The Four Seasons’ ambitious project, which topped a 60-story landmark building, brought together the culinary talent of Jean-Georges Vongerichten with the design expertise of Lord Foster and Adam Tihany to stunning effect.
Philadelphia was always a popular destination. After all, almost 250 years ago, it was here that the Founding Fathers penned the Declaration of Independence. America’s first capital is still the food capital of the World, and today, a new crop of Founding Fathers – each a pioneer in their way – have converged at Philly’s futuristic Comcast Center.
Lord Norman Foster, a renowned British architect who designed London’s City Hall, The Gherkin, and the glistening JG SkyHigh rooftop lounge named for Jean-Georges Vongerichten – another pioneer and one of the World’s most celebrated Michelin-starred chefs. Vernick Fish is the second branch of Greg Vernick’s growing empire and was designed by Adam Tihany, a renowned interior designer. Pordamsa, David Mellor’s, and John Jenkins are among the top suppliers putting the finishing touches on the project. This list of talents would be worthy of a 60-story landmark skyscraper.
Vongerichten begins by revealing the culinary delights that this property offers. Some customers might need to overcome vertigo to enjoy the light, all-day menu at JG SkyHigh, which features 360-degree views, slick modern architecture, and a quadruple-height ceiling.
Vongerichten tastes Philadelphia’s most famous dish, the Philly Cheesesteak, in this small space. He explains that the wagyu is rolled in cheddar cheese, wrapped in a spring roll shell, and cooked a little pink. It’s served with an onion and pepper sauce. He defended himself by saying that the flavors are still there when you close your eyelids but are presented differently.
Around 5 pm, the beverage menu becomes more prevalent as well-heeled Comcast executives reach the top of the tower, taking in the breathtaking city views. The beverage menu is popular around 5 pm when well-heeled Comcast execs make their way up the building to soak in the stunning city views.
It’s hard not to thank Lord Foster, who created such a masterpiece of architecture. Vongerichten: “It takes your breath away to go up there.” They would hire someone to design the Interior, and I told Brian Roberts [Comcast chairman and CEO]: “You must be kidding me. You have one of the best architects in the World. He should also do the Interior.”
The mood changes on level 59 as white tablecloths are brought out and signature dishes, such as yellowfin tuna noodles in a ginger-chili oil, parmesan-crusted grilled chicken with a lemon-basil sauce (in tribute to Philadelphia’s Italian Community, and, of course, Jersey Shore, which is nearby), set the scene. This menu’s abundance of vegetarian choices is striking and speaks volumes about how luxury guests eat today. What else could one expect from the chef of ABCV, New York’s best-selling all-vegetarian restaurant? Vongerichten says, “I tell chefs that it takes two weeks to raise a radish but two years to raise a steak.” “I grew up with a lot of vegetables, and the cuisine of a Jean-Georges Restaurant today is 30% plant-based. Unmissable dishes are crispy fried artichokes served in a sweet-tangy sauce made from blood oranges and a broccoli soup inspired by Asian flavors. Davis chose to pair the wines with the menu in a light, fresh way, choosing a selection from the Loire Valley instead of heavier ones.
Greg Vernick, a hometown hero, serves the best fish dishes in town. He has spent a lifetime developing these recipes, which he developed while living on southern New Jersey’s famous Jersey Shore. He explains, “I saw the space in Philadelphia for a seafood establishment and was inspired by the fresh seafood offerings along the Northeast coast and Pacific West.” The menu is a collection of raw shellfish and fish, mainly sourced from North America. It includes small and large seafood plates, all prepared with great care and attention to detail. Signatures include the heartwarming tuna-ricotta-gnocchi and an octopus-carpaccio bursting with citrus flavors and capers.
Adam Tihany designed the interiors for this space, which is a perfect contrast to the Foster-designed affair on top of the tower. Greg wanted to create a modern twist on the traditional American Oyster Bar – something quintessentially American and local. It would be a neighborhood favorite, yet it could easily fit into the Four Seasons Hotel.
The culinary journey concludes at the Comcast Center lobby, where Vernick worked with the Four Seasons to reinvent the classic grab-and-go concept. Charles Lesvigne, F&B director at the Comcast Center, jokes that hotels have been known to serve the worst coffee for years. The idea was originally a kiosk, but we elevated it into a coffee shop.
Vernick Coffee Bar offers a variety of exciting teas, including the psychedelic Butterfly Pea Flower Tea, which changes color when you add milk (peacock-green with oat and purple with regular), as well as a famous carrot cake pie. The Executive Pastry Chef Ryan Schmidt says that desserts are often the only way to see how we work—seeing that all day at the coffee shop is a lot of fun. Every week we get to try something new.
Thomas Jefferson was said to be the leader of the Founding Fathers. Brian Roberts at Comcast is responsible for bringing together our modern-day founding fathers. Each of them has high praises for the other. He was a true purveyor and visionary of good taste. He created one of the World’s most extensive entertainment companies and hand-picked several key players who could make one of the World’s finest hotels.