Exquisitely contemporary dining in a surprisingly pleasant, stately space. The Modern is the perfect end to an afternoon spent perusing art with friends or family, and then sitting down to an elegant, refreshing meal.
Just like at MoMA, "modern" at Danny Meyer’s handsome midtown establishment means many things.
It means that every diner has a choice to enjoy a meal in either the formal Dining Room with a more costly prix fixe-only menu overlooking Calder and Giacometti sculptures in the museum’s garden just next door, or the more relaxed, but equally sophisticated Bar Room, where smaller a la carte plates are served in a quietly buzzing, consciously chic space.
It means that the French-influenced, New American dishes are not only gorgeously presented, but also edited and refined with such depth and expertise that each ingredient feels like a showcase of its kind. The Steak Tartare with silky bone marrow on lightly toasted croutons was smooth and rich with notes of salty herbal elements, completely winning over even my mother who was visiting from our homeland of California and was convinced that she had never liked the dish before.
Leading up to our main courses, the Pea Salad with the creamiest burrata and crispiest herb bread crumbs was simultaneously cleansing to the palette and comforting to the taste with its distinct, herbaceous freshness balanced by the ethereal threads of burrata. The Black Truffle Cavatelli with a perfectly poached egg and spring vegetables was then a natural extension of this earthy, robust comfort food concept, with tender morsels of pasta soaking in a rich butter sauce under a garden of bright greens.
Sitting in a light jus, the Roasted Pork Tenderloin was the most tender my mother and I have ever had, the sweet pink meat complemented by cherries, onion, and morcilla blood sausage for a fresh yet hearty plate. The flavors of the menu are modern, bright, thoughtful, natural, and deeply satisfying, highlighting ingredients and flavor profiles that are exciting in their nuances, and comforting in their straightforward familiarities. It is food that is accessible yet original, understandable yet unique, and it makes for an exciting dining experience.
Of course, "modern" here also means that the restaurant is next door to the Museum of Modern Art and sees a clientele that is well-dressed, artistically inclined, and perhaps celebrating a special occasion, but also likely enjoying an ordinary evening soaking up the culture of the city.
Yet "modern" also means that Danny Meyer’s innovative model concept of enlightened hospitality is underlying the entire restaurant. The staff here has an ineffable, charming quality, pampering and treating every guest more than any other restaurant of this kind. The Modern makes it a joy to eat this well and this beautifully, because the front of house is genuine and attentive, the bartenders are bright and informative, the waiters are clever and congenial, and the room feels like a privileged peak into a sophisticated, sleek, and still darling gallery. It’s a restaurant my mother and I realized we loved even more after leaving, because we were still feeling radiant from the experience and thinking about when we could come back.
Indeed, "modern" means many things, and somehow, The Modern is all of them.