I’ve grown accustomedÂ to the two variants of service one often experiences dining out in New York City: the cold, icy reserve of a server who takes himself (and the chef’s food) very seriously and the overly obsequious waiter who hopes to share with you his or her personal favorites and be your friend. Such extreme parameters often come in for a bit of jest at the table, butÂ theyÂ are important: service sets the tone of the meal, letting you know whether you’re expected to either sit up straight and pay attention or find the time to chat amicably about every plate after it has been cleared. It may be part of the game that comes with eating out, but at least you know the rules atÂ theÂ start. What I cannot abide are mixed messages. A perfect case in pointÂ occurred recently at SeÃ¤sonal, a very well-regarded Austrian restaurant on a dim midtown block just south of Central Park. Greeted warmly by the host, I wasÂ escortedÂ promptlyÂ to my table with a list of cocktails and wines by the glass. After settling in,Â theÂ host returned to take my drink order and a subsequent question about one of the wines led to the arrival of the sommelier, who clued me in on the flavor profile of a Zweigelt I was considering and promptly poured me a tasting. A savory, spicy red, it was exactly what the weather – and the promise of rich Austrian cuisine – called for. And then I sat and waited. And waited. And waited some more, expecting a menu to eventually arrive. It did not. (As a table in front of meÂ were handedÂ cocktails, menus, placed their order, and started toÂ dig into an appetizer all in the time that I sat there quietlyÂ contemplating my wine, I feltÂ justÂ a bit slighted.) Eventually I decided to ask for the menu. Later, I had to ask for a waiter to come take my order. At the end of the evening – I bet you saw this one coming – I had to ask for the bill, too. The warm embrace of the opening salvos at SeÃ¤sonal promised a certain kind of evening: friendly, considered, comforting. The reality of the experience, however, proved much the opposite. In truth, the front of house didn’t so much change the rules of the game as forget about them – and me – entirely.Â WhichÂ is honestly a shame because Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder’sÂ kitchen is as thoughtful and considered as I had hoped. Pearls of cucumber enlivened an amÃºse of creamy lobster bisque. Meaty pork belly, or schweinebauch, paired with earthy kale and sweet potato, was brightened by the clean zing of grapefruit. A carpet of butter-toasted pumpernickel crumbs proved a perfectly addictive foil for a creamy soft poached egg over tender lobster meat. Kaisergulasch more than lived up to its imperial sounding name: silky veal cheeks in a densely flavored sauce of peppers and paprika came crowned with fried capers, citrus zest and theÂ requisiteÂ dollop of sour cream. Add to that a side of pillowy soft, buttered spÃ¤tzle and I was in hog heaven. Or make that veal heaven. The only culinary misfireÂ occurredÂ with the arrival of a soggy-bottomed apfelstrudel. Much more successful was the kaiserschmarrn, a crumbledÂ caramelizedÂ pancake with apple compote that I could eat over and over again. It’s a breach of the diner’s contractÂ to have to go searching for an exit strategyÂ when you should be rightfully allowed to wallow in the afterglow, secure in the knowledge that eventually you will be discretely urged to settle up and move along. So let me take a moment to wag a finger in the face of SeÃ¤sonal: the next time an urge for schnitzel hits, I’ll be eating at the bar.