When in NYC – for business or for pleasure – you always need that cozy place to relax, feel welcome and appreciated. What if we say there is such a place right in the heart of the busting Midtown? And what if we say it is a two-Michelin star restaurant in a museum everyone loves – MoMA? Yes, the “escape NYC stress” door leads to The Modern!
You might wonder how a Michelin restaurant can be relaxed, but remember that story, when Queen Elizabeth II welcomes a guest to dinner and notices that he is shy and frustrated by not knowing which fork is for what dish. So the Queen says: “Oh, I am always confused when it comes to flatware”. It means you are still dining with the Queen, but you know that no one will judge you. The same with The Modern – you are in a chic, high-class restaurant, but it seems like everyone you meet is there to make you feel special.
The serene atmosphere has a lot to do with the restaurant’s design by the New York-based architecture firm Bentel & Bentel. Comfortable chairs, soothing colors, large windows into the MoMA Sculpture Garden… The Modern is divided into two parts – an elegant dining room with sets for lunch and dinner (open for lunch Monday – Friday from 12 PM to 2 PM and dinner Monday – Saturday from 5 PM to 10:30 PM) overlooking works by Miró, Matisse, Picasso, and lively Bar Room with à la carte menu (open Monday – Saturday 11:30 AM – 10:30 PM Sunday 11:30 AM – 9:30 PM). Another reason why The Modern is so welcoming – there is no obvious staff hierarchy, all waiters are happy to help, no-one is above any job. We saw the Sommelier assisting a waitress, Maitre D' ready to take a picture or explain the particularities of any dish and recount where all the ingredients were grown, that brings us to another point – everyone is not only welcoming, but also knowledgeable.
We booked a table in the dining room for lunch (it is better to book beforehand, since the restaurant is busy even on weekdays, 2 or 3 times we tried to walk-in with no luck). Dining room menu has fixed prices – you can choose 3 or 6 courses for lunch ($118 or $158), and 4 or 8 courses for dinner ($158 or $208). Before diving into fragrant memories of what we ate, we would like to draw your attention to the price. It might seem quite a lot, but remember – The Modern has earned two Michelin stars, three stars from The New York Times, and four James Beard Awards, including Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Wine Service, and Outstanding Restaurant Design. They also earned the prestigious 3-Star Award in the World of Fine Wine’s “Worlds Best Wine List Awards” and Wine Spectator’s Grand Award. And we are in NYC Midtown. Now look at the price again and remember – hospitality is included. In what other celebrated restaurant would you dine for $95 (plus tip will make it about $118)? Danny Meyer, who founded The Modern, excluded tips, since this practice is usually not beneficial for the kitchen, while no tipping policy with a slightly higher rate means higher wages for everyone at The Modern. It might be another reasons for the atmosphere in the restaurant to be so friendly - everyone is equally there for you as for any other guest. We can only hope that this will expand to the whole NYC restaurant system!
Now to the most important – food. We had Tuna Marinated in Sorrel (made so perfect, it felt like I tasted tuna for the first time), Salad of Wild lettuce with persimmon burrata croquant, Lobster Steamed in spinach with yellow foot mushrooms and roasted Lobster Jus (a perfect way to eat lobster in an evening gown), Sautéed Foie Gras (smooth as a desert), Truffle Cornbread Pudding Hazelnut with ice cream and Green Apple Vacherin calvados crème with ice cream. All dishes were refined, yet comprehensible – the chef is not trying to add too many ingredients or seasoning. Maybe the classy simple elegance of Chef Abram Bissell dates to his childhood years – he grew up in a small fishing community in the Florida Keys where he unofficially began his culinary career cooking in a family friend’s café at the age of 12. In established The Modern you do feel you are in a friend's kitchen - the portions are just the right size fot you to be full, but not overeat. Next time in The Modern we will go for 8 course dinner!
Danny Meyer, who founded The Modern, excluded tips, since this practice is usually not beneficial for the kitchen, while no tipping policy with a slightly higher rate means higher wages for everyone at The Modern.
We didn’t have a chance to taste the wines, but we are sure you will find something very special, The Modern’s selection of wines includes 2 800 offerings from around the world. The wide wine list reflects the global nature of the Museum of Modern Art. The same can be said about Michaël Engelmann, The Modern’s Wine Director and Master Sommelier, who draws on his experiences living, working, and traveling in some of the most significant wine-growing regions in the world, including France, Northern California, and Australia.
The friendly and lively atmosphere made us loose the track of time and overstay the stipulated 2 hours, but again – even as all tables were filled, we never felt that we were not welcome anymore. Throughout our stay in The Modern, the waiters and Maitre D' were asking about our visit to NYC, our thoughts of the MoMA exhibition, but at the same time they were not at all intrusive – we would say it is an inborn delicacy, although it might also be an impeccable work of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.
The Modern is officially a contemporary American restaurant, it features refined, unexpectedly playful dishes and if this is the actual American cuisine, so different from what we are used to, we say – eat only American! But better do it in the Museum of Modern Art, where you can not only TASTE the exceptional ingredients, but also visit remarkable exhibitions!