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Apr 30, 2009 04:51 PM

Corton vs. The Modern - which to choose?

I am planning a special occasion dinner for next month. We have not yet been to either of these, and I am having difficulty deciding. I've read all the posts about each of them, and the Modern seems to get pretty much unanimous praise, while Corton gets much more mixed reviews. Can anyone who has been to BOTH give me a comparision of the food? Decor and service are not a concern. I have looked at both menus, and am surprised that Corton looks less interesting. Is it more creative than the menu descriptions imply? We really like unusual and intricate flavor combinations. We would not order a tasing menu, but would have different a la carte dishes and share tastes. Also, extra tastes (amuses bouche, mignardises, etc.) make a meal more interesting for us. Which of these provides more?

Thank you all for any help you can provide.

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  1. We went to The Modern Dining Room and it was a special dining experience (food, service, atmosphere), hard to top. Here is a report of our experience (seems like yesterday) and a more recent thread:

    We will be going to Corton next week for the first time. I'll report back on our experience. Though I just realized I forgot to report on our experience at Gordon Ramsay . . .

    1 Reply
    1. re: financialdistrictresident

      Thanks, fdr. I guess no one else has been to both. I will look forward to hearing about your experience at Corton.

    2. I've been to both, and I like both a lot, and that says something because among people who like fine dining, I probably reject more top restaurants in NYC than most anybody else around here.

      The Modern is better executed dishes, but Corton is more dare/interesting flavor combinations. (same goes for the respective decor's btw)

      Modern has a better wine program, but Corton certainly has many fine bottles to choose among.

      But like I said, these two restaurants are both on my shortlist so I think neither would disappoint. If you want to go edgier, go downtown, if you want to play it safe, go to the Modern

      14 Replies
      1. re: acidity

        acidity, more on Corton's food please. Dishes that are "must haves" or to be avoided? We are going this Friday (as much as I dislike eating out on Thursday - Saturday). Corton advises when you make your reservation how long their seating is. Did you feel rushed because of this?

        1. re: financialdistrictresident

          Not sure how much help I can be, but...

          I tend to drop a LOT of money on wine. If you do that (anywhere), there are no rules for you. My wine choices tend to steer me between beef and fish down a "vertical" strip of the menu: rabbit, fowl, lamb and pork. Without having tried everything, it strikes me as the sort of kitchen where nothing is bad, and it's not a big flavor home run must have sort of place. (I'd recommend that you steer clear of lobster anywhere in Manhattan, but that's not really a Modern reco. Probably one of the most underachieving lobsters ever is the butter poached lobster at Per Se, what a joke.)

          I've done both the tastings and a la carte at Corton, and I definitely recommend a la carte. As I noted in another post, Corton is where I decided I'm done with tastings everywhere, I think they are more "factory" than "chef's creation".

          I've never ordered a tasting at Modern. I've done both lunch and dinner, and I really like it for lunch, but that's not a food pref, just the ambiance.

          1. re: acidity

            Thanks acidity. We usually lean towards ala carte, especially now that many restaurants require everyone at the table to get the tasting menu. Our preference is to taste and share dishes. Nice to know we're not the only ones who always seem to spend more on the wine then the food. . .

            1. re: acidity

              How do the portion sizes compare to each other? It is my experience that these "fine dining" establishments tend to skimp on food. Del Posto comes to mind specifically. Eleven Madison Park I felt was much better with their portions.

              Obviously the goal of these establishments is to give you "just enough" of each dish to savor the flavors. But I hate when you order an entree and it consists of a 3 oz piece of steak or 2 oz piece of lobster or 3 pieces of gnocchi and they consider it worthy of a $40 entree price.

              What were your experiences here? Did you leave satisfied?

              1. re: steakrules85

                Sorry, steakr, can't help you, I can't think of a restaurant that does not give me more food than I want.

                But I want my contribution here to be based around deliciousness.

                The Modern and Corton are two of my favorite places to eat based on the delightful food they serve.

                1. re: acidity

                  So then I assume you deem the portions adequate at both.

                  1. re: steakrules85

                    Both the Modern and Corton serve delicious food. So, I consider one helping of their food to be tremendously more satisfying than an entire meal at Babbo which I think has terrible food.

                2. re: steakrules85

                  I don't think you're going to be happy with either of them if portion size is a large concern of yours. But if I had to pick the place with the larger portion sizes, it will be The Modern.

            2. re: acidity

              Thanks, acidity. I have another question regarding daring flavors. I noticed on another thread that you like Tailor, which is a favorite of ours. Is the cooking at Corton as original and daring as at Tailor?

              1. re: rrems

                Yes, taking into account the differences, they go in the same direction, and Corton is as original, perhaps not as daring.

