In Which Melina has a Posh Lunch
I promised Ma I'd write about my lunch last week at the Four Seasons Restaurant (my first time - this was a perk of my job) where people in New York come when they want to spend more money on lunch than anyone else thinks is even possible, they want to be part of the scene, but they don't really want the food to be that weird.
The Grill Room at the Four Seasons is decorated in tasteful black. The furniture is comfortable, yet understated. The chairs are low, and the tables are all in one big room, so that you can see who else is eating there the moment you walk in. This is not done by accident.
The maitre d' knows your name and your preferred table. With silent footsteps he ushers you to your rightful place, asking if you would like the glass of red wine before the meal again, or whether you would rather wait, as you did last time, and take the white.
Your co-diners are older businessmen. Perhaps 25% businesswomen or spouses. They all wear black suits. They all look like people you might have seen on the news once: congressmen, financiers, women with really great hair. They are so high-ranking that they don't have to rush through lunch - the office moves on their time. Usually there is someone famous around; often it is a Clinton. Sometimes you won't recognize him, but if he walks through and shakes hands with people at about four different tables, he is probably a politician.
The day that I went last week, there was also a big table of entertainment executives, clearly in a celebratory mood, passing around a hardbound copy of "Top 101 Celebrity Meltdowns" that they must have just produced. You could tell they were in entertainment because there were more women, and one of the women was even wearing a dark red suit (as opposed to a black one).
Here's what they bring you before your meal:
-A glass of water
-A bowl of mixed vegetables in ice water (this is actually a neat trick, because it keeps the vegetables very crispy, but let's face it, it's just radishes and broccoli in a tin bowl)
-One dinner roll (neither super fresh nor super stale)
The tuxedo-clad waiter, who slips silently around the restaurant, leans in close when taking your order, so that he can answer any pressing questions about the menu without disturbing your dining companions. Also so you can try to pronounce "Meuniere" without embarassing yourself.
Here's what I ordered:
Kabocha Pumpkin Bisque with Apple Fritters, $18, and
Roasted Sea Bass, Pumpkin Risotto, Porcini Mushrooms, $42.
Here's what else you can have:
Japanese Kobe Burger, $55. (Yes! A burger and fries for $55! One of my co-diners, one of hoi polloi, ordered this, and then was so intimidated he decided he had to try and eat it with a knife and fork!)
Or if you're on a diet:
Butter Lettuce, Bleu Cheese, Spicy Cashews, Sesame Dressing, $22.
or, if you're really going for gold:
Dover Sole Meuniere, $56.
Meuniere (I looked it up) means basically "sauteed in butter with some lemon." Why they are charging $56 dollars for this is beyond me, but I don't ask questions.
After the meal, if you don't want dessert (Apple Pie, Raisin, Armagnac-Pear Ice Cream) they will bring you a seasonal cookie tray. I had been told I was allowed to order dessert, but in spite of the indulgent "take the kids out to lunch" atmosphere prevailing at my table, I couldn't overcome my shyness. If nobody else was having, I couldn't bring myself to order the intriguing looking Poached Pear, Roasted Pecan Ice Cream, Milk Chocolate Pound Cake, let alone the (overreaching, methinks) Lemon-Ricotta Cheesecake, Rosemary, Glazed Grapes (all $14).
The table of entertainment executives celebrated with a gigantic communal dessert - a pile of cotton candy the size of a human torso sitting on a huge silver platter (it tilted slightly to one side). Yes, the Four Seasons has a cotton candy machine. (My boss, unimpressed, commented that she has seen them stick lighted candles in the cotton candy pile when it's someone's birthday)
After lunch ends, most tables (mine included) never see anything as unsightly as a check. The Four Seasons discreetly sends the check to the address of your choosing. Your office will handle it.