Saturday, December 11, 2010

In Season

I don't have too many opportunities to discuss restaurants that I believe to be nearly perfect, but last night's dining experience, at Seasonal, was one such pleasure. I started off on the wrong foot at a table too near the door and hostess stand and without wine or cocktail list for ten minutes before a lanky manager arrived to quench my thirst. From there, the night could have gone sour, but it didn't, not by a long shot. To start, K. and I ordered cocktails made with Sekt and apricot nectar and elderflower. Next, I flagged our thickly-accented server-manager-type and asked for a bottle of 1992 Spatlese riesling from Germany, a surprising steal on an otherwise expensive list. Recognizing my pedigree from my pick, my new manager friend sent, to start, a glass of J.J. Prum.

I should have known from the amuse bouche, a sliver of cured fluke that should speak for all raw fish everywhere, that our meal would sing. We wanted to eat three courses and began with a soft-poached egg, which came with rich lobster knuckles and pumpernickel crumbles and hen of the woods mushrooms. It was delicate and earthy with a touch of salinity from the sea, a stark comparison to the rich pork belly, adorned with silken quince and honey. The belly itself was fork tender, a pink plume of meat that can so often disappoint, rose to the occasion.

Next, a midcourse of consomme with rock shrimp and bone marrow and cubed rutabaga. I didn't know it would be such a pristine show-stopper, elegant and flush with contrasting textures. The bone marrow, no more than an inch wide, would have been fine on toast, but in the clear soup, bobbing around like the world's best butter, it inspired.

The house sent a second midcourse, fried veal sweetbreads with an accompanying cream of celery root, a sliver of onion, a leaf from a blanched Brussels sprout. I was relieved at its arrival--the dish was one I had wanted to order when I had originally considered my options. With our extra course, our manager returned to bestow upon us mystery glasses of wine, on him. I guessed Gruner Veltliner, from its crispness and aroma of green apples and was rewarded with a nod.

And then our entrees arrived, pillowy veal wiener schnitzel with lingonberry jam and soft, creamy, salty scalloped potatoes. On the side, a cucumber salad, cut into ribbons and slickened with mayonnaise, provided crunch. Cheesy spaetzle sent my stomach over the line into deeply full, even though it teemed with vegetables. Still, I had room for a recommended dessert: kaiserschmarrn, or dough dumplings that are pan fried and coated in sugar and spice and served with sliced apple compote on the side.

132 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019

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