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Four Twenty Five, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s gorgeous new Park Avenue restaurant, is more than a place for prime movers to feast on charred and marinated Jurgielewicz duck breast.
The jewel-box, modern-American eatery at 425 Park Avenue rides the crest of an ambitious East Midtown dining wave that includes reopened Casa Lever, David Burke’s Park Avenue Kitchen and soon-to-come new places from Michael White and Simon Kim.
Its magnificently appointed 14,000 square feet proclaim the iconic neighborhood’s phoenix-like rebirth after its pandemic “ghost town” days. Park Avenue is now Manhattan’s most fully-occupied commercial boulevard.
The restaurant is currently open only for dinner. When it starts offering lunch in a few weeks, it will surely be the place for Ken Griffin’s Citadel dealmakers in the offices above — and for New Yorkers who miss white tablecloths and trained waitstaff who don’t mumble inanities such as “How are those first bites tasting?”
Designed by architect Norman Foster, Four Twenty Five is the most exquisitely crafted dining venue of its kind since Philip Johnson’s nearby Four Seasons — now revived as The Grill and The Pool — which it hauntingly evokes without mimicking.
The 84-seat dining floor is supposedly inspired by the 1930s Art Deco ocean liner SS Normandie, and it floats like a mirage above the gleaming ground-floor lounge.
Walnut walls recall the Four Seasons Grill Room in its glory days. White fabric curtains magically evoke the Four Seasons’ rippling aluminum ones.
Plush, gray-and-burgundy banquettes shimmer beneath an elliptical, web-like chandelier of 231 circular light fixtures. The suspended installation looms over the room like a friendly UFO and brings the forty-foot-high ceiling closer to earth, making the soaring space feel intimate.
A contemporary open kitchen offsets the Mid-Twentieth Century surroundings. Vongerichten’s executive chef, Jonathan Benno, leads his troops behind a glass wall in a cheery tableau of stirring, slicing and pouring for all to see.
The a la carte dishes are mostly priced in the $20 to $50 range — vastly cheaper than the $288 prix-fixe tasting menu at the chef’s Columbus Circle flagship Jean-Georges. They’re just as good as at Jean-George based on my first two meals. They reflect the skills Benno displayed during his three-Michelin-starred reign under Thomas Keller at Per Se and his later gigs at three Italian places — Lincoln, Leonelli and Benno.
French-influenced dishes are accessible without being predictable. Most memorable were steamed black sea bass in a tingling, umami-rich broth tinted with lemongrass and kombu seaweed; pan-roasted steelhead trout that was at once delicate and richly satisfying; and juicy chicken breast coated in crumbs of black truffles.
But the place had to overcome a speed bump — or a seeds bump — before it could open.
The 425 Park Avenue tower’s developer, David W. Levinson, first signed up Eleven Madison Park wizard Daniel Humm to helm the restaurant, but Humm unexpectedly decided he wanted an all-vegan menu.
“It was a no-brainer not to have an all-vegan menu,” Levinson said at the time. The two men amicably agreed to part ways in 2022.
Levinson then signed Vongerichten to create a menu with an emphasis on “sustainability” to complement the environmentally-attuned tower’s green ethos.
With its rare beauty, high comfort level and refreshingly creative menu, Four Twenty Five should sustain Park Avenue appetites for a long time to come.