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An American Steakhouse with a California Perspective

Located on the fifth floor of the Four Seasons hotel, Seasons has been relaunched as an American steakhouse with a California perspective; gone are the heavy side dishes and the serious interiors. In its place: more refined entrées, lighter sides, and a contemporary décor of warm tans, rich woods and deep lapis.

British-born executive chef Jeremy Emmerson, who has been in the Four Seasons family for several years already, clearly has a passion for the artisanal and heirloom. (He also has been known to don red power underwear to get amped up for particularly high-pressure days…but we digress). His menu often names ingredients down to the actual farm or ranch of origin, perhaps a vestige of his year spent backpacking around the world in search of culinary inspiration. Emmerson and restaurant chef Amy Engberts seem to go out of their way to locate handcrafted products from obscure sources, such as Holly Springs raw goat milk cheese from southern Georgia, which is quite good.

The main dishes emphasize top-shelf selections of meats and fresh seafood, such as a hefty 14 oz. Kurobuta pork chop ($40), derived from US-raised Japanese black hogs. The vast majority of pork in this country has been raised lean, so taste, for the most part, been sacrificed on the lo-cal altar. But the rich marbling in this heritage breed makes for tender meat and a lush, exquisite flavor. Simply grilled (and don't think of ordering it well-done), it is served with a slick of cider-mustard reduction and roasted fingerling potatoes.

Another standout is the Colorado lamb chops ($42), which have a mouthwatering flavor so intense you won't know whether to swoon, sob, or check into a room upstairs. Again, quite a departure from Australian lamb, which though ubiquitous in this country, has been raised more for sweaters than for the table.

Seasons' signature dish is its six-dish, three-course tasting menu ($59), which matches separate platings of tuna tartare and beef tartare, Maine lobster and Colorado lamb, and two desserts with wine pairings ($29). Many hotel restaurants have tasting menus, but Seasons' is designed for diners with busy schedules and is relatively affordable. Masa's/ Hotel Vintage Court ($90), the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton ($96), and Prescott Hotel's Postrio ($80) also have six-course tastings, but they can get away with charging more -- arguably for the same quality food -- due to their celebrity chefs and foodie magazine awards.

Like many of its peers, Seasons boasts an extensive wine list, and Loire Valley native Romuald Toulon serves as an enthusiastic and friendly guide. Unfortunately, the restaurant's summer beer selection is limited; it is a pity that half of it seems to be devoted to national variations on the lager (Kronenbourg, Sapporo, Stella Artois, Heineken…). Its dessert menu tends to be more on the homey side, rather than the esoteric, especially compared with other hotel restaurants such as Campton Place, which, despite a string of recent departures, continues to stand out with innovative pastries.

Seasons is certainly suitable for a special occasion, but it's also the kind of place which manages to be classy without feeling stuffy: although the menu features refined dishes such as venison loin with celeriac and pomegranate reduction, it also offers root beer floats and delectable sides (such as the Swiss chard gratin) served in kitschy-but-homey miniature cast-iron skillets. Pianist Michael Udelson has even been known to playfully blend Porgy and Bess with lite jazz renditions of Metallica’s "Eye of the Beholder" (Tues through Sat 6 - 10pm; Fri and Sat till 11pm). So feel free to relax, enjoy the little surprises, and leave the tie at home -- red underwear optional.


Reservations Essential? Recommended.