Note: Seäsonal closed at the end of 2014 after a six-year run. The chefs sold the lease to Maria Loi, the Greek chef, who will replace it with Loi Estiatorio.
It’s not easy for a restaurant to exceed expectations. Most new places are heavily over-promoted, establishing high hopes that few can hope to meet. Seäsonal Restaurant and Weinbar has the opposite problem. It has been open since December 2008, but among major publications only Crain’s gave it a full review (two stars from Bob Lape). The Times gave it the Dining Briefs treatment (mostly favorable, from Julia Moskin).
Seäsonal deserves far more attention than that. It serves modern Austrian cuisine, an under-represented genre in New York. With David Bouley’s Danube now closed, Kurt Gutenbrunner’s Wallsé is the only restaurant even close to comparable. We gave Wallsé three stars, and while we’re not yet prepared to bestow the same laurels on Seäsonal, we were certainly impressed.
The menu is mid-priced, with appetizers $9–18 (most $14 or less), entrées $21–32 (most $27 or less), side dishes $7, desserts $10. A seven-course tasting menu is $64. These prices are more than fair, given the quality of everything we tried.
As you’d expect for a wine bar, there’s an ample selection of wines by the glass. The bottle list is a bit more expensive than it ought to be, with few choices below $50. We settled on an Austrian Pinot Noir at $48, which was about the cheapest red wine available.
The minimalist décor looked more Scandinavian than Austrian to us, but we found it quiet and comfortable. On a Wednesday evening, the space was less than half full.
We started with a nice amuse-bouche of smoked duck (right). As I recall, there were two kinds of home-made bread, and two contrasting butters to go with it.
Cheese Ravioli ($12; above left) defied the Austrian food cliché: they were light as a feather, complemented with smoked mushrooms, baby spinach, and a harvest corn sauce. My friend was equally pleased with the Foie Gras Terrine ($18; above right), with a lingonberry-mandarin confit and toasted brioche on the side.
The entrées were terrific too: Pumpkin-Seed Crusted Black Sea Bass ($26; above left) with a butternut squash and black truffle sauce, and Duck Breast ($27; above right) with red cabbage and Schupfnudeln.
The meal ended with a small plate of petits-fours. Service lived up to the quality of the food. The bar tab was transferred to our table without our having to ask.
The restaurant’s location, in the middle of a quiet midtown street, does not work to its advantage. People need to know it’s there. I came in expecting a decent neighborhood place, but left with the idea that Seäsonal needs to be taken far more seriously.
Seäsonal (132 W. 58th Street between Sixth & Seventh Avenues, West Midtown)