Günter Seeger, NYC
August 30, 2016
Günter Seeger was born and raised in Loffenau, a small town in the Black Forest of Germany, where his family owned a produce business. After culinary apprenticeships and school in Switzerland, at the age of 28 he opened his own restaurant in Pforzheim, a town at the edge of the Black Forest. It earned a Michelin star, but eventually failed. He moved to the US and cooked for thirty years in Atlanta, first at the Ritz-Carlton, then in his own restaurant which received national recognition. Nine years ago he closed it and moved to New York. He did some consulting while working on his plans which resulted in the May 2016 opening of his own NYC restaurant. Linda and I went for dinner on August 2, 2016.
The unassuming front on Hudson Street.
We were seated on a corner banquette at the end of the long narrow dining room near the open kitchen.
The view from my seat shortly after our arrival. There were eventually only fifteen diners that evening.
We ordered glasses of Pierre Gerbais Réserve Grains de Celle, Extra Brut Champagne. Very good.
Reservations are only made by buying a non-refundable ticket, which includes the tasting menu of the evening and the tip. We asked to see the menu of the evening to help us with wine selection, even though it is usually presented at the end of the meal. The menu was readily offered. We ordered a bottle of Domaine Paul Pillot, 1er Cru Clos Saint Jean, Chassagne-Montrachet. It was a good choice, with noticeable white Burgundy characteristics.
The first course was
Sauternes Granité, Nasturtium
A refreshing starter.
Bluefin Tuna Sauce
A small eggplant had been peeled and braised until very soft. This was served with chopsticks, which was bizarre as it made me eat the whole thing in one gulp and left most of the sauce in the bowl. When Linda asked about the sauce, the waiter saw she was having trouble cutting the eggplant with chopsticks and he immediately brought spoon, fork and knife. I borrowed her spoon to finish my sauce, which was a very nice purée of blue fin tuna, anchovy, capers and olive oil.
A ball of tomato sorbet was nestled on top of marinated heirloom tomato sections in various colors. A nice, colorful, seasonal dish.
Beet Gelée, Trout Caviar
Sturgeon mousse was covered with a beet gel and topped with a mound of trout roe. This was served with a slice of brioche, which was weird as it needed something crisp, not something with the same texture.
Smoked Salmon Trout,
Apple Essence, Grilled Persian Cucumber
This was a very good course. The Persian cucumber chunk was firm enough to stand up to its grilling, which enhanced the flavor. It was complementary to the smoked Scottish salmon trout and concentrated apple juice underneath.
Maine Lobster, Black Truffle
The zucchini flower had been stuffed with a lobster purée and cooked. It was dressed with a truffled sauce. This was good.
Blueberry, Wood Sorrel
This course was pretty and pleasant, but a bit strange. There was no evident relationship between the kelp broth, the small wild blueberries, the wood sorrel leaves and the phlox flowers. Considering the cherry tomatoes as a fruit, this was the third “fruit cocktail” dish in the meal.
Shishito, Date Chutney, Black Curry
Now we returned to serious cuisine. The grilled squab thigh was beautifully cooked. To finish one could pick up the drumstick and gnaw on its delicious meat. The unusual date chutney was well done and a good match. The nicely charred shishito peppers were a quite large variety. One would have been enough to go with the squab.
Bardwell Farm Cheese
These were both cow’s milk cheeses from a farm in Vermont, but they were quite different. The cheese from the wheel was buttery and pungent. The other was firm like an aged Alpine tomme. The whole wheat sourdough was chewy and good with the cheese.
Mint Oil, Chocolate Mint
A citrusy and minty refresher.
Black Forest Chocolate Cake
This was a deconstructed version of the signature dessert of the chef’s home region. It included all the necessary ingredients in a pretty, jumbled fashion: chocolate sponge cake, cherries, whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Very good and familiar.
Mignardises finished things off.
Lemon curd and chocolate mousse tartelettes. Nice.
We were expecting a higher-level cuisine. Despite the chef’s long record, the menu we had seemed somewhat amateurish. The three “fruit cocktails” set a tone. There was no evidence that he could actually cook fish or seafood, despite their cameo appearance in several dishes. But there were some real winners. We wish him well.
The service was efficient and friendly. The pace was good, rapid, but not too rapid. It was very quiet when we arrived, but by the time we left, with the room only a third full, the noise was reverberating off the bare walls and tabletops.