Monday, February 3, 2014


Fourth Avenue is that terse, practically unknown, peculiarly abbreviated street that, while relatively obscure, is pretty easy enough to find.  Which is how we ended up there, having struck out at Calliope (closed for a private event) and Kyo Ya (fully booked for the next two hours), so The Fourth presented itself conveniently enough.  A new-ish new American situated in the Hyatt Hotel, it holds more in common with hotel dining, its cuisine is about as innovative as is naming a restaurant after the street it is on.  It even welcomes you with a suspended sculpture of several bed frames hanging from the ceiling, which is kinda cool, but doesn't let you forget that this is, in fact, still hotel dining.    Not that that's all bad: elementally, sourcing is strong and the food is serviceable, but for some unfortunate components in each and every dish we tried.  I was perhaps misled by its association with Tocqueville and 5 Ninth, two reputable and superior institutions run by the same proprietors.

The emptiness of the room at primetime on a weekend night did tamp my expectations a bit, though.  The food presented itself in fits and starts:  a beet salad was quite lovely, the flavorful, jewel-toned vegetables rustically retaining their long roots untrimmed, tangled up with arcs of crisp shaved fennel and a sprinkle of pistachios, but the harsh bite of watercress distracted from its platemates.  A mini baguette served aside had seen fresher days, its leaden crust so sturdy it took effort just to break it in two.  We may have been better off with the wedding soup, adorned unexpectedly with a soft poached egg, or the crisp baby artichoke with cheese fonduta.

But my hearth Roasted Branzino came with artichokes barigoule... except for that that wasn't anything at all barigoule about the 'chokes.  They were unseasoned, un-braised, un-anythinged but simply roasted.  Although the slab of fennel aside that showed up unnanounced was nicely braised, it was tainted by a slightly acrid sluice of pureed black olive, which, although mentioned on the menu, had nothing to do with barigoule, nor did it help make sense of the disparate ingredients, including shavings of more raw fennel and carrot ... although perhaps that was where they were re-imagining the barigoule, as carrots are a normal component of that technique.    Instead, they played alone on the periphery of the plate like an outcast toddler in the sandbox.    I hesitated momentarily before tucking in in hopes of a tableside addition of
some sort of broth or sauce or something to tie all the incongruous components together, but alas. The sauce with the char served as a detriment as well, far too horseradishy for its own good, although the gorgeously verdant mustard green puree it domineered made the dish visually spectacular with its sultry stew of black lentils.  A bacon-mustard vinaigrette was flavorful enough to render the green sauce unnecessary, anyways, so it was an unfortunate, detracting addition.

The Fourth Burger on the menu seemed like it was aspiring toward novelty with its roasted tomato bun: we imagined up several hypotheses of how this might be executed, from a tomato-pink bread dough , to an actual whole-roasted tomato, sliced in two in an Atkins-style carbophobic bait-and-switch.  Alas, it turned out to be simply a bun, flecked with bits of sundried tomato.  The burger's attraction is probably more reliant on it poached egg as a topping.  It's served with pickled veggies, so if you Want Fried with That, you'll have to go with a side of duck fat fried potatoes.  We went with the

crispy brussels sprouts, which were, as is so often the case, not crispy in the least, although the hunky chunks of thick-cut bacon were.  The sprouts showed up with tiny fingerling potatoes  that were,

 despite their diminutive size, bigger than the brussels, and I think actually there were more of them, too.   All together, with sauteed shallots and a mysteriously rich mayonnaisey kind of sauce, they were two-bite yummy, but whole-portion excessive.

Desserts illustrated a slight uptick, but mostly just 'cause sugary, buttery, fruity things are yummy.  Migliorelli Farms provided the apple for a Fuji apple crisp, which swayed me towards that choice, but it was a tough decision between the rice pudding with dulce de leche or a citrus olive oil cake with yuzu. The crisp was anything but crisp, however, although the abundant toasted almonds added a nice, nutty crunch, the only evidence of any sort of "crisp" was a pulverized pie crust powder lightly dusted atop the really, juicy chunks of apples, more stewed than caramelized.  Thus, daubs from  a luscious scoop of caramel ice cream banished to a spoon forkfuls away from the main affair (much like the carrot-

fennel salad) imparted the only real caramel element.  Their prolific juices pooled in the bottom of the bowl with no crumb to soak them up, resulting in a kind of spiced apple broth.  I guess the excess liquid was good, because the decaf coffee I ordered with dessert still hadn't arrived as we were midway through, and so I cancelled it (I like my after-dinner coffee WITH dessert, not my after-dessert coffee with nothing).  They seemed surprised at the
rejection, but hopefully they'll use it as a learning tool.  Just having vintage pictures of proudly beaming waitresses does not in itself good service make.  With a little coaching and effort this place could be a LOT better- it's certainly not totally a lost cause.  Even if you do get a little lost finding Fourth Avenue.

132 Fourth Ave

212 432-1324

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