Times critic Pete Wells found in his two-star review of Major Food Group’s seafood restaurant in the former Four Seasons that “something was missing” at The Pool — in part due to flaws in the architecture of the historic space.
Turns out that the crew built parts of The Pool Lounge, the bar overlooking the famous main dining room, without the right permits from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It’s one of the only landmarked interiors in the city, meaning landlord Aby Rosen needs permission from the city for any changes.
Rosen and RFR Holding, the owner of the Seagram Building, have since filed applications for the bar in the room, as well as cotton coverings on the wall of the room and the reception desk in the lobby of the building. RFR told the Times in a statement that they thought the reception desk and the bar were furniture and thus not applicable to the landmark rules.
Still, those missteps perturbed Wells, particularly in the elevated Pool Lounge, he writes:
Now the mezzanine looks as if it had been moved on a trailer from some other building and attached with thumbtacks. Its blue color scheme and rounded, Deco-inspired furniture fight with what is left of Johnson’s right angles and natural tones. When the lounge is full, it’s a distraction. When it’s half-empty, as it often seems to be, it looms like a stage set waiting for the actors to show up. Either way, it sucks energy from the restaurant, which needs all it can get.
The result of other architectural changes, such as the absence of planters with trees, is that The Pool lacks the the animation that the room needs, Wells adds.
Wells did manage to review the food eventually also: The critic found that chef Rich Torrisi’s ingredients were “spectacular,” especially prawns, sea scallop, mackerel, and sea urchin, the last of which made Wells’ eyes roll back in his head. Pastry chef Stephanie Prida’s desserts, like a creme brulee with shaved plums and almond ice cream, also impressed the critic.
But overall, The Pool felt too reserved to work entirely, he writes. “The restaurant needs something, because at these prices, what might pass for restraint and simplicity can start to seem like a sophisticated heist.” Two stars.