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Rolling the Dice: The Four Seasons

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, His Frankness reviews The Four Seasons, one of New York’s iconic restaurants. Eater’s official odds are as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 6-1
One Star: 4-1
Two Stars: 8-3
Three Stars: 5-1
Four Stars: 15,000-1

The Skinny: Opened in 1959, The Four Seasons is one of New York’s oldest continuously operating restaurants. Many celebrities are frequent diners, including Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger. Prices are astronomical, with the least expensive dinner entrée priced at $37, and many above $50.

Ruth Reichl awarded three stars in 1995, re-affirming Bryan Miller’s three-star rating from 1990. I also found a two-star Mimi Sheraton review dating from 1979. (There probably were earlier rated reviews that my cursory search failed to uncover. It’s hard to believe that Sheraton’s piece, after the restaurant had been open twenty years, was the first.)

I had a hunch that this week’s Bruni target would be a re-review, but I didn’t expect The Four Seasons. Classic elegance always seems to bore Frank Bruni, so it is surprising to find him dining at an established landmark that has mostly flown under the critics’ radar over the last decade.

Eater has framed the dilemma well. Most of us think of The Four Seasons as a restaurant that practically defines three-star dining. But Bruni’s tenure has been marked with a strong undercurrent of hostility towards precisely this type of restaurant: classic, expensive, elegant, beloved of celebrities, and not especially adventurous. No such restaurant has received three stars from Frank Bruni, and we don’t think tomorrow will be an exception.

On top of that, Bruni’s “unprompted” re-reviews—those not occasioned by a major event (new chef, new location, facelift)—have generally resulted in a rating change. As Bruni himself once said, it’s usually not worth investing the multiple visits required for a full review, if the only outcome is to re-confirm a previous verdict.

The Bet: Eater, for what he concedes are emotional reasons, is taking the three-star action. We are betting that Frank will do what he always does, slay the sacred cow, and award two stars to The Four Seasons. If we were inclined to be really adventurous, we’d bet on one star before we’d bet on three. But for now, two it is.

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