Ducked into Danny Meyer's new restaurant at MoMA the Modern for dinner. What a smashing space. Roberta Bendavid's floral design seems right at home in, or practically in MoMA's sculpture garden. Architect Peter Bentel, who also did Grammercy Tavern and Craft after a career building libraries and churches, makes a fine showing here as well. This of course is whites, slates & muted greys, but the Modern echoes notes from Craft's lighting as well as its pitch-perfect tones and industrial glass wine wall. Slats here too receed - not as they do in Craft's to a navy blue sea-abstraction - which as we have indeed noted reminds us of Ed Ruscha - but to a photo of leaves, big and waxy as if in forrest. These are Thomas Demand's studio shots; he opens soon at MoMA. Reminded one CQist at the table of his childhood dentist's - the same leaves cover the insides of the menu - and a discussion of Highlights Magazine ensued.
Of the silver - by Robbe & Berking - we were all especially enamoured of the sporks. Two kinds of plates - white scalloped and textured vs. austere rounded edge rectangular ones and the thin, fluted, playfully-shaped water glasses among others - Spieglau - caught all eyes. Dinner started off with a bottle of Billecart Rose, about which it's awfully difficult to complain. Amuses were a tiny if flavorless eggplant dollop in a thin pastry shell; then a rectangular plate of shrimp confit: one big shrimp in a silver spoon that folded under itself to stand (we all coveted these spoons) with a small timbale of purple potatoe salad topped with 'American caviar'. Not shrimp people, we so can't speak to that, but American caviar? Mush! No texture but quite a strong punch of salt, which did make sense with the potatoes if it depressed us in and of itself.
drink was a Japanese Yuzu mandarine wine - Kiuchi - fun and certainly
unique. Not quaffable exactly but focusing, as mandarine has an
incognitoness that if you can't name certainly poises you to think more
pointedly about what you are tasting. And as we were tasting blindly, en pointe
was perhaps the ideal direction to head. The lovely Hirsch 2002
Riesling appeared next, which has a smoke to it that we love. Proved a good
match too for the first course: foie terrine. The foie was ok,
nothing to leap around about and the too smokey toast fought with
rather than complimented it. Though generally not Wellfleet fans -
strictly PEI oysters raw - our most charming host insisted we try one
of his Wellfleets. Dressed in a creme fraiche chive
thing, Lo, but were they delicious. Of the table's other bites,
oddly the langoustine had a deepsea hot dog or rather Crifdog smoke on
it. Soon appeared another white, this Jean Luc Colombo's quite
remarkable Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier blend from the Rhone Valley: Wine of the Evening.
A very good 96 Talenti Brunello came next, actually a corked one came next and then a proper one, and of the Brunello none of us could drink enough, which seems odd now as we were only four drinking at a table of six. Still could have polished off a magnum, though this was yes our fourth bottle. Luckily more food arrived to preoccupy us: we had the cod, perfectly cooked and kind of re-skinned one might say in a layer of thinly-sliced chorizo coins. Enjoyable. A bite of wild boar found its way over and that we quite liked too. Not sure though that this is food enough for the aspirations behind it - which to all appearances seem to be 4*. Cheeses and desserts followed and again though nice, none stood out. Tallegio, Chabichoux, Jura Morbille...the French Blue we liked best, and desserts we cannot recall at all.
If a great space and knowledgable sommelier are all you really need for 4*s, the Modern has it bagged. What restaurant can best gazing out on the Modern's sculpture garden? And yet... the food seems more miss than hit. A diehard devotee of Alsatian food and wines, CQ found that should Alsatian chef Gabriel Kreuther eke out more of a definitive NY-Alsatian identity he would stand the Modern in better stead. At the moment that seems to me a ways off, in spite of the lovely time we had.
Indubitably, the bar promises to be a scene. We did wonder though if they meant for it to be ironic that the Modern's unisex bathrooms were attended by an immigrant so old school as to turn on and off the faucet.