There are two paths for a second restaurant: give the public more of the same, or attract a new clientele by doing the opposite.
If chefs Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban wanted to create the opposite of their Michelin-starred Seäsonal in midtown, I have two words: Mission Accomplished. A more striking contrast than their new place, Edi & the Wolf, would be impossible to imagine.
I’m a huge fan of Seäsonal, one of the few upscale restaurants to have opened during the recession. The chefs either didn’t have PR, or didn’t know how to use it, and the place received scant critical notice. The food is excellent, but the space is somewhat cold and clinical. I wondered whether they’d join the list of not-from-here chefs that New Yorkers have chewed up and spit out.
Unlike Seäsonal, Edi & the Wolf—that’s the two chefs’ nicknames joined by an ampersand—creates the instant impression that it belongs here. The distressed farmhouse look and the long communal table are old ideas, but they don’t look at all hackneyed. The space is comfortable and inviting.
Despite the “I’ve-seen-this-before” esthetic, the décor is inspired by something not frequently encountered in the U.S., an Austrian Heuriger, or neighborhood tavern. A 40-foot rope salvaged from an old church has been turned into a chandelier; recycled military boots become flower vases; the wooden ceiling comes from an old barn.
The only resemblance to Seäsonal is the Austrian cuisine, which is rendered more simplistically and less expensively here. Appetizers—sorry, “Small Plates”—are $4–13; larger appetizers—sorry, “Shared Plates”—are $12–17; and entrées—sorry, ‘Schnitzel & Co.’—are $14–22.
If I sound annoyed . . . well, this is one East Village-ism I could have done without. The term “appetizer” never put any restaurant out of business. The term “Shared Plate” is misleading, given that the server suggested I order two of these for myself. I wondered if I could trust that advice, so I took a different path.
Cured Pork Belly ($9; above left) with horseradish, pearl onions, and quince was wonderful. If you think pork belly is over-used, you should order this dish, which is unlike any I’ve had in Manhattan, served cold light enough to be a salad.
Wiener Schnitzel ($19; above right) is offered with either veal or pork (I took the latter). It comes with the traditional accompaniments: potato salad, cucumber, and lingonberry jam. The breading is unheavy, and not at all greasy; the portion was ample, and more than I could finish.
The mostly-European wine list tilts towards whites, many of which are Austrian labels not often found in New York. Rieslings, for instance, pair well with most of the food here, even the meat dishes.
The restaurant was empty at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday evening, but by East Village standards the evening hadn’t begun; an hour later, the room was just beginning to fill up. I dined at the bar, where service was knowledgeable and attentive. It is hard to judge at this early date whether Edi & the Wolf will be a long-term hit, but right now it seems to fit right in.
Edi & the Wolf (102 Avenue C between 6th & 7th Streets, East Village)