                Tailor is a bit rustic/country style (in a good way), where Corton is more citified fine dining, but yes they do have in common some "reaching" for original or unusual flavor elements, particularly through the simple addition of some aromatic notes such as coffee or something floral.

              2. re: acidity


                I've been to both Corton and The Modern recently (within the past week). Both impressed me. I suppose I should disclose that I'm predisposed to Alsatian cuisine. So it came as no surprise that Kreuther's cooking pleased me. Of course, that his food was flawlessly executed and presented also enhanced the experience.

                Liebrandt comes from another planet, entirely, in terms of style. Well, he has one foot firmly planted in Asia. And I find his flavors quite convincing in that respect.

                1. re: acidity

                  <Modern has a better wine program, but Corton certainly has many fine bottles to choose among.>

                  I find that hard to believe, because Corton has the entire cellar that once was Montrachet's, and it is legendary.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    No, Corton does *not* have Montrachet's *entire* cellar. After closing Montrachet, Drew Nierporent put a substantial potion of that cellar up for auction.

                2. Having been to each only once (a la carte, no tasting menu), my vote is for The Modern. I think both restaurants feature unusual flavor combos (with Corton being more out there), but I preferred Modern's food over Corton's -- and that's just my taste talking. I'm sure there are other people who would say otherwise. I do remember I ordered dishes with an awful lot of foam at Corton, and foam is just not my thing.

                  In terms of the extras, I got more at The Modern. Both restaurants were good with extras, but at the Modern, I received canapes in addition to the amuse bouche. And after the main course, they also served a small palate cleanser. The mignardise selection at Corton was larger than at The Modern (even though they gave plenty at the Modern). But I'd rather have canapes as opposed to additional chocolates.

                  26 Replies
                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Here's to "American" size portions, quantity over quality, and our country's ever expanding waistlines :)

                    Now I'm getting even more excited about Corton . . . except for "foam" which is so tired.
                    Miss Needle, any suggestions or perspectives based on your experience? Thanks.

                    1. re: financialdistrictresident

                      Hmmmm... the only thing I can say is that if you are going with at least one other person and will be sharing food that one of you may want to order a cheese plate as opposed to dessert. I say that because they had a great selection of mignardises to choose from. And I'm the type of person who just can't choose a few -- I have to have one of everything (well, if it's included in the cost of the meal -- greedy me, I guess). So if I did a full dessert, I personally don't think I would have been able to try every mignardise -- it would have been sugar overload for me. I believe there was a supplement for the cheese course. But it was a great cheese plate. I hope you have a great time at Coron, and look forward to reading your report!

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        Thanks, Miss Needle. I'll report back on our experience.

                        1. re: financialdistrictresident

                          A heads up regarding the noise level at Corton. I was shocked at how extremely high it was -- actually bordering on uncomfortable. This was on a Friday evening. We were told it's not as bad on a Monday or Tuesday.

                          1. re: RGR

                            Thanks, RGR. As you are aware, one of my pet peeves. Unfortunately we are dining on Friday at 7PM. We usually avoid Thursday-Saturday. They also have that seating "time limit."

                            1. re: financialdistrictresident



                              You haven't even crossed their threshold, and they already have two strikes against them?! lol

                              1. re: RGR

                                RGR, the food will have to be amazing :)

                                And tomorrow I'm going to Saul (really dislike dining out on Thursday-Saturday and doing it twice this week!). It should be a nice treat after substitute teaching . . .

                                1. re: financialdistrictresident


                                  If it's amazing food you're expecting, then Liebrandt will not disappoint! However, frankly, dessert was a major disappointment for me. (The pastry chef is Robert Truitt.) We did the tasting menu, which includes two desserts. One was just o.k.; the other did not appeal to me at all. Note that if you go with the 3-course prix-fixe, those two are not on the dessert menu.

                              2. re: financialdistrictresident

                                Another "problem" with Corton is that they have put their "busing" station in the center of the one room, so all the silverware, napkins, etc. emanate from there and it makes the room just that much busier with staff congregating there. It doesn't bother me, I save my fussiness for food issues, but I thought I'd flag it as a public service.

                                1. re: acidity

                                  Our table was adjacent to the bussing station, and we did not find that in any way a distraction or annoyance. In fact, service was seamless, as well as very cordial.

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    Good point, I need to clarify because you did not understand what I meant. One can sit next to a busing station in any restaurant because, of course, it needs to be somewhere or other. I was not referring to that phenomenon.

                                    What I was pointing out was that Corton's station is in the center of the room, and the level of activity is *visually* more noticeable regardless of where you are seated in the room.

