Major Food Group has been on a tear in recent years in the New York dining scene. They have never been shy about opening up the next opulent restaurant that wows the crowd, whether it is the retro Italian-American Carbone, the turbo-charged bistro Dirty French or, most recently, the meat showstopper The Grill inside the iconic Four Seasons space. While my experience at these restaurants varied in terms of the quality of food, there is no question that each place has its unique character, charm and color. Therefore, I was somewhat surprised to see a sedated dining room at The Pool, the second project of MFG inside the Four Seasons featuring mostly seafood dishes. While the neighboring The Grill has all you need in terms of the decadence of old-school New York, whether in the presentation of its dishes and the staffs or the overall lively atmosphere with diners who look like they are celebrating something big like closing a billion-dollar M&A deal, it was hard to describe what The Pool was supposed to represent, despite having an absolutely gorgeous space with the actual mini-pool in the center. Still, My wife Jun and I certainly wouldn’t have minded so long as the food at the restaurant was fantastic; overall, though, The Pool’s dishes, while certainly not bad, didn’t seem to carry the same energy or, shall I say, “swag” that other MFG restaurants so capably displayed.
As with all other MFG establishments, the food at The Pool is expensive, which was tolerable so long as the dishes were worth the price tag. Therefore, I didn’t understand why the restaurant was charging $28 per six pieces of oysters with green tomato and wasabi that I found nothing special about. The sea urchin toast with apple and spicy mustard was much better, although at the tiny portions, I expected to get at least four (instead of two) pieces for $24. By far the best dish of our visit was Dungeness crab rice. Jun and I marveled at the rich complexity of the flavor of this dish, and due to the somewhat modest portion, would’ve ordered another one in a heartbeat if not for the $36 price tag. Our experiences with appetizers were mixed, but MFG restaurants have always been known for putting together outrageous (in a good way) large dishes so we were hoping to find something more interesting in the main dishes. Well, the Maine lobster with orange and coconut vinaigrette (at a hefty $48 price tag) was not only too small for sharing but the overall dish was more or less forgettable; Jun and I have certainly had bigger (and more satisfying) lobsters elsewhere.
I had a pretty high hope for the turbot (we shared the one and a half pound portion, which is just enough for two people, with a side of spinach), but once we started digging in, Jun had some harsh words about it. My wife is particularly sensitive about the freshness of seafood, and she thought the turbot was simply not fresh, and observed it should’ve been cooked more crisply. I didn’t think the fish was that bad to be honest, but I do concede that my wife is more discerning in taste than I am (even though we are both in general easygoing when it comes to restaurant dishes). For dessert, we shared the made-to-order frozen yogurt with interesting seasonal toppings that you can add onto, from plum marmalade to strawberry crumble to yuzu curd to tomato honey. It was a playful dish that was also quite delicious and gave us a sense of relief after the mixed experiences on the savory side.
Compared to The Grill, reservations at The Pool do seem to be a lot easier to secure on the website, although the dining space got somewhat packed in the course of our meal. I already noted my observation about the atmosphere of the dining space above. There is a full bar with sea-themed cocktail selections (a lot of them with an actual fruit like mango or watermelon attached to or inside the cocktail glass as a prop) that weren’t too bad. Out of the growing portfolio of MFG, The Pool was one of the more underwhelming (but by no means bad) experiences. If you have a craving for some seafood (and the budget to satisfy that craving at an upscale place), it is not a bad place to consider; I will stop short of declaring it the next great seafood destination in the Big Apple.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
- Value: 6.5/10
Address: 99 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022
Telephone: (212) 375-9001