The next locale in my QNYGF series is Seäsonal an Austrian-inspired restaurant that just happens to be the proud recipient of a Michelin star. I am always on the lookout for different dining experiences in the City and there never seems to be a shortage of options. On this occasion I was meeting an old friend to catch-up on what was going on in our lives. When looking for a restaurant, I wanted something that neither of us had tried before. I stumbled upon Seäsonal in Midtown that is under the helm of chefs Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder. The general consensus among articles and reviews I looked at was that the food was delicious and innovative and the service stellar. So, I figured I would make a reservation and give it a try.
I arrived before my friend but was warmly greeted by the maître d’ and hostess who were chatting but stopped as soon as I walked in, stopped what they were doing, and made certain that I received a warm welcome – I was impressed. I mentioned that I was early for my reservation and awaiting a friend so I would just have a drink at the bar. The bartender immediately took notice and asked for my order. I opted for a vodka tonic but the restaurant has a phenomenal wine list with many by the glass options. A woman seated a bit further down the bar was asked by the bartender if she was familiar with Austrian wines (the main thrust of the restaurant after all). When she said no, the bartender, without missing a beat, lined up several glasses and poured a tasting into each. He then explained the wines in an unobtrusive manner but clearly knew about each wine but was not pretentious about it. In fact, you never know with award-winning restaurants what to expect but I can honestly say that Seäsonal, while truly a fine dining experience, is casual and almost home-like in making customers feel completely at ease and welcome. Back to the impromptu tasting…only after the woman chose her favorite did she receive a full glass to enjoy. It is small touches like this that make you remember a place. I was not even drinking wine but just seeing the level of interaction between the bartender and patron makes you realize that the staff is actually interested in ensuring you have a wonderful experience.
Once my friend arrived, he ordered a cocktail as well and we chatted a bit. When the next round appeared I figured we had better settle into our table. I walk over to the hostess who immediately ushered us to our table. The restaurant itself is actually rather small which helps provide a more intimate atmosphere.
The maître d’ quickly came over and told us he would be taking care of us for the evening. He then presented the specials for the day, asked if we had any questions, then gave us time to review the choices. The menu offers a nice range of starters, mains, and desserts. From a gluten-free perspective there were certainly suitable options but, as always, I would have to receive confirmation from the kitchen. Actually, it was more my shellfish allergy that concerned me more this time around. When the maître d’ returned, I explained my allergies and he was quick to offer suggestions guiding me through the menu. Once I had agreed on my choices he quickly went to the kitchen and confirmed I would not have any problems.
So what did we order you ask? For my started I have a mixed vegetable salad type dish (it is actually not on the current online menu and the name escapes me). It was delicious and was lightly dressed with a perfect vinaigrette so as not to take away from the complex flavors of the vegetables. My friend had the Pochiertes Ei which was a Soft Poached Egg with Lobster, Maitake and Porcini mushrooms. It was beautifully presented and my friend raved about how good it was. For the main course I opted for the Zwiebelroastbraten consisting of Wagyu Beef, Parsley Root, Black Garlic, Cipollini, and Lime (which was actually a freeze-dried meringue-like consistency). The beef was served as three round tenderloins that were cooked to medium-rare perfection. I have learned to let the kitchen do its thing when it comes to Wagyu because I tend to eat everything super well-done. That of course would ruin the delicateness of the meat and really make for an unpleasant experience. Wagyu has gotten me to move to the rare-side though I still prefer other cuts über well-done. The combination of the parsley root, garlic and cipollini was so well balanced with the delicate meat you just could not ask for more. My friend enjoyed the Wiener Schnitzel with potato, cucumber and Lingonberry. Again, it was presented beautifully and was simply delicious. I was actually jealous because in my pre-Celiac days I went to school in Germany and had a love affair with all things schnitzel.
Moving on to dessert, there was really only one thing (aside from ice cream) that I could indulge in – and indulge I did but to be honest I was actually quite full already but always go the extra mile for my readers. I had the Honig (Honey) Parfait which was a Pumpkin Seed Crusted Honey Parfait complemented with a decadent caramel sauce and served with a dried fruit compote. My friend had the Schokoladen Haselnuss Soufflé or chocolate hazelnut soufflé that was accompanied by homemade vanilla ice cream. By the end of the evening I was completely satiated but did not feel at all like I just had a heavy meal.
Overall, the experience could not have been better. Even as the restaurant filled to capacity, you never felt as though it was at the cost of excellent service. The staff truly could not do enough for their guests and it made the experience that much better. The food was exceptional and innovative without going too far from its Austrian roots or going too far over the top. The kitchen’s attention to detail and ability to perfectly meld complex flavors was truly second to none. I am already looking forward to my next visit.