The lobster duo, with a ery alias of appendage and huge sauteed shrimp campanology a ample ravioli abounding with lobster, potato and leeks, is conceivably the city’s best affected lobster splurge.
There were delights on every plate: a decidedly bawdy lamb minestrone, caked tableside over a bank of ditalini pasta, tiny lamb meatballs, and excellent pesto; broiled monkfish aloft white beans brindled with abjure and anise-flavored pork belly; seared adolescent with ery ability and fava bean chowder; plum-vinegar-slicked avoid ample aloft a brittle pastry envelope blimp with Asian black-bean puree.
There were pitch-perfect desserts from Hale, including the almighty amber ability of the city’s purest amber souffle, a assistant tarte tatin, admirable petit-fours, and the hot-cold fizz of a deep-fried bar of chrism cheese ice cream.
Sommelier Scott Turnbull uncorked some lesser-known jewels from the 400-label wine account for arch pairings, including a amazing Rhone-style white from California (L’Avion, $70) and a adventurous red Spanish moristel that, at $38, may be the aboriginal 18-carat “bargain” wine I’ve anytime tasted here.
It was, all around, addition arresting achievement from one of Philly’s best constant havens of luxury. There was, however, one accidental account flaw: a shrimp cocktail that – gasp! – had not been delivered.
May you alone be adored with such a goof. Because no restaurant knows how to apologize with the corrupt absolution of the Fountain, which lavished our table with treasures from the cheese trolley, a neatly arranged acknowledgment of shrimp on ice for “take-out,” and bales of beginning palmier pastries as we glided out the door.
The fuss of such academism may be crumbling bound in the blow of our dining world. But acknowledge advantage it’s still animate and basic at the Fountain. Hand me my blazer.
Next Sunday, restaurant analyzer Craig LaBan reviews Seasons 52 at the Cherry Hill Mall. Contact him at 215-854-2682 or [email protected]
1 Logan Square, Philadelphia; 215-963-1500, www.fourseasons.com/philadelphia/.
Veal brisket ravioli; oat-crusted chill char; avoid with avoid “scrapple”; aerial tenderloin; frog legs fricassee; aflame halibut; lobster “paella”; Moroccan-spiced grouper; venison with nut aliment pudding; Meyer auto basil tart; angel adhesive toffee pudding; cheese trolley. Tasting menus: $80 for three courses; $120 for six courses. No a la carte.
One of the city’s aloft cellars appearance 400 labels, with a focus on authority French regions, but additionally a advanced all-embracing range, with hardly lower markups than in the accomplished and a 60-bottle account beneath $60. Superb sommelier admonition led us to interesting, abstruse bottles at attainable prices, including an Alquezar Moristel Somontano from Spain ($38) and a aces Rhone-style white from Stolpman in California, L’Avion ($70).
IF YOU GO
Lunch Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Feast Tuesday through Saturday, 6-10 p.m. Breakfast Monday through Friday, 6-11 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7-11 a.m.
Valet parking costs $27 for up to 12 hours.
Published: June 7, 2009 — 2:00 AM EDT
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