Friday, August 14, 2009

Seasonal: A German-Austrian Idyll

Restaurant Name: Seasonal
Restaurant Location: 132 W. 58th Street, New York

Seasonal is a newish (open less than 1 year) German-Austrian restaurant. A friend of ours, who just so happens to be German, recommended the place to us, and so on a steamy summer evening we braved the heat with he and his wife to check it out. The restaurant is a small spare space (long and narrow, lots of white), that invites long, delightful meals on its comfy leather chairs or a slow drink at the curving bar.

We were happy to give in to the flow and enjoyed one of the better meals we've had in quite awhile.

To start, our of our party tried the Tomaten-Topfen, a delicate summer salad of Heirloom Tomatoes, Homemade Topfen (a cheese quite similar in taste and texture to fresh mozzarella) and micro basil. Another choice appetizer was the Jakobsmucheln, an arrangement of plump Diver Boat sea scallops perched proudly atop a tangle of red beet tagliatelle (ingenious) served with Maitake mushrooms and fresh horseradish. This dish was as bold as the tomato salad was demure, and both were outstanding in terms of flavor, freshness, and beauty.

For my starter, I ordered the Ziegenkase Salat, a beautiful salad of baby greens dressed with a shallot elderflower dressing, and nestled atop a pumpkin seed crusted round of fresh goat cheese and sweet, salt-baked baby beets. It was summer on a plate and impressive (as were all dishes at Seasonal) in its marriage of disparate flavors into one harmonious dish.

My husband chose a heavier first course, opting for the almost obscenely good Schweinebauch, a dish of pork belly confit (crisp, creamy, and decadent) with braised onion served in a light, flavorful Riesling caraway jus. He had to fend the rest of us off in order to finish.

Though all of these dishes were heavy on flavor (in all cases resulting from a combination of many elements perfectly merged) and richness, the portions were reasonable. I've been to so many restaurants that offer appetizers that -- rather than actually stimulating your appetite and making you eagerly anticipate the next course -- stuff you so full you can't contemplate your entree with anything but dread. Seasonal does an excellent job of portioning correctly so that you can enjoy every last bite of your food.

After a lovely interlude of wine (a lovely Gruner Vetliner) and good conversation, our entrees arrived.

Two of our party chose the Tafelspitz. A gorgeous take on a traditional dish, the Tafelspitz was a perfect cut of Flat Iron steak that had been long poached to perfection and served in an oxtail consommé (yes, it was rich and delicious beyond belief). The dish was served with an impressive assortment of sides and garnishes, including two crisp little potato pancakes, an apple horseradish sauce, a chive sauce, and a side of creamed spinach (the latter being everyone's least favorite item).

I was served the Heilbutt, a beautiful pan-seared halibut (they rolled the fish so that it was artfully presented as a long cylinder) perched atop a bed of roasted onions, sauteed romaine (which sounded awful but was both appetizing in appearance and taste - almost like shredded, sauted Brussel sprouts), and tiny Chanterelle mushrooms. This presentation was lightly sauced with a rich, yet still delicate, bacon-mustard cream sauce. I ate it all.

Though we were extremely full at this point, we couldn't resist ordering one dessert to share around the table. Our choice: the Topfennockerl, a lightly sweet, airy Quark mousse served in quenelles that had been rolled in a fine nut crust. The plate was sauced with a raspberry-Champagne cream sauce and the whole dish was garnished with a fruit compote. This dessert struck all the same notes as the appetizers and entrees: a light, summery feel that was still rich and displayed an impressive complexity of flavors -- not to mention beautiful presentation all around.

I look forward to returning to Seasonal at the first opportunity.

Bon Appetit!

Seasonal on Urbanspoon

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