First look at Four Seasons: Alon Shaya's restaurant raises curtain on stunning new hotel

For months, the myriad components for Miss River have been coming together within the Four Seasons New Orleans hotel, a mosaic of marble, antiqued mirror, pearlescent tile and burnished brass.

However, chef Alon Shaya says the ideas inspiring this new restaurant have been coalescing for much longer – a blend of flavors, traditions, social rituals and personal experiences from his years pursing food in Louisiana.

“This restaurant is a dream for me,” Shaya said while showing visitors around Miss River. “I’ve spent so long studying the food culture here, and now we have a way to turn these experiences into a place where people can come celebrate. That’s just incredible to me.”

The Four Seasons officially opens Tuesday (Aug. 17), along with Miss River and the adjacent Chandelier Bar, the bar in the hotel’s lobby.

The Four Seasons is the transformation of the landmark World Trade Center at the foot of Canal Street. Creating it has entailed a long stretch of heavy renovations behind construction barriers. It has been hard for most people to get a read on just what a sweeping undertaking this has been, and the new destination it brings to New Orleans.

Miss River and the Chandelier Bar are poised to give the public the first taste.

The hotel has begun booking rooms. Some other phases of the overall property, including its second restaurant, Donald Link’s forthcoming Chemin à la Mer, and its pool and spa are slated to open in the fall.

To begin, Miss River serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. When Chemin à la Mer opens this fall it will take over breakfast service while Miss River will add brunch.

To visit Miss River and the Chandelier Bar now feels like raising a curtain on a grand production, and in more ways than one. A sense of the theatrical is woven across the space and even into its menu concepts and service approach – including its unique “food stage” and sommelier station.

Miss River is a contemporary, upscale Louisiana restaurant, with next-generation renditions of dishes from redfish courtbouillon to oyster patties to BBQ shrimp. Whole fried chicken, clay pot dirty rice with duck breast and salt-crusted whole red snapper share the menu with chilled seafood platters, baked Alaska and, at lunch, muffulettas and oyster po-boys.

Lux and lush in design, the concept behind Miss River is equally ambitious. Shaya frames it as a “love letter” to Louisiana cuisine and a modern read on the grand dining traditions of New Orleans.

Arriving at the Four Seasons, you first see the Chandelier Bar, where a constellation of artisan glass is suspended above.

The cocktail menu was created by hotel beverage director Hadi Ktiri, a longtime New Orleans bartender who made his name at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar. The Chandelier Bar pours a wide range of Champagnes and sparkling wines. Its food menu, created by Shaya’s team, includes dishes like deviled eggs with trout roe, Louisiana-made foie gras and caviar.

Just past the check-in desk, you find the entrance to Miss River, a pair of heavy, tinted glass doors, giving a veiled glimpse inside.

The restaurant within was designed with mix of art deco contours and a vintage maritime motif, like a space imagined by a Jazz Age version of Jules Verne.

The doors open to a narrow vestibule lined by cases of fine spirits and prestige Champagne. The room gradually opens through a lounge to a bar topped with rose quartz. The dining room progresses through a number of distinct spaces united by the style and details that London-based Alexander Waterworth Interiors worked into its design here.

The “food stage” offers a different take on tableside preparations. Built like a cooking show demonstration kitchen, it holds a central space in the dining room where people can watch as dishes are finished or carved, bringing some of the energy of the culinary process into view.

Next to this, the sommelier table is a kiosk-sized nook with a stand-up station where guests can informally visit with the restaurant’s wine staff. It’s at once a more casual and individualized way to explore the restaurant’s wine program.

These are parts of what Shaya calls “moments of engagement,” opportunities to interact within the restaurant beyond your table and the menu.

“We wanted natural opportunities to engage with the people here, with the staff, with the other guests,” he said.

Miss River certainly is high end and opulent. But Shaya eschews the label of fine dining. He sees it as something more indulgent and freewheeling, a sumptuous setting for celebration.

One side of Miss River is a wall of windows overlooking the hotel’s patio, another revelation.

There’s a mix of paved areas for outdoor seating and a garden terrace area. It’s a multifaceted outdoor space that can be used for events and gatherings when it’s finished this fall.

Four Seasons developed Miss River in partnership with Pomegranate Hospitality. That’s the company Shaya and his wife Emily founded in 2017, following his departure from what was then called the Besh Restaurant Group(the chef is no longer affiliated with the Uptown restaurant Shaya).

Today, Pomegranate runs Saba, the modern Israeli restaurant uptown, and its sibling restaurant Safta, in Denver.

While those restaurants draw from the Israeli-born chef’s own heritage, Miss River traces a thread through New Orleans and Louisiana. To start developing their menu Shaya and Kelley Schmidt, the hotel’s executive chef, undertook a series of eating tours around the city and the region. The result shows folds in influences from French Creole grand dames to Jazz Fest food booths to the area’s Vietnamese community.

At lunch, there’s even red beans and rice, from the recipe that won Emily Shaya first place at the citywide Bean Madness cooking competition a few years back.

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