Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar

(New York, NY) With Saturday forecasted at sunny skies and record temps (mid-70's), I felt compelled to explore the city by foot while my wife worked indoors. I walked from our hotel near Pier 93 to Central Park, about a mile and a half away, and enjoyed the early afternoon sunlight with the rest of the population. People walked dogs, baby strollers, and hand-in-hand, enjoying lunch from a food cart or nearby sandwich shop. Today, thanks again to, I had lunch reservations at the nearby Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar where I hoped to find some authentic German and Austrian sustenance...

He Fed:
My first thought as I walk into the small doorway to Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar is, Am I underdressed? says the dress code is "smart casual"...what the heck is that? A quick check of Wikipedia provides no concrete information, though it boils down to slacks and collared shirt, most likely. I am wearing a collared shirt and jeans. Will that suffice, or will they turn me away, despite my reservation? The reason for my apprehension is the very elegant table presentation and the host dressed in suit and tie.

Turns out, I need not have worried. In this day and age, most restaurants roll with the punches. Even French Laundry let me dine without a jacket when they couldn't loan me one big enough. The host checks me in and leads me back to a booth, only one of about ten tables. There is one gentleman at the bar, clearly a regular, but otherwise the place is empty. It is prime lunchtime, so the absence of patrons worries me slightly. Perhaps the perennial NYC construction outside has hidden the entrance? Or is there something wrong with the place? Again, I worry too much, needlessly. As I proceed with my lunch, other patrons begin to filter in until there are another three or four tables filled.

I've already previously decided, through careful inspection of the online menus, that I'll order the three course lunch for $27 and ask them to pair some wines. (That is our new practice in restaurants with an extensive wine list, asking the server or sommelier to pair a glass of wine with the first and second courses. We will attempt to do a better job of documenting these wines in future.) I start off with the Kartoffelsuppe -- Potato Soup with Speck, Taleggio, and Dill. It arrives in a wide bowl, the dill and cheese in the bottom, while the server pours the warm potato soup into the vessel. Bits of speck (juniper flavored ham) float in the creamy white suspension. My first spoonful is warm and comforting, coating my tongue in a sheath of buttery potato and cheese. I feel a momentary pang of guilt because I know Juliet would love the taleggio, but the emotion dissolves as I sip a crisp, cold Austrian white wine that perfectly complements the earthy goodness of the soup. I am nearly transported to levels of La Pergola delight.

Sadly, the suppe comes to an end and the empty bowl is whisked away. Originally I had planned on the veal cheeks for my entree, but their menu had changed slightly and I didn't see that particular offering (perhaps veal cheeks were unseasonal at that moment?). Instead, and a bit reluctantly, I chose the Wiener Schnitzel -- Breaded Veal Cutlet with Warm German Potato Salad, Cucumber Slaw, and Lingonberries. It arrived in short order...a work of art on a clean white plate. The contrast between the deep golden cutlet, the green cucumber, the purple berries and mild yellow potato salad was composed in such a way that I felt reluctant to disrupt the tenuous accord. One bite of the veal and my reluctance melts away. Then, quite by accident, I decide to create one bite out of veal, cucumber and lingonberry. It is as if I've discovered electricity! The brooding, tart berries offset the fried sweetness of the veal and the dill on the cucumber slaw ties it all together. All too quickly, it is gone.

I ask the host (who is also my server, as this is clearly a one-man show at lunchtime) which dessert he would recommend. Without hesitation, he says, "The Sacher cake." I have no idea what it is, but I order it along with one of their German wheat beers on draught. The torte arrives, a chocolate-covered confection with a dollop of whipped cream on the side. My first bite is dry, but pleasantly so, contrasting nicely with the sweet dark chocolate and ephemeral whipped cream. The beer washes it all down nicely. As my cutlery and dishes are taken away, replaced inevitably by the bill, I'm kind of sad to have to go back out into bustling New York City. It has been very pleasant to sit here, enjoying a quiet luncheon as if I were in Europe. It is, without a doubt, one of the best meals I've had, ever.

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