Buffets—they’re usually busted.
My father has adamantly refused to dine at buffets since I can remember, and his strategy was proven when we realized the buffet brunch at Taberna del Alabardero was awful. Similarly, the other buffet brunches we’ve tried in Washington—Becca’s ruined Mother’s Day brunch at Farmers & Fishers and my post-marathon yuck-fest at Beacon Bar & Grill—have been similarly dreadful. The buffet at the Kennedy Center is decidedly sub-par as well.
That’s because, if you do a buffet brunch, it should be at the Four Seasons. Because, well, it’s the Four Seasons, and they know how to pull out all the stops and really impress. The folks at Seasons, within the hotel, invited us to brunch, which they bill as a “station” brunch, rather than a buffet, as they work to maximize the amount of food that is prepared fresh, in front of you, rather than sitting there in typical buffet fashion.
The dining room at the Seasons is lovely—traditional white table clothes, big fluffy club chairs, and lots and lots of flower arrangements and potted plants. The greenery paired with floor-to-ceiling windows giving off loads of natural light really made you feel like you were dining outside, albeit with air conditioning, rather than in. The room was filled with dozens of families, and I assumed they were celebrating birthdays and other notable accomplishments.
There are a whopping eight stations: carving/meat station, omelet station, seafood station, breakfast station, taco stand, market salads, hot sides, and a cheese station, plus an entire room dedicated to adorable desserts.
We headed first to the carving station, which offers flank steak carne asada, mojo marinated shrimp, miso marinated wahoo, tarragon roasted quail, which Lacy tried, and Maryland Crab Cakes with Cajun Remoulade, which I had, and absolutely loved. The quail, which was a novel item on the menu, and served whole, did not go over well with Lacy. She says, “I wasn’t a fan of the quail despite the hype—and even I, a raging carnivore, wanted to tear up at the presentation.”
Then, to the omelet station, where Lacy had the cook whip up an omelet with Virginia ham, gruyere cheese and scallions that was extremely fluffy and her favorite part of the meal. From the station, I picked up the French toast, which was fluffy, warm, and heavenly. The theme of this station was fluffy and fresh, and we were fans.
I also scooped up some cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes—which remind me of childhood state fairs—that were warm, fluffy and perfection. The pastries at Seasons are amazing: croissants, chocolate croissants, etc.
Then, we headed to the taco stand, a recent addition at Seasons, made to look like it should be sitting on a beach outside Acapulco. The tacos were shrimp, pork shoulder and short rib tacos on corn tortillas with sides of tomato salsa, pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa, and tortilla chips should you have room. I loved my shrimp taco, made with pickled red cabbage and citrus chimichurri—really yummy.
In the center of the room lies a long table filled with fresh market salads and hot sides—a dream-come-true for someone who loves her veggies but gets bored with your run-of-the-mill salad. Hot dishes include mac n’ cheese with broccoli, smoked cremini mushrooms, polenta cakes, summer vegetable gratin and more. The salad table had a really neat cantaloupe, cucumber and radish salad with prosciutto (that I picked around) and balsamic vinaigrette that I really enjoyed. There was also a watermelon, feta and olive salad, which was fresh and yummy. My favorite part of this table was the white gazpacho, which you pour out of a beverage cooler into little shot glasses—a cute touch, and a delicious summer soup.
The seafood station, which encompassed a large portion of the room, was visually charming, filled with little nautical details like boats, anchors and fish, hand-written signs and mason jars—very Southern, cute display.
It had a astonishing amount of options, some better than others, including oysters, shrimp cocktail, crab claws, coconut ceviche, grilled octopus, classic lobster rolls, black cod dip, seared ahi tuna, sardines and tapenade on toasts, bagels and lox, seared scallops. I was not crazy about the ceviche—I couldn’t find the seafood. However, the scallops and lobster rolls were really delicious.
I think a smart diner would have to be discerning in order to choose the best options on the buffet. Lacy, who whipped up a bagel and lox from the seafood stand, says, “The seafood bar was my favorite display, and the house-smoked dill-marinated salmon was the best I’ve ever had.”
On our way back we passed an entire table full of cheese—cheese, glorious cheese! You know how I love it. Sadly, we were so full we might burst.
After taking a breather, we finally headed to the dessert room, a visually stunning display of a few dozen different types of mini-pastries, a candy display, and a frozen lollipop station that would put Willy Wonka to shame.
The frozen lollipop station was the best part of dessert. The frozen pops, made on a tray with dry ice, were creamy and delicious, a combination of ice cream and whipped cream made into a lollipop. The flavors were creamsicle, chocolate crunch, strawberry granola parfait and raspberry cheesecake. Lacy and I both that the pops were to-die-for.
The desserts were made to be visually stunning and impressive, with a zillion flavors, but the flavors were mediocre. Seriously, any flavor combination you can imagine. Chocolate banana peanut butter tiramisu-style. Corny cakes—vanilla cakes topped with caramel corn. Key lime pies. Lemon meringue pies. Deconstructed chocolate tiramisu. Chocolate cheesecake. Chocolate parfaits. Chocolate cupcakes. Red velvet cupcakes. Pink-and-gold mango crème brulees. Creamsicles. Milk chocolate caramel crème brulee domes. Traditional crème brulee. Strawberry shortcake.
All of the desserts were miniature, and meant to blow patrons out of the water with their bright colors, fancy whipped toppings and plethora of options. However, I found that, the less pretty it looked, the better it tasted. The lollipops and the traditional crème brulee were delicious, as was Lacy’s shortcake, meanwhile the caramel-chocolate crème brulee topped with a fancy painted piece of white chocolate had too much going on—all the flavors blended together and my taste buds were just confused.
At the end of the meal, the pastry chef brought out a Twitter-themed cookie display, made just for me, and I nearly fell out of my chair. The sugar cookies were amazing, definitely the best sugar cookie I’ve ever had. This proves my theory that the more simple, less ridiculous the dessert—I’m looking at you, gold-topped mango domes—the better the quality and taste at Seasons.
The pastry chef, who is truly gifted, should focus on quality, not quantity and spectacle. However, if I were a tourist, or a child, or less of a Bitch, I’d probably be thrilled by Willy Wonka land—so I understand why they do it.
Meanwhile, I ran into Aisha and Danielle, who I met when they attended our Summer Brunch Soiree in July. They felt differently about the dessert room. Their synopsis: “The Four Seasons optimizes the our idea of brunch! From free-flowing champagne, to a raw bar as far as the eye could see, to Willy Wonka’s dream dessert room and need we mention the service? Fabulous! The ladies of threeLOL give the Four Seasons brunch an ‘A’ for Absolutely Decadent!”
The Bitches say: B+. The service, ambiance and options were spectacular. The food, overall, was really great, but I do wish they’d work on the quality of some of the seafood and dessert dishes. That said, when compared to other buffets in town, Seasons makes a well-deserved A+, as it is blows other buffets out of the water—everyone will be able to find something delicious that they’ll enjoy. It is a spectacular venue for special occasions, family functions and out-of-town guests, as the large space and amazing staff will be about to accommodate large parties splendidly, I’m sure.
Seasons at the Four Seasons Georgetown
2800 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.