The best hotel restaurant/bars are sexy and mysterious, making you feel like anything can and will happen. The worst ones are expanses of corporate blandless kept alive by business trips and expense accounts. I had an odd bit of time to kill before meeting someone and hoped that the three-week-old, newspaper-themed, vowel-less MKT, a revamp of the restaurant in the Four Seasons in Union Square, might prove to be the former. But despite great views of the daily carnival that is Market Street, my happy hour visit didn't particularly inspire.
I'm a sucker for the newspaper theme for obvious reasons. But unlike Local Edition or even Tribune Tavern, I might not have noticed the subtle touches of old block type, newsprint wallpaper, and drying racks if Eater hadn't pointed them out. Mostly, the interior felt sleek, well-designed, and more than a little sterile -- not a place that newspapermen would seek out.
After receiving a perfectly adequate take on a Sazerac, I turned my attention to the menu. People had said nice things on Yelp about the kimchi- and pork belly-steamed mussels, but when they arrived I didn't understand why. The mussels were overcooked and sad; shriveled, rubbery, difficult to disentangle from the shell. The pork belly was fatty and chewy, and didn't melt on the tongue. The kimchi was actually great, spicy and full of vigor, but it's not a great sign when fermented cabbage is the only part of a pork-belly-and-mussel dish that you finish.
Steak tartare was significantly better, a lusty blend of capers and onions in a ramekin with a cute little egg yolk on top. It was one of the better steak tartares I've had in the city, good by the spoonful or on the buttered toast points that accompanied it. The plate also had a few saffron pickles that tasted like standard bread and butter pickles. They were a nice textural and sour component to the zesty tartare but I couldn't detect the saffron.
The views up and down Market Street from the fifth floor bar are fantastic. And the restaurant has a built-in customer base from the hotel; the crowd at the bar was a blend of businesspeople meeting over iPods and well-dressed families chowing down on burgers. MKT does serve an intriguing burger fried in duck fat that I didn't try, and has a long dinner menu of housemade pastas and steaks. But there are, after all, so many restaurants. This seems like just another face in the crowd.