You know Fork, Knife and Spoon have a special place in the cutlery drawer for Danny Meyer, and now we have another reason – The Modern. The Modern is located inside the Museum of Modern Art, and as with many of the Meyer restaurants, there are two restaurants in one, the bar room and the main dining room. Fork and Spoon had dinner in the bar room one night during Restaurant Week.
The Modern is sleek and contemporary. The bar room is slightly more cozy. Nice sized tables, seriously comfy chairs – for those of you who are The Odd Couple fans – the chairs were like sitting in a hand. The tables that are next to the bar are very small, very low and look very uncomfortable. While they take walk-ins in the bar room, they usually seat those at the ridiculous tables next to the bar. Call ahead and make a reservation for the bar room. The main dining room is also very nice. Very modern, very sleek, very white, and overlooking the sculpture garden. The cuisine throughout, very Alsatian in influence. In contrast to the plain white and black of the restaurant are some of the most beautiful flower arrangements you have ever seen – bold, bright and colorful.
The tables for two are extremely large and not crammed next to each other. Even with that Fork and Spoon overheard one of the strangest conversations. Two women sat at a table for two next to us. Same table, same view. Fork faced the back of the room. Spoon faced the front. At the front of the room there is a large freestanding counter. Cutlery (not us, of course), napkins, glasses, tablecloths are stored on the shelves and on top are gigantic flower arrangements. Each one stood at least 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide – causing a virtual flower wall in your view. Directly behind the very full vases that are on top of the counter is an archway to the kitchen. Not a wide archway, mind you, perhaps 5 feet across. But with the density of the flowers, you would be hard pressed to see an archway – and even harder pressed to know what was through it. Upon later inspection – or snoopiness – we realized it was the kitchen, gleaming and shiny.
Anyway, these two women started a huge fuss. Neither of them wanted to eat facing the kitchen. Huh? You couldn’t have seen into the kitchen if you tried. Well, the fuss continued. They did NOT want to sit at this table, and neither of them would face the horror of looking into the kitchen. So they insisted the staff moved them. And they did. To a table with the exact same view, only further toward the back of the restaurant. Well, not much further, perhaps 15 feet further. Fork and Spoon are sure they were just angling for a table for 4, as those tables were not in that line of view.
The iced tea is very fresh, bottomless and served in beautiful glasses.
The Restaurant Week menu at The Modern was huge! 11 starters, 10 mains, 7 desserts! In a dining situation where Fork and Spoon usually have to find something to try, we found ourselves having more difficulty deciding what not to try – but we managed.
And, as always, one of the wonderful components of any Danny Meyer restaurant is the staff. The Modern was no exception. Our waiter, Brian, was fantastic. Knowledgable about food and ingredients. What he wasn’t sure about, he was very happy to go into the kitchen and find out. Turns out, Brian is a fellow foodie and spends his free time eating his own adventures at Eat This NY – check it out when you get a chance. Right now he’s on the quest for the perfect pizza!
By the way, the bread was amazing. There were tiny baguettes – maybe four inches long. Terrific, you can have 2 ends, the crusty outside and toothsome inside, and all to yourself. There were also slices of an earthy whole wheat bread. A little odd in the combination department, but oh so yummy.
Our first starter was the Tarte Flambee Alsatian. This was fabulous. Very, very thin crust – not a cracker crust, but an ultra-thin 10″ round bread crust. On top of the crust was creme fraiche, onions and applewood smoked bacon. Each of these ingredients has its own very strong and very independent flavor. Usually you would think of these ingredients with more subtle flavors. Yet, when together on top of the crust they became a wonderful symphony of flavors. Each ingredient complementing the other, but each still retaining their own unique flavor notes. We were also surprised at the size of the appetizer. This was a very generous sized crust and no skimping on any of the ingredients. Seriously good.
Our second starter was Warm Lamb and Goat Cheese Terrine. Again, two very strong flavors that manage to compliment each other perfectly. The lamb was beautifully tender. The goat cheese, while strong in flavor, was the perfect foil for the lamb. Also in the terrine were toasted pistachios. All so Mediterranean in flavor, all so perfect together. Along with the terrine was a watercress salad, with an amazing dressing. The dressing was watercress, lemon, olive oil, s&p – and I can’t remember, but perhaps if Brian reads this he would ask the chef again for us!
When you sit for a meal like this, you just don’t want the food to stop coming. Each dish a delight. Each perfectly crafted and plated. Each flavor so well thought out and presented.
Our main courses were a little harder to pick. I left the decisions to Spoon. It is so much easier that way. Spoon always picks the right dishes. Fork just sees the ingredients and wants everything!
Our first main dish was Pan Roasted Hangar Steak with Spaetzle and Beluga Beans. This steak was beautiful. Beautifully cooked. Beautifully seasoned. Beautifully tender. The spaetzle was soft and buttery. Smaller than Fork has had before, about the size of a lima bean. The size was perfect to match the Beluga Beans. Beluga Beans are just a type of lentil. The lentils and spaetzle were in a rich broth. On the side was a small salad of watercress and frisee. Strewn on top were fried lentils. Yes, fried lentils! Very interesting. Not in the flavor aspect, but in the texture aspect.
Our second main dish was Duck Confit a l’Orange with Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Fingerling Potatoes. Brian no sooner set this beautiful dish down in front of Fork and Spoon than it was devoured. This goes onto the list of best dishes ever. The duck skin was very crisp, but under the skin was the most wonderful, melt in your mouth duck confit. Under the greenery were roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts. Fork not usually the brussel sprout lover, loved these. The duck sat in a pool of wonderful blood orange sauce. The flavor was so incredible, we just kept eating and eating and eating until it was gone.
We were contemplating asking for another duck for dessert, but our sweet tines got the better of us.
First we had the Coffee Caramel Dome with vanilla icecream and amaretto gelee. First, let’s talk about the gelee. Those tiny cubes are the gelee. Personally, Fork didn’t taste anything resembling an Amaretto flavor. What stuck out was a pure alcohol flavor. It’s amazing how strong the flavor was in that tiny, little cube. Now onto the dessert itself. The dome was panna cotta like in texture. There were two layers – one layer caramel and the other coffee. What a wonderful flavor combination. The presentation was lovely, the dome had great texture and flavor, and as if those factors weren’t enough, the dome was topped with caramel and fleur de sel, and there were two thin sheets of chocolate leaning against either side of the dome. There was also a small bit of the caramel decorating the plate. An added bonus to this lovely dessert was vanilla icecream sitting on chocolate crunchy bits. Not sure if the icecream was necessary. It didn’t really lend anything to the dome, and seemed to be there as filler for the plate. Was it good? Yes. Did we eat it? Naturally. Would we have missed it? Probably not.
Our second dessert was the Hazelnut Dacquoise with Milk Chocolate Chantilly. So many great things going on here. The hazelnut dacquoise is a thin layer of cake, chock full of hazelnuts. Sitting on top of the dacquoise were two thin sheets of gianduja - hazelnut chocolate. On top of those was a quenelle of milk chocolate chantilly - which is really a milk chocolate whipped cream. And, on top of that, another sheet of the gianduja. There were little dollops of the chantilly around the plate each studded with a candied nut. This was so light and delicate, yet so deep and rich in flavor. The perfect ending to a perfect meal.
The Modern was fabulous. Definitely in the top 10 of favorite restaurants! Give it a try, you won’t be sorry.
Danny Meyer, what’s next? Maybe Greek?
The Modern ~ 9 West 53rd Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.333.1220
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