Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I didn't follow the chef here. I didn't even know who the chef was (or they were, retrospectively: Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder). Instead, I followed blindly the instruction of my most trusted chef who is now a critic, so I I think that's reasonably close enough. Plus, it was for my birthday dinner, a refection that necessitates some premeditation. I had narrowed my choices down to three, and Mike Colameco told me to forgo the other two and beeline to Seasonal. And he was right.

A beautifully subdued room, if anything a bit too austere, but cool in cucumber tones and stretched long, giving it an vast, tunnel-like feel. A bit like an airy cocoon. Quaint bunches of humble sunflowers and alstroemeria bedecked each table in glass tumblers, a harbinger not to take things too seriously. The food is sculpted, meticulous, and nuanced, but there are playful elements as well. An exquisite amuse was sent out immediately, sparking a twinkle of doubt in me as the ingredients were described: mackerel is not my favorite thing. But this specimen was not fishy- it simply whispered of an ocean breeze. There was fun to be had relishing this delicious tidbit while perusing the menu: there is no foreign language more amusing to bumble through than German (perhaps because I don't speak it, but I can mimic the accent).
Thus, a Gartensalat was fun even before it arrived, and even lovelier after it did. The menu stated perfunctorily mixed greens with onion, radish, tomato and peach, but lurking amongst them were crunchy nuggets of pumpkin seed brittle (a joyous surprise in each bite) and a tangy sweet dehydrated tomato slice perched atop, which was best divvied up to enjoy anointed by the saucy, mustardy dressing beneath.
The crowd-stopper was the Pochiertes Ei (even I couldn't try to pronounce that one): tender chunks of pristinely white lobster meat waiting to be smothered by a soft poached egg whose yolk was more orange than yellow. A delicate foam flavored of mushroom augmented the shards of hen of the woods that mingled with buttery pumpernickel crunchies that anchored the dish. There was an unusually perfect balance of lightness and richness, freshness and indulgence in this dish that is rarely achieved. The plate was licked.

It being my birthday dinner, you can imagine my thrill at skate listed amongst the entrees, and Seasonal's rendition did not disappoint. Steamed and furled atop a thin slick of a rich tomato jus, it sat flanked by small ramparts of artichoke and beech mushrooms that surrounded cylindrical plugs of the tenderest, most prodigious potato I have ever encountered. I couldn't even determine what it was... almost like parsley root or turnip, but denser. But juicier and more toothsome than any normal potato. Those Germans, though, they know their kartoffels. I wanted a bowl. Instead, as Seasonal is not too uptight to provide side dishes, I opted for a seasonal (of course) mix of veggies
to go along with my entree. Tooth-tender cauliflower, zucchini, radishes, kale and celery tumbled in a garlicky sautee with a sprinkle of mixed baby greens atop. This was also a good foil for the signature Wiener Schnitzel, a rosy scallop of veal with an ethereally crisp and light breading. How they get that much flavor into such thinly pounded veal I know not. A perfectly fresh and tart yogurt-cucumber salad along with the traditional lingonberries balanced luxuriously rich and buttery hand-mashed potatoes for a refined version of this classic dish.

It being my birthday, dessert was a must (although generally speaking, no occasion is necessary to sample the artistry of the pastry chef), and we opted for the Fruhling, a decision based solely on its components. What arrived was a thin, chilled broth of white asparagus afloat with tidbits of crunchy raw rhubarb, pooled around a luscious strawberry sorbet and sprinkled with a dusting of dark, chocolately tasmanian pepper. While wholly alluring and refreshingly delicious, it wasn't quite what I'd had
in mind. And absolutely nothing to stick a candle in. Luckily, our server had clandestinely gleaned that it was my birthday, and swooped in with a post-dessert dessert of an updated Sachertorte, light on chocolate and rich in brown sugar, with a thin layer of vibrant apricot marmalade between layers. Complete with a cute, green and white striped candle that spritzed enthusiastically like a sparkler until I blew it out with my wish. Which, after a meal like that, had already been granted.

132 West 58th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues
Tel: +1-212-957-5550

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