Glassy, glossy Quattro
Four Seasons' East Palo Alto restaurant is polished, contemporary and dazzling
The Quattro restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto is exactly what one would expect from one of the world's leading hoteliers: stellar wine list, impeccable service and sophisticated food created by an accomplished chef. It also has tariffs that are on the high side but not absurd.
Architecturally, the restaurant is a succession of intersecting glass planes. It is a comfort-controlled conservatory, chic and dazzling. Beautiful but also austere, the dining room is sparse with expensive details: a glass box with hardwood floors, bare wood tables and upholstered but straight-back chairs. It's an expense account-driven venue of angular, masculine composition.
Executive chef Marco Fossati hails from a long line of professional cooks. Born in Portofino, Italy, he has worked kitchens in Italy, London, Berlin, Hong Kong and Egypt. He is responsible for the hotel's considerable business and reception catering, as well as room service, and a large restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When I last reviewed Quattro in 2006, Fossati was chef de cuisine and Alessandro Cartumini was executive chef. Fossati transferred to Egypt for two years but has been fully in charge of the East Palo Alto kitchen since November.
New chefs bring change and one was simplifying the menu. There are now five appetizers, five pastas, five entrees and eight desserts, plus cheeses. There is a four-course chef's tasting menu ($55) and a bar menu that offers more casual fare: pizza, appetizers, cheese and dessert. Every ingredient possible is locally farm-sourced.
Seated in the dining room, I loved the chanterelle mushroom trifolati ($13): grilled peaches, garlic and parsley, all drizzled with a 20-year-old balsamic vinegar. The earthy chanterelles had been thinly sliced and fried with garlic and parsley, then reassembled on the plate with tiny wedges of the grilled peaches. Old balsamic is sweet and syrupy, and juxtaposed wonderfully with the woodsy mushrooms.
Also noteworthy was the vitello tonnato ($12), poached top-round veal, pickled ramps, a tickle of thyme and creamed ahi tuna. Sounds a little strange but it was delicious. Vitello tonnato can be traced back to 19th-century Piedmont, where the tuna was pounded into pulp with olive oil to make it creamy.
We shared a second course of smoked pappardelle ($15) with duck ragu and pecorino cheese. The kitchen happily split the order onto two plates but charged us an additional $4 for doing so. Not cool for a dinner that approached $200 for two people. I've never experienced an upcharge when ordering multiple courses. The pasta was good but not $19 good.
The wild striped sea bass ($28) was sauteed in Marsala (a fortified Sicilian wine), with sultana raisins and caponata (sauteed eggplant and other veggies). The fish tasted fresh-off-the-line, delicate and barely flaky. The Marsala and raisins gave the dish a resonant note of sweetness but did not overpower the bass.
The organic chicken ($26) came with a Meyer lemon confit (thin slices of lemon poached in olive oil) and taggiasche olives from the Italian Riviera, black, oily and sweet. It is a Mediterranean dish I will never tire of eating.
Quattro's bar area is divided into two oblong sections. One room has a modern marble and glass fireplace, stone walls and shelves of Joan Miro art books. Flanking the fireplace are a half-dozen modernist paintings that mirror Miro's abstract expressionist style.
The bar menu is more relaxed but some items appear on both bar and dining room menus. BBQ sliders ($13) featured Point Reyes blue cheese. The fork-tender meat was piled into mini-buns and the cheese oozed deliciously. A Madeira onion dipping sauce accompanied.
Dungeness crab tempura roll, $6 for three rolls, was packed with crab and salmon. The dish was mostly salmon, chives, pickled ginger, wasabi and dipping sauce. Great finger food that whetted the appetite.
Parma ham pizza ($14) was piled with arugula and curls of Bellwether Farms' soft-ripened crescenza cheese. The crust was magnificent: thin, crisp but not crackery, just pliant enough with a hint of sweetness to it.
All desserts were $9. Pastry chef Minoru Miyazaki's sweet endings were all terrific. The Neapolitan baba al rum featured crisp almond caramel, citrus rum syrup and vanilla whipped cream.
The Sicilian cannoli trio was a compote of sweet black Bing cherry with a breath of mint. The chocolate tortino was similar to a lava cake. Hot chocolate oozed from the spongy cake when the cake was pricked. A scoop of honey gelato accompanied.
My favorite was the tiramisu with cocoa powder, mascarpone and espresso. The round cake was creamy and refined, chocolaty, with just a suggestion of the espresso.
The restaurant manager is wine expert Claudio Villani. Quattro offers two dozen wines by the glass ($11-$25), numerous half-bottles, and an extensive list of 750-milliliter bottles: 400 labels and counting. The corkage fee is $30, except on Friday evenings when corkage is waived and the entire wine list is offered at 50 percent off.
No need to be overly dressed at Quattro. It's business casual, but that's about the only thing casual about the place.
Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel
2050 University Ave., East Palo Alto
Breakfast: Daily 6:30-11 a.m. Lunch: Daily 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: Daily 5:30-10 p.m.
Credit cards: yes
Parking: hotel lot or valet
Alcohol: full bar
Outdoor dining: yes
Party facilities: yes
Noise level: moderate
Bathroom cleanliness: excellent