Entries in Wolfgang Ban (3)



It’s hard to screw up a beer hall, but Paulaner nearly failed, opening in November 2013 and closing just five months later for “renovations”. Evidently, the original décor “felt too much like an Applebee’s and needed a stylish kick in the pants.”

Successful second acts are rare in the restaurant business, but there are solid names behind the revamp, which opened in May under new management. Wolfgang Ban (of Seäsonal, Edi & the Wolf, and The Third Man) and Stephen Starr vet Markus Tschuschnig are co-owners. The executive chef is Bavarian Daniel Kill, from Kurt Gutenbruner’s chain of Austrian restaurants (Wallsé, Blaue Gans, Café Sabarsky, The Upholstery Store).

I never visited Paulaner v1.0, but the redesign doesn’t seem that dramatic (see the before and after photos on Eater). Still, it is a clear improvement. Photos on the walls have been ditched, leaving bare brick. Tables are now a darker wood. The long center aisle of the dining room is now taken up with communal tables and wooden benches. At the edge of the room, a row of rectangular tables is replaced with half-moon shaped booths.

The restaurant remains affiliated with the German beer of the same name. At the back of the restaurant, there are two huge copper and stainless steel fermenting vats imported from Germany. Beers brewed on-site are served unfiltered and unpasteurized.

The menu is inexpensive, with starters (appetizers, cheeses and sausages) $9–14, entrées $14–23, and side dishes $5–7. Portion sizes are ample, as you’d expect in a German restaurant. There’s a modest wine list (all $10 a glass). Cocktails are $11; beers $5, $7, or $13, depending on the size. When was the last time you saw food and alcohol this cheap, at a place run by a Michelin-starred chef?

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Edi & the Wolf

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)

Food: ½


Seäsonal Restaurant & Weinbar

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)

Food: ★★
Service: ★★
Ambiance: ★★
Overall: ★★