The Modern – The Bar Room
9 West 53rd Street at The Museum of Modern Art between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
about $150 for two, with two drinks, without tip
I haven’t been back to the new MoMA ever since it reopened in its grand, newly renovated space in midtown Manhattan. The twenty-dollar entrance fee is a little too steep for a lazy Saturday afternoon but when Esquire magazine named Danny Meyer’s The Modern restaurant of the year, I knew I had to make a return trip. It also just recently received one star from the Michelin and that’s a very big accomplishment considering it just opened a year ago.
I made dinner reservations at The Bar Room to make our Wednesday night a little less formal than if we were in the main dining area. It’s busier and more crowded. The buzz all around makes you think it’s a Friday night somewhere in the Meatpacking District. I also prefer the small-plate way of eating. This way, my friend and I can taste more than three things from the menu and really get an idea of what the chef is trying to bring out from the kitchen. In this case, it’s Gabriel Kreuther’s skills from Alsace honed while doing a stint at the Ritz-Carlton.
The menu is adventurous that even if it guides you to order one from each section — from a small portion to a medium one onto a full serving — I still ordered a medium, a large and another large. I could not help but try the baekeoffe, an Alsatian stew slow-cooked in an earthenware pot. Instead of beef, The Modern version consisted of lamb, conch and tripe. A very interesting dish indeed with scrumptious baked crumbs on top, perfect with a glass of Cotes du Provence. The scallops and oxtail were served in two ways: a lone seared scallop on top of shredded oxtail on the left and another scallop next to it wrapped in oxtail meat shaped to look like, for lack of a better word, a huge testicle. This dish would have been rich enough to end the night (rich because of its flavor, not because of the testicle allusion) so I immediately regretted ordering the next dish. The pork cheeks were braised in sauerkraut and ginger jus which was even better as a leftover lunch the day after.
If I had any more room in my stomach, I thought the tagliatelle with escargots, hen of the woods and basil was as tempting as the olive-crusted lamb loin with chanterelle ragout and butternut squash and roasted celeriac. Thankfully, my friend was watching her weight so she had a reason to excuse the bland grilled shrimp with cabbage and gruyére salad or the swordfish served with eggplant mush.
Our waitress worked like a zombie and ruined our dining experience with her expressionless manner. I can excuse tasteless seafood but unexciting service means one star less for The Modern.