A Modern Meal at The Modern

Danny of A Year In Food contacted me recently and asked if we could go on a joint food-blogging expedition. I said “sure” and we agreed to sample the modern food in the bar room of The Modern.

We met out front, and while I waited I snapped this photo which I’m really proud of. Isn’t it cool?


Upon entering, Danny (who made the reservation) gave his name and the host asked if he could take my coat. “No thanks,” I said nicely. My coat is like my purse: my pockets are stuffed with my camera and notepad, so I need it for the meal. The host gave me a look like, “Well, if that’s what you REALLY want.” And then a female host came (aka, a hostess), the male host said something to her and she saw my coat and said, “Sir, can I check your coat?” and I said, “No thanks” and there was another awkward pause. The male host said, “I already asked him,” and she said: “Oh, ok, it’s not big deal you can keep your coat.”

She led us to a table in the middle of a very modern-looking room. A very tall waiter came over with a drink menu and asked us what kind of water we wanted. We said tap and he exited.

Danny, who’d been there before, suggested I try the mango-passionfruit mojito. When the waiter returned I ordered that and Danny ordered a drink with champagne and rose petals. We proceeded to study our menus.

The menu at the Bar Room at The Modern is divided into three sections labelled, quite appropriately: 1, 2, 3. Each section is priced similar to the others and there’s nothing to indicate that the items in each menu are somehow related, such that menu 2 features a mushroom soup, menu 1 features a crab salad, menu 3 features scallops (though it is indicated that menu three involves mini-sized entrees.)

Danny and I decided to order different things and then share them. Our drinks arrived and my mojito was delicious, though not necessarily worthy of its $16 pricetag. We ordered our food and prepared to feast.

Bread was brought, and bread we et. Then the first course arrived. I had the foie gras torchon with muscat gelee & toasted country bread:


Danny had the arctic char tartare (hey, that rhymes!) with daikon and trout caviar (not photographed by me, but photographed by Danny and soon to be featured on his site.)

My foie gras was nice* (*I realize it’s bad English to say that: no, my foie gras didn’t help an old lady across the street; but somehow it seems appropriate, sometimes, to describe food as “nice”), I really enjoyed the muscat gelee. Then, halfway through, we switched and I really enjoyed Danny’s char tartare. That had more flavors going on.

For Course 2 I had the Artichoke Soup with Lobster:


Danny had the charred octopus with warm potato salad.

My soup was really watery at first and I was disappointed. Then it grew on me. Then I attempted to eat the garnishes on the side. I ate the lobster first and then I dug into the artichoke. Sometimes I earn my title “Amateur Gourmet” and sometimes I sink below it to “Moron Gourmet,” and here I fell into that latter category as I shoved artichoke leaves into my mouth in one heapful, thinking they’d be tender and I could chew them. I couldn’t. I had to spit them out. It was nasty.

Danny’s octopus was interesting but not my favorite. I liked the texture of it and I liked the way it was cooked, but I needed a contrasting flavor like a vinegar or a citrus component to give it some acid. But then again, I’m the putz who ate artichoke leaves.

For course #3 I had Braised Pork Cheeks with sauerkraut and ginger jus:


As you can see the presentation’s really pretty, and the texture of the cheeks was pleasantly tender and light. Again, I could’ve used more flavor. That’s my big complaint about the MOMA: there were no great wallops of flavor.

Danny had the Grilled Quail with chive spaetzle and lentils and that had more flavor, but not a ton of meat. I kept thinking he’d ordered squab for some reason which became a running gag throughout the course. “How’s your squab?” “My what?” “I’m sorry, I mean your partridge.”

These guys next to us noticed we were taking pictures of our food (and it was pretty funny to have not one, but two people at a table for two photographing every dish) and they said, “We’re on eGullet too—we’re excited to see these pics posted.” They thought we were eGulleters so we let them sustain this belief. (Well, actually, I am an eGulleter–adrober on there, check out my old stuff: I was adrober before I was Amateur Gourmet.)

For dessert (and dessert’s my favorite part of any meal) I had beignets with maple ice cream, caramel and citrus mango marmelade:


These were great–I loved the dipping sauces. Danny had blood orange carpaccio with pomegranate granite and lime and that was very refreshing too. (Pomegranate granite: that’s also fun to say. Wow, danny ate char tartare and pomegranate granite—no wonder he was an English major.)

All in all I’d say my MOMA meal was fun because of the company and the environment, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to rush over there for a meal. At least not in the bar room. Maybe the restaurant proper has more impressive fare, but for the money these small plates of frequently not-so-flavorful food left me mostly disappointed. Then again those artichoke leaves were dynamite!

(Make sure to check out Danny’s site in a few days when he reviews our meal, maybe he’ll have a differing view. I think he may have liked it more than me!)

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