New York, New York
The word “seasonal” conjures up images of market-driven cuisine in a somewhat “country” type setting. Consequently, it was a bit of a surprise to walk into Seasonal, the restaurant, in midtown Manhattan and find a strikingly modern space with white walls, decent paintings, dark brown leather banquettes and chairs (as well as über-cool white bar stools) with an Austrian menu and an Austrian and German-heavy wine list.
I’m frequently at a loss when dining in midtown Manhattan. Of course there are many restaurants to choose from but none really have captured my heart enough to frequent any one place regularly. This has resulted in a somewhat jaded view on my part to keep searching for a place that’s not only good but wallet-friendly.
At lunch Seasonal offers a three-course menu for $27 featuring classic German-American specialties kicked up a notch. Dare I mention I was meeting the husband for lunch on a day I had off from work but he didn’t? Not only was it a much needed break from work day monotony but it was also nice to reconnect with each other especially since it was a chance for me to savor some of the dishes I grew up eating.
With four appetizers, five entrees and five desserts to choose from, the menu looked so appealing I had a little bit of a problem deciding what to try. To start, Lynn and I both had the smoked trout – cut and rolled up in the shape of a cylinder with a parsnip puree accompaniment. Good dark bread was brought with butter and a paprika-infused cheese spread. Lynn, always on the lookout for something fried, ordered the Wiener Schnitzel which came with both a warm fingerling potato salad and a classic cucumber salad with fresh dill and sour cream. I ordered the Tafelspitz – thin pieces of boiled beef sitting in a rich oxtail broth with fresh baby vegetables on top. Seasonal’s version of “rösti, usually a step above hash browns here stateside, were well, shaped like small CD’s. Staring at these disc-like looking products, I hoped that at least one of its parental units had been a tuber in one form or another because it didn’t really taste that “potatoey”; it just wasn’t as rich or as zaftig or as greasy as I always thought rösti should be. Consequently, it got kind of a mediocre reception on my part. Bright green creamed spinach with the intensity of having been pureed by a supreme food processor resulting in its extravagant color and taste, was yet another side dish. I questioned the addition of the creamed spinach with the Tafelspitz thinking it wasn’t necessary but never one to refuse anything that’s been pureed and creamed, it was an easy eat. An accompaniment to the rösti and the meat were bowls of apple puree with some spicy horseradish thrown in as well as a sour cream and chive dipping sauce.
While portions were small, the food was delicious and expertly plated. Dessert was a choice of many old school favorites: we went with a classic Apfelstrudel mit schlag and Kaiserschmarrn – (literally, emperor’s cut) – puffy pancakes that are sliced and diced then sprinkled with raisins and covered with powdered sugar. The Kaiserschmarrn had more of a bread pudding consistency than it probably traditionally should have but it was delicious. The Apfelstrudel had a decent apple filling but the serving was painfully small and the crust was soggy.
Still, the space, the price and the level of cooking talent at Seasonal make me definitely want to come back for some outstanding Austrian fare. Maybe now I finally have a regular place to eat whenever I’m in midtown?