Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s sleek Four Twenty Five with both a tasting option and an a la carte menu opens Wednesday night at 425 Park Avenue, at East 56th Street. The two-story restaurant evokes the aesthetic of sibling restaurants, the Mark and urbane minimalist, Nougatine. Chef Jonathan Benno is in charge of the kitchen that pairs vegetables and Asian influences of Jean-Georges’s style with his own Italian and American cooking.
Even as reports suggest that Midtown isn’t what it used to be, Four Twenty Five is part of a trend of towers opening restaurants as amenities for workers and residents, luring big names for ground-floor properties, including Daniel Boulud, Michael White, David Burke, and Simon Kim of Cote.
The restaurant tenant of this Park Avenue address had been the source of some drama. Originally, the space was to be in the hands of the Eleven Madison Park, before news circulated that the partnership had been disbanded due to the team’s vegan focus.
Vongerichten’s partner in the project is real estate developer David Levinson, whose company owns the building. “It’s like coming full circle for me,’’ Vongerichten says of the location; it is catty-corner to the first restaurant he opened in 1986, Lafayette in the Drake Hotel. Thirty-five years later, Vongerichten has 14 restaurants, including the Tin Building, in New York, and 65 restaurants worldwide.
The 14,000 square-foot space is designed by Lord Norman Foster, whose firm is behind big projects like London’s City Hall; and Lusail Stadium in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. An intimate dining room sits on a floating balcony accessed by a dramatic staircase, and the downstairs bar area has 45-foot ceilings and a large Larry Poons painting. A private dining room also resides on the lower level.
With the two-Michelin-starred namesake Jean-Georges restaurant a stone’s throw away, he felt strongly about creating completely distinct dishes.
“Every dish on this menu is new,’’ he says. “We don’t want 10 courses that take three hours; today people have a little less patience.”
There will be a six-course tasting menu (around $170 per person), as well as a la carte options ($22 to $32 for appetizers and pastas, $29 to $58 for individual main dishes), but Vongerichten doesn’t want a fussy vibe. “It’s special but not too formal with crazy prices; more like Nougatine or the Mark,’’ he says.
It’s the first time Benno and Vongerichten will have worked together, with Benno bringing his Italian and New American sensibilities to the menu and Vongerichten infusing elements of Asian cuisines. Benno ran his own namesake restaurant, as well as Lincoln Ristorante, which earned a Michelin star, and has worked in some of the country’s most famous restaurant kitchens, such as Daniel and Per Se in New York and the French Laundry in California.
The menu at Four Twenty Five features a caviar and crudo section, along with appetizers ranging from tri-color cauliflower with jalapeño-mustard dressing to foie gras terrine with blood orange confit. There are pastas including lumache with red shrimp and sea urchin, and entrees like celeriac Francese or roasted cod with turnip-jalapeno emulsion.
The downstairs bar will serve smaller plates in the form of the chef’s greatest hits, ranging from crispy sushi to caviar toast.
Of his expectations for the restaurant, Vongerichten says, “Times have changed: We still want to be connected to our zip code, and there will be a lot of business people,” but, he believes, “Midtown is having a renaissance.’’