How does one account for the lamentable dearth of great Austrian restaurants in NYC? Is it a lack of demand among diners or a lack of supply of talented chefs? Vienna ’79’s nouvelle Viennoise cuisine once reigned supreme but fizzled out in the mid-80s. David Bouley’s Danube shuttered in 2008. We are left with Wallse and Seasonal, a diminutive, quiet, off the radar Austrian restaurant and wine bar near Carnegie Hall that serves what is truly one of NYC’s finest dishes: the POCHIERTES EI, a soft-poached egg with lobster, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and pumpernickel crumbs. It is sublime discoveries like it that draw us back time and again to the plain, frankly drab, contemporary dining room (its neutral-colored walls are the polar opposite of the gorgeously gilded, Klimt-inspired excess of Danube) where chefs Edi Fraunder and Wolfgang Ban consistently impress with their innovative modern fare. Comparisons to Wallse are inevitable, and we find Seasonal to be less holistically impressive, but still a force in its own right. Seasonal’s dishes are characterized by less fidelity to classic Austrian preparations and are reminiscent of the architectural cuisine at David Burke Townhouse or the vertical cuisine of Gotham Bar and Grill in the sculptural quality of their presentation.
There are two other must order items: the SCHWEINEBAUCH, a pork belly whose preparation changes seasonally, and the obligatory WIENER SCHNITZEL, which is no less delicious for being expected. It achieves a fluffy, golden crispiness and is accompanied by truly impressive lingonberry. As might be expected, Seasonal has a phenomenal Austrian wine list, with many selections that will not merely complement but also amplify the flavors of the dishes. As may not be expected, Seasonal has no sommelier. Despite its recognition (it received a Michelin star in 2010) and its proximity to Carnegie Hall, we often see Seasonal half empty. We are unsure what inference to draw from this datum, but we wish fine Austrian restaurants in NYC a more illustrious future than past.
132 W. 58th St.
New York (nr. Sixth Ave.)
212-957-5550 Mon-Sat, noon-3:00pm, 5:00pm-11:00pm; Sun, 5:00pm-10:00pm