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Pete Wells Awards One Baggage-Filled Star to the Four Seasons Reboot

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The Times critic dug the food but not co-owner Julian Niccolini’s history with women

Four Seasons Restaurant Gary He/Eater

Congratulations to all the rich and powerful folk who still feel comfortable spending exorbitant amounts of money at a restaurant owned by a man who pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman — turns out the food at the Four Seasons Restaurant reboot is “better than it has been in years,” says Times critic Pete Wells in his latest review.

In the one-star review, Wells reaches a conclusion that’s not so far from what New York’s critic Adam Platt decided earlier on Tuesday: Chef Diego Garcia is sending out stunning renditions of new seafood items and iconic Four Seasons dishes like roast duck, but the fresh menu isn’t enough to save the restaurant from co-owner Julian Niccolini’s baggage with women.

Wells spends the first half of the review going over that baggage, which includes two lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and an arrest for sexual abuse. In 2016, Niccolini pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and admitted to touching the woman and causing scratches and bruises. Niccolini and Alex von Bidder reopened the restaurant in Midtown earlier this year, spending $30 million on the project.

Still, the critic decides that the restaurant is worth reviewing because of its significant history in NYC’s fine-dining scene, adding that “curiosity is as good a reason as any for a critic to swing into action.” On seafood:

It’s not hard to believe [Garcia] was once a sous-chef at Le Bernardin when you taste, say, the raw scallop slivers in citrus juices, elegantly equipped with tart apple and caviar, or the intensely smooth chowder of tiny, just-cooked clams in a New England-style cream broth that’s pale yellow with butterfat. He knows when to show restraint and when to go all in, taking sea-urchin ravioli that are already head-spinningly rich and draping lobes of sea urchin over them.

Wells then writes that the act of eating “requires trust and a sense of safety,” and Niccolini has “done serious damage to his power to provide that feeling,” though he concludes the piece saying that the review “will not be tied up with a bow.”

But with these two reviews now out about the restaurant, it’s hard to imagine what other conclusion the critics expected from their meals — if the food had been even better, or bad, would anything have changed?