Seäsonal Restaurant and Weinbar has been on my list of NYC restaurants to try for at least a year, so as part of my series on alternatives to NYC Restaurant Week, my husband and I recently tried it out for lunch. For our prior Restaurant Week alternative, see Bar on Fifth at The Setai: NYC Jazz Bar Review, and click on our NYC tag to see our other NYC restaurant reviews, NYC hotel reviews and other NYC tips.
Seäsonal is in an unassuming location on 58th street between 6th and 7th, so an easy walk from most places in midtown, but as a small place, it's perfect for when you want a peaceful, relaxed lunch away from the crowds. We'd made a reservation on OpenTable to receive our 100 points, but there were only a few other tables dining when we were ther at 1:15pm on a recent weekday.
We were pleasantly greeted and shown to our table, and my first though was of the Lufthansa First Class Lounge in Munich, which had similar placemats, although a red rose instead of the yellow and orange bouquet.
Our server provided food and wine menus, and after perusing them, there was no question we would both take the prix fixe menu for $29 per person, especially as the a la carte price for the entrees we wanted to try was $29 anyway. It was good of the server to ask us if we had any allergies or dietary restrictions. I've only occasionally been asked this, at Eleven Madison Park and Jean-Georges, but, even though my husband and I don't have any restrictions, I think more restaurants should do this, given how many folks these days either have a severe food allergy or an important dietary restriction.
We ordered, although kept the wine list as my husband was thinking of getting a glass or a beer to accompany his meal. As it turned out, the wine list was only wines, and we had to request a separate beer list. My husband asked our server to recommend a dark, full bodied beer, and he suggested the Erdinger dark wheat beer--wow! Needless to say, my husband only managed to finish about half of the enormous bottle (I'm not a beer drinker, so no help from me!)
The complimentary rye breads brought to the table, with an herb butter and smoked paprika butter, were a delicious start:
The Pochiertes Ei was beautifully presented, and while I'm in general not a fan of foams or molecular gastronomy, for once a dish with foam was even more delicious to eat than it looked--a heady tangle, once mixed together, of lobster, egg, hen of the woods mushrooms, and pumpernickel crumbs.
My husband remarked that he didn't associate lobster with Austrian cuisine, but Seäsonal, while it has the requisite traditional Austrian dishes, has definitely modernized them and added signature dishes of its own such as this Pochiertes Ei. I will say that $19 would be a bit steep for this dish on its own, due to the modest portion size, but as part of the $29 prix fixe it was great value.
Our mains were the best versions of these traditional dishes I've eaten. My husband's Wiener Schnitzel was an expertly fried veal cutlet, light and crispy on the outside, and well complemented with the lingonberry jam, potatoes and ornate cucumber roll. He made pretty short work of this.
My Kaisergulasch of veal cheeks was in a silky yet robust paprika sauce, accompanied by pillowy housemade spaetzle--yum! If anything, we both liked this even better than the Wiener Schnitzel, as good as it was.
For dessert, I had ordered the last of the Apfelstrudel, so my husband orderd the Sacher Torte. I usually don't care for Sacher Torte despite being a chocolate fiend, because most versions are too dry. Not this one--beautifully moist and chocolatey.
Still, I preferred my Apfelstrudel. It's the closest I've had in NYC to the strudel I enjoyed in Vienna, with thin, butter pastry layers and tender apple filling. I'm pretty sure the accompanying cream was spiked with something, but I wasn't complaining :-)
The Verdict: My husband thought Seäsonal was the best lunch out we've had in quite awhile, and I have to agree. It's not that it was over the top in any way, quite the reverse--understated, yet perfectly executed, very fresh preparations, with attentive service, in a peaceful and unhurried setting. For me, it didn't hurt that there were 80s hits playing in the background--rather softly, so not obtrusive at all, but a nice bit of nostalgia.
And getting back to the theme of alternatives to NYC Restaurant Week, Seäsonal makes a great choice at just $4 more than the current Restaurant Week lunch price of $25. I doubt you'll find another Restaurant Week menu that offers lobster as part of any of the courses, or housemade apple strudel for that matter. The other NYC restaurant that Seasonal reminds me of a bit is Hospoda, but Hospoda isn't open for lunch, and I prefer the lighter, quieter environment of Seäsonal.
If you've been to Seäsonal Restaurant and Weinbar, what was your experience?
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