My brother Volodia is not only a chef, but 13 years older than me. When I was a teenager, he was already a full-fledged adult running his own restaurant in Santa Rosa. He'd had all sorts of food adventures beyond our native New York metropolitan area. But the one that made me most jealous was brunches at the Four Seasons in San Francisco. What he described sounded like Willy Wonka's factory, but with an emphasis on sushi and crêpes.
I never made it there with my brother, who moved to Tennessee, and in fact, had to wait more than 20 years to have brunch at any Four Seasons. But it finally happened last weekend when a friend invited me to brunch at Quattro. It was my first time climbing the stairs to the third-floor restaurant since hotel's far more modern remodeling early this year and even rising toward Quattro now feels a bit like it's being captured in a late-90s Gucci ad.
Upstairs still looks a touch stodgy, but you have to be looking hard to notice. Otherwise, you'll simply be blinded by the opulence of the food. After a tour of the stations located in every part of the restaurant, including the kitchen, I headed to the set-up where a chef had eggs cooking slowly and purposefully in an immersion circulator. When I arrived, he broke a single egg into a cocktail glass, then gestured to a basket filled with three tins of caviar. "All three," I said, as if it was obvious, because it was obvious. These were followed by finely chopped chives, coarse sea salt and a pair of blini. The hot egg, cooked to a state of matter neither liquid, solid or gel, melts on the tongue, while the roe pops with fishy salinity.
My friends elected to "start with breakfast," but I did that after my caviar egg. In my case, that meant a freshly made waffle (I caught a glimpse of cutting them into sections in the kitchen using scissors) with bacon, a pork sausage (there's chicken, too), a crisp croissant and a cup of berries. I regretted that I didn't have room on my plate for a visit to the crêpe station.
Also among the fare I'll have to save for next time: sashimi, cheese and charcuterie, a carving table including whole Cornish game hens, a raw bar and entrées like short ribs over creamy polenta. But I had my sights set on the most important thing any buffet can have: the pasta station. And this is no ordinary pasta station. At this one, the chef manning it cut each pappardelle noodle to order before adding my desired veggies and combination of pesto and al Fredo sauces. Though there were nicely seared cubes of chicken already in the bowl, I also grabbed high-quality prosciutto from the slicer as I left the kitchen.
By dessert, I only had room for bread pudding, made from the in-house bakery's pains au chocolat. I didn't know it was possible to elevate croissant bread pudding, but there you have it. And me? As soon as I could elevate myself, I headed home for a well-earned post-prandial nap. And this time, my brother will be jealous of me.