The Grill’s menu has an oblique entry in the middle of the first page: “A Service of . . . Today’s Chilled Crustacean.” Says Mario Carbone: “What does it mean? Actually, nothing. I build triggers into the menu. I want to have a conversation with you about the langoustine that came from Scotland today or a beautiful prawn from Santa Barbara.” At the Grill, this little interaction and subsequent others are all part of the show.
Major Food Group—led by chefs Carbone and Rich Torrisi, and restaurateur Jeff Zalaznick—kicked off its ambitious reimagining of the old Four Seasons restaurant inside the Seagram Building with a raucous callback to midcentury-American fine dining. Within the landmarked Philip Johnson–designed room, waiters in Tom Ford suits entertain with table-side preparations. The conversation triggers, the old school design, the music, the food trolleys—they’re all meant to transport. “I’m trying to make you a character in this movie,” Carbone says.
The effort would be for naught if the cuisine weren’t equal to the glitz. It is. Start without any sort of theater, and order the crab cake atop a rich remoulade and covered in thin slices of golden brown potato. Then have the hulking duck press wheeled out to crush some bird bones to produce a deeply flavored jus poured over the top of delicate pasta, creating an almost ramen-like quality. The Grill’s star turn is the spit-roasted, table-side-carved prime rib with its salty, crackling crust and the jus made from brisket; it may be the platonic ideal of prime rib. End the night with a Baked Alaska set ablaze on the table, the pyrotechnics making the final scene of Carbone’s movie more Michael Bay than Martin Scorsese.