Chef Günter Seeger knows what he wants. Born in Germany’s Black Forest region, Seeger was exposed to quality foods at a young age and suddenly found himself cooking in kitchens throughout Switzerland and Germany, where he earned his first Michelin star at his Hoheneck restaurant near Baden-Baden. Wanting to further his career, Seeger moved stateside in 1985, cooking at the esteemed Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta’s booming Buckhead neighborhood. His lengthy tenure was something of dreams, garnering the area’s first James Beard award, opening his own eponymous restaurant and earning the Mobil five stars. Georgia’s state capital was on the culinary map.
After a long hiatus post his restaurant closing in 2007, Seeger unveiled his Günter Seeger New York restaurant in the middle of Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood last spring. From the outside on Hudson street—and to those unaware of Seeger’s deep-rooted culinary history—the lone black door doesn’t evoke much thought of what lies on the other side. Walk on through, and completely embrace what Seeger has turned into his second home.
Up front lies a small lounge resembling that of a den in someone's house; guests check-in here. The dining room features exposed white brick and wooden floors, and is adorned with banquettes, an iron chandelier made by his grandfather and pieces of art by Paul Chelko and Eric Decastro—dear friends of Seeger’s. And in the back lies the open kitchen, where you can witness Seeger's magic.
That magic lies is his tasting menus—served in four or ten courses—featuring dishes like carrot soup with madras curry and cardamom cloud, Adirondack mountain trout with pickled treats, and his very famous ‘egg’ dish that he revived from his Atlanta days. Like Seeger, it has evolved over time—the current version includes birch syrup chantilly and a heaping portion of bottarga.)
The extensive wine list is not to be missed, with 45 bottles coming from Germany—27 of them Rieslings, Seeger’s personal favorite. “German wines have always been an important part of any of my restaurants,” Seeger says, who sources the wines through longstanding relationships with winemakers and distributors. For those unsure of the particular styles listed, beverage director and sommelier, Ryan White, is on hand to guide guests seamlessly through Germany’s many wine regions, like Rheingau and Pfalz.
“This list contains several of the top German classics in white and red, and even sparkling,” says Wine Advocate reviewer Stephan Reinhardt. “There are prestigious names such as Dr. Loosen, JJ Prüm, Willi Schaefer, Emrich-Schönleber, Rebholz or von Buhl, but also great wines from the younger generation such as Keller, Wagner-Stempfel, Kühling-Gillot, Schäfer-Fröhlich or Rainer Schnaitmann. The really stunning thing is that most of the wines are available in vintages that have just received the best drinking window. If I were there tonight, I’d order the 1990 Riesling Berg Bildstock Spätlese Trocken and/or the 1994 Wallufer Walkenberg Kabinett Trocken from JB Becker in the Rheingau—his dry Rieslings age terrifically well. Any money I saved here would be invested in Fürst's 2008 Centrafenberg or Schlossberg Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) Grosses Gewächs, whose freshness, finesse and elegance are unrivaled in Germany.”
All wines are poured in Zieher glasses, individually hand-blown and designed by Silvio Nitzsche. The glasses aerate from the center, providing maximum aroma and optimum development. Seeger imports them from Germany.
If German wines aren’t your thing, a vast selection of wines are available from other regions including Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Italy and California. (Though you’re in the house of Günter, so try a Riesling!)
In less than a year after opening, his impeccably hospitable staff, home-style decor and executed tasting menus earned him a Michelin star and two stars from the New York Times. So what lies in store for Seeger’s future? “I’d like to buy some land in Baden-Baden… and have a vineyard in the Black Forest,” he says. Günter Seeger knows what he wants.