Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar, New York
One block from Carnegie Hall in New York, just visited by the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic), is the Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar. Seasonal provides a year-round taste of Vienna and is representative of the new generation of Viennese restaurants in Austria and elsewhere that have moved away from the formal, dark, and gilded Habsburg era style to elegant and casual dining.
There is ample reason to go to Seasonal for the food alone but diners should be aware of the unparalleled cellar of Austrian and German wines that co-owners Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder, who studied together at the Gastgewerbefachschule (Vienna Culinary Institute), have assembled.
Vienna not only has its own cuisine but it’s the only major world capital with a wine-growing district within its borders. While the city’s name is practically synonymous for music and culture, Austrian wines remain relatively unknown. Austria has 51,213 hectares of vineyards and most of it is consumed domestically. The sheer diversity found in Austrian wines (only 36% of production is Grüner Veltliner) means that one can pair them with almost anything.
At Seasonal, these wines pair best with the modern Austrian cuisine that comes out of the Seasonal kitchen, presided over by the co-owners.
My first meal at Seasonal started with Schlutzkrapfen, delightfully light ravioli stuffed with a tangy goat cheese and dressed with a Champagne foam.
My dining partner ordered the Wiener Schnitzel, which arrived in a puffy, perfectly golden-brown crust accompanied by cucumber salad, potatoes, and lingonberry sauce. The veal cutlet was as authentic as anything made in my grandmother’s kitchen in Vienna and just as light and airy.
My Kaisergulasch was prepared with tender, braised veal cheeks, a much tastier and more tender cut than the usual. The paprika-based goulash sauce had just the right amount of paprika and other spices, perfect for the accompanying Spätzel.
For dessert, we had the Kaiserschmarrn (literally, the “emperor’s nonsense”), sliced baked pancakes served with raisins, apple compote, and powdered sugar.
The long bar with comfortable white leather seating in the middle of the room, not to mention the wine list, which lists Austrian wines by region [Burgenland, Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), Steiermark (Styria), and Wien (Vienna)], reminds one that this is a serious Weinbar.
A subsequent visit focused on ten wines that Messrs. Ban and Frauneder felt were most representative of their wine list’s variety.
We started with the Von Buhl Riesling Brut 2003, the only German wine in our tasting. A nice alternative to Champagne or prosecco, the elegant Von Buhl was minerally with a dry finish.
The Neumayer Engelberg Grüner Veltliner 2008, is from the Traisenthal, an area where archaeologists have found evidence of grapevine growing over 4000 years ago. Neumayer’s wines are influenced by the Traisenthal’s unique climate and the 2008 Engelberg is a light-bodied and balanced wine with wonderful aromas.
The Liegenfeld Leithaberg Grüner Veltliner 2007, from the Burgenland (the easternmost province in Austria), is best served at 10° C (50° F). Liegenfeld is in Donnerskirchen, where the south-facing slopes of the Leithagebirge are rich in mica schist and chalk, ideal for producing minerally wines with a warmer aftertaste such as this.
The Graf Hardegg 2008 Riesling vom Schloß was from the Weinviertel wine region in Niederösterreich. Only 75 kilometers from Vienna, the Hardegg estate makes wine by completely natural means and with no modern oenological intervention. The Riesling vom Schloß was very fresh with a fruity apricot and peach taste and a long finish.
The Sommer Riesling Bergweingarten 2008, from Donnerskirchen, had more of a yeasty taste with citrus and apple. It was one of our favorites.
The Gaisberg Riesling 2003 from the Kamptal was fruity with a much richer and fuller body. It was definitely the best Riesling of the bunch.
The Michlits Pinot Noir 2007 was a competent Pinot, compared to all of the other wines we tasted, but despite a supple finish paled in comparison.
The Umathum Zweigelt Classic 2007 from the Burgenland starts with an initial sweat/leather nose with a more earthy finish. It was an acquired taste but one we liked.
The Weninger Blaufränkisch Hochäcker 2006 is one of the finest examples of this medium-bodied varietal and has a typical fine Blaufränkisch nose, with well recognizable fruits such as cherry and plum. The Hochäcker was rich with juicy acidity and crisp tannins. Since tasting it, it has become one of my favorite red wines.
The Hafner Frizzante Muscat was an excellent way to conclude our tasting. Produced in the sunny hills of the Neusiedlersee in the Burgenland, this lightly-sparkling wine was characterized by floral aromas with peach and citrus flavors.
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm. Shannon McClatchey, Managing Editor of Executive Road Warrior, contributed to this review.