Friday, February 02, 2007

The Bar Room at The Modern: Art in Motion

Great Food In A Great Setting.... Is There More?

There is something amazingly clever about eating at a museum.

For years, I have loved eating at museums… in Europe (where the food is just downright great) and in the US (where the food can sway between terrific and a sandwich shelf at 7-11).

Eating at European museums usually means that not only will the food be artful, tasteful and fun… but so will your surroundings. Like at the Café at the Louvre in Paris, or the Picasso Museum… or perhaps the wonderful café at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Of course half the fun is looking at the design of the plates, forks and glasses… but somehow these places also deliver delicious foodstuffs at reasonable prices.

MOMA in New York is no different, and has a charming café to have a salad or sandwich and a glass of white wine… but more tempting is The Modern, their fine dining destination on the ground floor.

Carved into two dining areas, The Modern brings museum dining to a new level. Chef Danny Meyer has made sure the food is terrific, and the setting does the rest.

My visit was on a Sunday evening, and my guest and I dined at a table in The Bar Room… the larger of the two dining rooms, as well as the more affordable.

The menu in The Bar Room is divided into 3 sections, the first two being starter plates (think tapas size) and the third being the entrée page (with the portions being more half entrée size).

If you are a big eater who lives for Chinese buffets and 2 pound Stouffer’s Lasagna, this may not be the spot for you.

Being a large guy myself and decent eater, I found the portions to be fine, and the flavors to be remarkable.

Off of the first page of our menu, my guest ordered a wonderful salad with triple cream goat cheese… and I had the grilled shrimp with green cabbage and gruyere.

Well I have to tell you, both dishes were spectacular. The salad was delicate and flavorful, but the shrimp dish was the standout. The shrimp were smoky and grilled perfectly, and the cabbage salad was superb. We both thought that if this was the level of taste we had arrived for the evening, this was going to be one heck of a night.

Unfortunately, the next course of homemade country sausage (for her) and wild mushroom soup with chorizo ravioli (for me) brought us back down to earth.

While the sausage was good, it was nothing spectacular, and honestly not as good as the homemade variety I might nab of the Halo Berlin Cart in midtown. The soup was a light, broth-like puree that was big on taste and very good… but was paired with a fried, dry chorizo stuffed ravioli… a complete and total mystery. Even on it’s own, the chorizo bites were not very good, and this is coming from a guy who eats sausage like I am expecting to have a heart attack any day.

The savior of the meal was the third course, which brought us back above the bar. The wild, horseradish-crusted salmon was incredible… resting in a foam of sweet Riesling. My sirloin au poive came with fluffy pan-fried spaetzle, tossed in a brown butter cream. Wow.

The wines are expensive and are available by the glass, and cocktails creative and well mixed. Deserts looked terrific with a nice selection including beignets, sorbets and cheesecakes… but alas, there was no room at the inn.

So final thoughts?

I like it. Lunch may present a smaller bill, but truth be told, this is fairly good value when you qualify this setting, at the world-renown MOMA. If you are looking for a wonderful meal at less-than-The Modern prices, The Bar Room is for you.

Just come early for a glimpse at a few Picasso’s. It makes for an exquisite evening.

The Bar Room at The Modern
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
French, American

9 W 53rd St, New York 10019
Btwn 5th & 6th Ave

Photo proudly swiped from Robert Presutti for The New York Times.