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Best Northern European Eats

Berlyn_Restaurant_PS-1-1.jpgRight about this frigid time of year every year, it gets hard to motivate out of the house.  Really, the only thing inspires me to brave the outdoors is hearty, warming foods, so this season I’ve turned to Northern Europe — experts at cold fronts and frigid winters, these cuisines really know how to get people through frigid winters.  There are some very compelling dishes and new restaurants, like Vandaag or Edi & The Wolf, to go out for dinner.

Address: 103 Second Ave., at 7th St
Phone: (212) 253-0470

If you haven’t been to this Dutch newcomer in the East Village, you’ll want to put it on the
top of your to-try list in 2011.  The setting is cozy, yet elegant, and the
food is excellent.  So are the cocktails, which are thoughtfully imagined by Katie
Stipe, who imagines really unique wine, beer and aquavit cocktails, like the “Didly
Fizz” — a blend of Flemish sour ale, bourbon, egg white, lemon and cherry
heering.  Still, the biggest draw is the super seasonal menu with
unusual ingredients and outstanding flavor combinations, such as Russian
kale ingeniously perked up with green strawberries, onions and caraway
seeds.  There’s salmon gravlax with a tangle of watercress, shallots,
dill, and briny bursts of salmon roe and more traditional desserts, like chocolate pudding, meringue, and waffles.

Edi and The Wolf
Address: 102 Ave. C, at 7th St.
Phone: (212) 598-1040

This new restaurant is Seasonal partners, Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang
Ban’s Austiran answer to the gastropub.  Unlike its uptown and upscale sibling, Edi
and the Wolf,
with its rustic farmhouse décor, has a distinctly
downtown, laidback appeal.  The menu features ramped up comfort food with
innovative touches, including Cornish hen with cabbage and wiener schnitzel
with thinly pounded heritage pork sided with lingonberry jam and potato
salad.  There’s also a rotating selection of cheeses, seasonal pickles and
freshly baked, Alsatian flatbreads topped with mushrooms, onions, or fig
and speck.

Address: 25 Lafayette Ave., btwn. Ashland Place & St. Felix St. (Fort Greene)
Phone: (718) 222-5800

The cocktail menu at this German boite is surprisingly forward-thinking.  Try this joint’s namesake, “The Berlyn,” a fragrant, finely balanced mix of gin, rosehip, lemon, fresh ginger and bitters, before making your way into an order of frikadellen (German meatballs).  The kitchen turns out traditional German staples, like wiener schnitzel, but our favorite is the roast pork loin in beer sauce.  With the restaurant’s close vicinity to BAM, it’s also a great place to grab a beer or a good cocktail before the show.

CAfe Kristall interior.jpgCafé Kristall
Address: 70 Mercer St., btwn. Broome & Spring Sts
Phone: (212) 274-1500

Located inside SoHo’s newly opened Swarovski store, Café Kristall is a perfect and stylish pit
stop for hungry shoppers. Like its sister restaurant, Wallse, the menu
focuses on Austrian cooking and flavors, like wiener schnitzel with
lingonberries and a cucumber salad or Scottish salmon with Riesling
sauce.  But with its delicate dishes and bathing suit season portions, it undoubtedly caters to ladies on a mission.  There’s an eye-popping beet
terrine, delicately layered with horseradish mousse and a light, but
exquisite crabmeat salad, anointed in a tomato vinaigrette.

Address: 144 Second Ave., at 9th St.
Phone: (212) 228-9682

If you’re a night owl or an insomniac, you should familiarize yourself
with this 24-hour diner.  The menu satisfies nearly every craving and takes the notion of
diner to a whole new level.  How many other diners serve homemade pierogi, silky borscht and terrific potato pancakes at all, never mind at four
in the morning?  Enough said.  Of course, if you’re craving eggs or
pancakes, they’ve got those, too.  Now, we can look forward to a new
location on the Bowery coming soon.

Mari Vanna
Address: 41 E 20th St., btwn. Broadway & Park Ave South
Phone: (212) 777-1955

You used to have to trek to Brooklyn for a real authentic Russian nightclub experience. Not anymore.  This elegant, Gramercy spot makes it all too easy to get our Russian fix on the island of Manhattan. The dining room is outfitted with glittery chandeliers, ornate rugs, linens and elegant china.  You feel like you’ve just been transported to a Russian home for the evening, except this one boasts seventy varieties of vodkas on hand. Even better are the house-infused vodkas, flavored with everything from horseradish to watermelon and even garlic & dill, to pair with plates, like buckwheat blinis topped with caviar, smoked salmon, or beef.  There’s even a dessert version of the blini, served with jams and nutella.  But it’s worth adventuring beyond blinis for the beef stroganoff, house-cured herring and chicken kiev.  Fur hat optional.

Café Sabarsky
Address: 1048 Fifth Ave., nr. 86th St.
Phone: (212) 288-0665

Museum restaurants are just the motivation we need to see some art before dinner.  The Neue Galerie has a vast collection of Austrian and German art, including some masterpieces by Gustav Klimt and a great Austrian restaurant from chef Kurt Gutenbrunner.  Named for the galerie’s founder, this Upper East Side eatery offers an all-day menu with fresh-baked pastries, salads and sandwiches to thoughtfully composed dinner entrees. There’s Hungarian beef goulash, smoked trout crepes, Bavarian sausage with handmade pretzels and an outstanding quark soufflé.

CAfe Kristall.jpgSeasonal Restaurant and Weinbar
Address: 132 W 58th St., btwn. Sixth & Seventh Aves
Phone: (212) 957-5550

This sleek, midtown haunt takes a distinctly modern approach to Austrian cuisine.  The result is updated classics and loads of ambition. Case in point: A soft poached egg with lobster and mushrooms on pumpernickel.  There are homemade dumplings, veal cheeks with spatzle as well as oxtail consommé with apple-horseradish and spinach and homemade dumplings.  Make sure to leave room for a dessert (or three).  They’re phenomenal, especially the apple strudel, dark chocolate and hazelnut soufflé, and quark ravioli with black plum marmalade.

Heartbreak Café
Address:  29 E 2nd St., at Second Ave.
Phone: (212) 777-2502

There’s nothing like a big pot of bubbly warm cheese in the winter and Heartbreak offers five standout versions of fondue, including one laced
with beer and another with a potpourri of wild mushrooms. You could
spend the evening on fondue, but I suggest sampling their escargot,
duck rillette, or maultaschen (stuffed pasta in jus).  Whatever you do,
get an order of melt-on-your tongue spatzle.

Address: 152 W. 58th St btwn. Sixth and Seventh Aves.
Phone: (212) 245-2214

This is classic New York spot is a destination for the “edible” finer things in life – caviar, foie gras, smoked salmon and champagne.  Owned by two brothers who were raised in Russia then moved to Paris, Petrossian’s menu reflects its French and Russian history with a signature borscht soup alongside steak tartare, lobster risotto and a wonderful smoked salmon sampler.  It’s perfect for a pre-theater bite, a three-course meal  or mid-day snack and, if you don’t feel like sitting in the formal restaurant, you can stop into the café for a quick bite.  But don’t neglect the caviar, which guests can have with everything from traditional blinis, to a caviartini or sprinkled over just about anything on the menu.

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