Several weeks ago, I asked my family if they would like to go out eating at Sesonal, the 1* Michelin-rated, Austrian restaurant that’s located in Midtown West. Everyone except my father could attend and we set the date back last Saturday. My reasoning was the fact there aren’t that many restaurants in Manhattan that serves Austrian food (the other place I know of and went to is Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie located in the Upper East Side) and the menu sounds different and enticing enough that my family is willing to try.
My mother, brother and I perused their lunch menus and settled on the three-course lunch prix fixe since we’re planning to cook a huge dinner at home.
Seasonal is handsomely decorated – streamlined and clean lines and curves with several paintings to add some color to the white walls, dark wood tables lined with olive green place mats. The curved bar with a creamy white leather chairs looked comfortable to linger if it was the after-work hours.
Bread service consisted of a large bowlful of sliced whole wheat filled with two flavored cream cheeses (pumpkin seed and paprika) on the side. The bread is nothing extraordinary to note about. The cream cheeses were good. I particularly am intrigued by the delicate floral flavor from the pumpkin seed spread. The paprika was favored by the rest of my table, as they prefer robust flavors.
As they served the first course, my Madelsuppe was beautiful. Initially started with a vibrant green gel and sauce made of cucumber placed with a small, rolled up zucchini with finely minced peach and almonds with micro herbs. As our waitress poured the cold almond soup, it becomes a minimalist artwork of a pure white with little dots of green. Cool soup meets bits of vegetal gel and fruit. It’s arguably the most interesting (and tasty) cold soup I’ve eaten this year.
My brother had the Pochiertes Ei, a dish composed of cubes of lobster, strands of maitake mushrooms mixed around sitting on a bed of fried pumpernickel, soft poached egg on top with lobster foam to lighten the dish. It’s a mixture of soft, a touch of chewy and seafood sweetness, with a lot of spiced crunch with every bite.
My mother had the Jakobsmushel. Two perfectly seared scallops dotted with dark squid ink to emphasize the seafood flavor with a small pile of shredded cabbage with minute dices of speck and walnuts, all lightly glazed with the just-poured scallop sauce.
Moving to the entrées, my brother craved meat so ended up with the Tafelspitz with it’s many accoutrements to accompany it. It’s essentially a flatiron beef stew in oxtail consommé with baby carrots, tissue thin slices of daikon, leeks. Trying a few bites of my brother’s dish, the beef was super tender; with the apple-horseradish it’s sweet than spicy condiment. The creamed spinach (that’s what our server told us) was very light and tasted more like spinach purée. The super crispy rösti was a very fine, not greasy potato pancake.
My mother’s wiener schnitzel of fried veal cutlet, potato salad, cucumber salad, lingonberry jam was superbly done. The veal was crisp on the outside and perfectly moist despite the fact it was pounded to a thin sheet. The potato salad was oddly refreshing since it’s not the standard American potato salad (it’s tart and the potatoes weren’t mushy). The cucumber salad was artfully presented in a quenelle shape, formed by shaving it to long, capellini-thin strands and rolling it to the said shape.
I had the sole vegetarian dish on the meu: spätzle. The spätzle was slightly dense and chewy (in a good way) to give the dish heft. Loaded with gooey, creamy bergkäse cheese, crisp cubes of zucchini and fine shreds of earthy mushrooms. As someone who likes to eat meat, I haven’t missed it when I ate this dish.
As we gotten to the dessert course, my brother wanted Apfelstrudel (another way to spell apple strudel). As he started to fork his way through the strudel, it was very fresh and crisp that it sounded like he’s breaking fine sheets of glass even though it’s freshly baked phyllo dough. I took a bite and it was better than the one I had at The Modern Bar Room.
My mother’s Seasonal Cake was a sponge cake soaked in coffee liqueur and filled with cinnamon mousse. It reminded us of a Chinese swiss roll cake. Light and fluffy cake with a barely sweetened mousse to play along with its wispy texture.
My sacher torte was the antithesis of the Seasonal Cake. It was dense, decadent and saccharine. The cake was finely crumbed, chocolate-y, and moist from the apricot jam that’s sandwiched in between the layers. The chocolate glaze was a touch too sweet but it’s softens up when you take a bite with the whipped cream that’s on the side.
Overall, this lunch was great. It’s a good deal considering it is three courses for $29 (pre-tax and tip) and not many restaurants in NYC has very good Austrian fare. Over the two hours I spent here, it’s noticeably quiet for what I would imagine on a Saturday afternoon.
For the complete set of photos of this meal, please click through below.