"" What's She Eating Now?: Best Sleeper Restaurant in NYC

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Best Sleeper Restaurant in NYC

It has been a while since I have been surprised in a good way by an off-the-grid restaurant. Even great neighborhood spots usually have hype about what great neighborhood spots they are. Especially in the internet age, if a place is good, news travels fast and becomes common knowledge.

Why is it then, that no one knows about Seasonal? Did you know they earned a Michelin star this year? Have you heard of chefs Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder? Did you know they have solid food that won't break the bank? I sure didn't, until last night.

I have been meaning to go since it opened about a year ago, but 58th between 6th and 7th avenues is a strange no man's land laden with scaffolding that I never seem to find myself in. But alas, good things come to those who wait, apparently whether its due to laziness or not. Seasonal presents a modern take on traditional Austrian cuisine and does so with fresh tasting ingredients and impressive flavor combinations. Texture is also strong suit of the kitchen.

The first starter we tried was a Ziegenkase (Goat Cheese, Pumpkin Seed, Beets,Shallot, Elderflower, $12). This dish was alright. Although beautifully plated, the ratio of goat cheese to the other delicious ingredients was too much. This was the only plate we didn't lick clean. The next starter, Porchiertes Ei (Soft Poached Egg, Lobster, Maitake, Porcini, $15), was outstanding. The egg mixed with the broth it was sitting in was perplexingly both rich and light, and created a natural urge to mix in the lobster and top it off with a perfectly cooked crispy mushroom, which gave this wonderfully complete bite a needed contrasting texture. This dish was worthy of bread sopping towards the end.

We then had the Kalbsbries (veal sweetbread with celery and brussel sprouts, $15). The batter was a little reminiscent of the colonel's secret spice recipe, but there is a reason why people have tried to hijack it over the years. It has a good pepperiness without overpowering the supple sweetbreads and the crust does not crack or separate. The pieces of sweetbread were delicous on their own and even better when mixed with the other elements on the plate including brussel sprout leaves and a mysterious creamy something smeared on the plate with some tiny mushrooms. If you haven't caught on yet, chefs Ban and Frauneder know their way around fungus.

The Schweinebauch, or pork belly ($14) was good, but not as good as some of the other dishes. The pork itself was pretty fatty, even for belly, and the consistency reflected that. The scallion based relish it came with was a lovely burst of acid and fresh onion flavor which helped cut through the pork, but I have had better pork belly elsewhere. We ended our tour through the starters on an up note with the Kartofeelsuppe (Potato Soup, Speck, Taleggio, Dill, $13). The bowl is brought to the table with a solid tubular airy cheese element and some other flourishes sitting in the bottom, and the potato soup is poured on top tableside. It is hearty yet refined and the flavor is rich with potato, not just starch, and also with cheese, which is present in the soup up to but not crossing the point that it would make it heavy. The small bits of speck are a nice surprise when you find them.

We sampled the duck ($29) and the spatzle ($23) from the entree menu. The duck appeared to be prepared sous-vide and both large pieces were perfectly pink, tender and flavorful throughout. The accompanying puree was a little sweet for my taste but had a nice distinct carrot flavor and the black trumpets filled a great supporting role on the plate, if a touch too salty. The spatzle is something else. Everyone has had spatzle, but not everyone has had spatzle like this. Rather than a side dish of dumplings possibly lightly sauteed to create a little crisp, chefs Ban and Frauneder are bold enough to make an entree out of this Austrian staple. The dumplings themselves were cooked to the ideal density where they had a little give but weren't chewey and finely diced zucchini hid amongst them and the generous splash of wild mushrooms. The unifying force in the dish is the buttery cheesey sauce that has a subtle funk, just the right hint to give it punch. You can, of course, get a side of just the plain spaezle ($7), but the entree is one of the best vegetarian mains I can recall having in some time. The restaurant is proud of their desserts, but in my opinion selections from the cheese menu are a better end to this meal.

My only strong knock on Seasonal (aside from the name not working as well in English as in German) is that the decor does not match the menu well. Perhaps the intent was to have equal parts restaurant and weinbar, but Seasonal is clearly all about the food. Although its false sleekness takes away from the atmosphere somewhat, the professional yet friendly service and music, including the likes of The Shins and Postal Service played at moderate volume, help compensate. But why Seasonal is the Sleeper of the Year to me is the chefs' focus on showcasing ingredients in their best light and in harmonious balance between light and heavy, thick and thin, rich and refreshing. Its worth the shuffle past the tourists outside of Jeckyl and Hyde to experience this midtown marvel.

Guten Appetit!

132 West 58th Street (Between 6th and 7th Avenues)
Phone: 212 957 5550
Monday - Saturday: Lunch 12pm-3pm, Dinner 5pm-11pm
Sunday: Dinner 5pm-10pm


  1. An excellent restaurant to hang out!!

    Ok...I know I am a foodie and have travelled quite a bit and been to lot many places but the one city which is always an extension of mine is undoubtedly New York. I am proud to wear my Nike NY cap and cheer my Basketball team without fail. I have been to almost all the food joints, restaurants, pubs and bars located in Manhattan and I must say they all are pretty good considering this age of twittering and Face book wherein if you fail once your name pops up on all the social networking websites with negative comments. This is a welcome change becoz ultimately we the customers become the king as shoddy service or bad quality food can easily land the owners into trouble.

    But the one place which has succeeded in amazing me is the newly refurbished Restaurant named Point Break. Formerly named as Nation Restaurant & Bar, Point Break is a new Surf Bar located in the heart of mid-town Manhattan. Now I remember sometime back I had been to this place when it had the old look and feel and I thought ok..seems to be an average place..what's the big deal? But even during my last visit when it was still in its old shape it served me excellent food and the service was razor sharp. So last Saturday when one of my friend threw a party and told me the venue to be a swanky new outlet which he was speaking so highly about I thought ok..let's try this one too. When he told me about the address I wasn't sure it was the same place but when I reached there the whole look and feel from Outside was changed and once I entered in, the earlier known Nation was truly looking like a break from the past and hats off this guy, I don't remember the name of the owner, but he has rightly renamed it as Point Break!! It appeals to the newer generation guys like me. We had a great time there. The menu featured old classics and new additions. I loved the wheel o' shots which made me crazy!! I had the fish tacos which was delicious..yummeee and it has got plenty of room for parties, the DJ that they had was great, excellent sound system as well and the drinks were strong and I had a look at the menu and thought the prices were pretty good.

    Guys on top of it the next day when I searched this place on the internet, this restaurant has a Face book page too wherein they post photos and updates of recent happenings/parties and upcoming events/parties/offers too. They tweet also which is really nice thinking by the owner.

    Anyways not wanting to sound like a paid blogger I would say as a foodie this restaurant is a nice one and I would not hesitate to give my recommendation for it to my guests coming in from out of town. Go and try once and do not hesitate to leave a comment once you are there. I know I am only going to get thumbs up from you all!!!


    John Smith, NYC

  2. John Smith, you silver tongued foodie, you! I appreciated the authenticity of your review and will surely give my recommendation for it to my guests coming in from out of town.