After more than a year of seasonal, hyper local, vegetable-driven cuisine, it was about damn time I ventured out of the norm and found myself a giant, no-frills, juicy steak. While associated places like Bobo’s or, more recently, Alexander’s Steakhouse with the idea of a steakhouse, my hunger for meat led me to an unlikely location: Seasons Restaurant at the Four Seasons.
Honestly, because Seasons isn’t situated on the ground floor I didn’t even realize there was a notable restaurant in this hotel. But what the fourth (or possibly fifth) floor has that the street lacks is a beautiful view of the city. Sure, it’s not the entire skyline hitting the bay, but it’s still impressive. And, having recently changed the menu’s concept from what I like to refer to as “seasonal power lunch” cuisine to one found in a more traditional steakhouse, I was excited to see if the transition was successful.
To begin, the cocktails are delicious, and with such a lengthy selection you’re sure to find something to quench your thirst. With few Union Square options for killer cocktails (save Gitane, Clock Bar, and Fifth Floor), stopping by the bar at Seasons for a quick refreshment in the middle of a hectic day of shopping is ideal.
In terms of cuisine, the focus may have changed but there is still a strong sense of upscale seasonality that doesn’t come in the form of steak on the menu. In fact, the majority of the menu is steak-less. Take the appetizers for example: Seared Foie Gras “Pot-au-Feu” with roasted red flame grapes, or Seared Scallops with Asian pear, parsnip, chanterelle, warm pancetta vinaigrette, and young cress. While the foie is elegantly presented and could be appreciated for its “comfort food” twist on a classic dish, it would be more successful if less emphasis was placed on the accompaniments and more on the foie itself. On the other hand, the scallops were perfectly cooked and nicely offset by the crisps of parsnip. The creativity and composition of this dish didn’t blow me away, but it was solid and tasted just like scallops should taste. Similarly, the Baby Organic Greens and Sweet Gem Lettuce Salad (with a wonderfully assertive white anchovy dressing) consumed on later occasion are both nicely composed and flavorful, but again not entirely memorable.
The beautifully cooked Loup de Mer followed, accompanied by one of the highlights of the meal: the Rancho Gordo beans. While beans may seem insignificant to some, they were perfectly seasoned, not cooked into mush, and are the cornerstone of this dish. But again, despite being a solid entrée it didn’t really leave a lasting impression.
The diversity of dishes found on Seasons’ menu makes it clear that the kitchen is trying to cater to a wide variety of tastes and avoid being pigeonholed into one narrow category of cuisine. However, it was the most cliché item on the menu, the steak, that left the deepest impression. The 28-Day Dry Aged Ribeye ($48) was nothing short of velvety meat butter encased in caramelized complex sugars and dripping with mouthwatering, natural juices. At the time I described it as, “knock-me-on-my-ass good,” and even as leftovers the following night, this steak had my friend on the verge of tears – tears of pure happiness. It was this meat, and this meat alone, that drove me back and left me equally impressed just a few weeks later.
That said, the sauces were a different story. The bordelaise was uninteresting and somewhat bland; the romesco was decent but didn’t go with the meat (note: the most awe-inspiring romesco is found at NOPA); the chimichurri was too cold and needed a touch more garlic; the green peppercorn tasted a bit like commercial soy sauce and was my least favorite. Of all five options, the only really appealing sauce was the hollandaise with freshly shaved horseradish and thyme –a wonderful complement to the meat.
Similarly, the sides (the black truffle, hazelnut and parmesan Spätzle, and the Braised Greens with 63⁰ hen egg) were too overcooked to thoroughly enjoy. While I would avoid the greens on any future visits, had the Spätzle been cooked correctly it probably would’ve been quite tasty, although quite filling alongside an 18 oz. ribeye.
Finally, dessert was decadent, flashy, and delicious. Although selections are somewhat traditional (Dark Chocolate Mousse with salty caramel ice cream and a Lemon Raspberry Tart made of lemon curd, raspberry gelée, and crème fraiche ice cream aren’t revolutionary), they were exquisitely executed. It’s this type of execution that reminded me that classic desserts are labeled “classic” for a reason.
When the extremely attentive service and broad wine list are factored in, the question remains: would I go back or recommend it to friends? For a full meal? Probably not. If I wanted to pay those kind of prices, I would probably opt for something more consistent. For drinks and dessert? If I’m in the area, sure. For steak? Seeing as how I’ve already made a return trip for that ribeye, I’m inclined to say absolutely. It appears that marketing Seasons as a steakhouse seems to have been the right move because, while many other restaurants can do their seasonally-driven menu equally well, few can boast such an amazing steak.
757 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103