Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Bar Room at The Modern

One of the lovely indulgences of having good friends in town from far away places is that of the dinner out. Or dinners out. I was given free rein to choose restaurants and, once seated, to choose food.

Sadly, I didn't bring my camera Wednesday evening when we dined at Bread Bar (which was, as always, eminently satisfying), but I did not forget the camera last night as we four made our way to The Modern.

I have now eaten more than a handful of times in the Bar Room, yet never in the main dining room, and I'm going to hope that the people next door continue to eat the same kind of spectacular food I've eaten on every visit.

So permit me to bore you with a full retelling.

I'm a big fan of the mini baguettes and the butter (not pictured) was at the perfect spreading temperature. It is surprising how many restaurants do not make sure to bring room temperature butter to the table, and what a difference it makes.

When taking European friends out to dinner, I like to order, when suitable, an American wine they wouldn't have the opportunity to taste at home.

I chose an Emeritus Vineyards pinot noir (2005) which, while a trifle heavier than I might have wanted was both delicious and reasonably priced.

We ordered eight dishes spread across two courses, starting with:

Upside Down Tuna Tarte with fennel, Japanese cucumber, and aioli

I've had this dish before and liked it so much (and was dining with fish enthusiasts) that it simply had to be enjoyed again.

Arctic Char Tartare with basil and trout caviar

Another repeat well worth it. The fish was really so fresh and tasty.

Charred Octopus with chickpea-radish salad, salsa verde, and crispy capers

was the weakest of the dishes and I maintain that I have only ever eaten truly exceptional octopus at the Mario Batali restaurants - I don't know if they have some octopus voodoo, but it is always excellent. This was just ok.

Foie Gras Torchon with Muscat gelee and toasted country bread

The torchon was so wonderful that the gelee only detracted from the unadulterated pleasure, though it was quite tasty. We all simply agreed that we'd rather eat the foie on its own.

And now for the second course:

Roasted Long Island Duck Breast with peppercorn crusted apples and pistachio-truffle dipping sauce

The apples were crusted with pistachios as well and quite lovely. The duck was cooked perfectly though I was quite surprised that when we ordered this and the lamb dish the waitress queried us as to whether we wanted it medium, whereas I was under the impression that for both meats, medium rare was the standard.

Beer Braised Pork Belly with sauerkraut and ginger jus

I may have ordered this on two previous occasions (I know I ordered it on one) and just have enjoyed the heck out of it. Tonight was no different. The meat is really stupendous.

Tarte Flambee

It doesn't photograph well, but I'm glad I finally ordered it. It's a staple on the menu and my brother is always pissed when I tell him I didn't order it, so I did this time and not only was it delicious, but a huge hit at the table, as our guests had not eaten it before.

Spice Crusted Colorado Lamb Loin with shank and manchego cheese gratin and pomegranate reduction

The lamb was a little on the medium side of medium rare, but still wonderful, and the shank and manchego gratin was stupendous.

But of course we ordered dessert:

Pistachio Dark Chocolate Dome with pistachio ice cream and amaretto gelee

The amaretto gelee was really fun to play with reminding me why jello is so popular with children. The dome was a layer each of pistachio and chocolate cakes topped with a dense pistachio ice cream and covered in chocolate. Honestly, what could be bad?

Beignets with maple ice cream, caramel, and mango marmelade

These didn't photograph well, but they were fantastic dipped into the caramel sauce. The beignets were not greasy at all and had a terrific crisp which was eminently satisfying.

Hazelnut Dacquoise with milk chocolate chantilly

Like nutella for grownups, this beautiful presentation was actually, and unsurprisingly, far tastier than nutella with a delightful crunch. The chantilly was far more solid than simple whipping cream and better tasting for it (more of a light mousse).

I photographed our coffees as well as they were really quite pretty:

All in all, a terrific meal enjoyed by all. I have to hand it to Danny Meyer: there are a plethora of restaurants to choose from in New York and almost without fail, when I am responsible for taking people out, I gravitate towards one of his. They are convivial, professional, and always delicious, and I have yet to be disappointed.

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