                                    1. re: acidity

                                      acidity, tell us about the wines you love at the Modern and Corton.

                                      1. re: simetrias

                                        I can't go into specific wines online here, but Modern's list is both broader and deeper than Corton's (Corton in France is a fabulous wine "terroir-tory" so naturally they feature the wines). Corton's list is perfectly adequate, but with a number of nicely aged vintages from some great places Modern's awakens the "ooh, which should I try" lust.

                                2. re: financialdistrictresident

                                  BTW, it's 2 1/2 hours or "ample time for dinner" (their words, not mine).

                                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                    Hi fdr,

                                    So now that you've been to Corton, how does it compare?

                                    1. re: rrems

                                      Hi rrems,

                                      My initial thoughts after dining at Corton Friday night:

                                      *The highlight of our dinner was the sauces.
                                      *The puff pea ? was a lovely shade of green, flavorless
                                      *Bread - olive and ? breads were hard to chew. Thin, crispy, wafer like cranberry/nut bread was delicious.
                                      *Amuse with foie layer and asparagus mousse/puree layer on top was delicious
                                      *We also enjoyed the morel (stuffed with a parsley bread crumb) and foie gras terrine apps.
                                      *The quail entree was very good.
                                      *Appreciated Miss Needle's rec on the cheese course. The foccacia that accompanied it was delicious and we requested more. None of the desserts really appealed to me. We ordered the sugared brioche, since my SO really likes brioche. They wrote "happy anniversary" on our plate, a minor glitch.
                                      *Liked the presentation of the chocolates at the end of our meal

                                      I really liked the decor, it was not as stark as anticipated. Agree with acidity's take on the busing in the center of the room. It could be visually distracting. Our server was excellent (a CIA graduate), manager came around to check on tables, staff worked very well together. Noise level could be an issue here (not experienced in The Modern-Dining Room). Luckily the tables next to us were empty or quiet. There were a few empty tables in the room.

                                      We had the 3 course tasting menu and a bottle of wine and finished in the alotted 2 1/2 hours. Don't know how anyone ordering the tasting menu with more courses could possibly enjoy their dinner in 2 1/2 hours and not feel rushed. Also I didn't see an ala carte menu, which we would have preferred over a tasting menu.

                                      If I had to choose between Corton or The Modern- Dining Room (please remember my experience, posted earlier, is probably too long ago to be helpful) I would go to The Modern - Dining Room.

                                      1. re: financialdistrictresident


                                        Thanks for the report.

                                        That pea thingy was a Spring Pea Sponge. And *sponge* is about what it tasted like to me, so I agree with your view of it as being tasteless. Along with it, we were served gougères (one per person) filled with Mornay sauce which had a hint of spice to it. They were delicious. We were also served another canapé: a tiny "bagel" topped with egg yolk and caviar. I don't eat caviar, so I scooped it off the top and gave it to one of my dining companions. The "bagel" by itself was delicious.

                                        Re: Bread service. I chose the olive baguette and the cranberry-walnut bread crisps. I think the third choice was a plain baguette. Like you, I really liked the crisps. In fact, we all liked them so much, we asked for more and received a generous re-supply.

                                        I agree that having the 7-course tasting dinner as is, i.e., without the extra courses we added, would mean straining/rushing things to finish in 2-1/2 hours. I would, therefore, suggest to anyone who does want to do the tasting menu to make a reservations later in the evening when the table will not be turned.

                                        You didn't see an a la carte menu because there isn't one. It's either the 3-course prix-fixe (describing it as a "tasting" menu is, imo, not correct) or what is, in fact, the tasting menu of 7 courses.

                                        I'm glad that noise was not an issue for you. However, I have to say that noise can be a problem at The Modern because the rather high noise level from the adjacent, very large Bar Room does filter in. In addition, there is a wide opening towards the back of the wall separating the dining room from the Bar Room, and because our table was directly opposite the opening, the noise level was considerably higher than I presume it would be if we had been sitting further away from it.

                                        Overall, I think you and I came away with similar takes on various aspects of dining at Corton.

                                        Btw, what did you think of the brioche dessert? I'm particularly curious because, as I've said, I found the desserts we had to be the low points of our meal.

                                        1. re: RGR


                                          Overall I think our experiences were similar.

                                          The gougeres were delicious, especially compared to the spring peas sponge. The consistency was too "spongey" for me. Thanks for reminding me about the gougeres.

                                          I thought I missed something when I read earlier posts about an a la carte menu.

                                          What I remember about The Modern Dining Room (awhile ago) and more recently, Gordon Ramsay, is that there were really no misses. Bread that's hard to chew, flavorless pea sponge (didn't they taste it?), okay desserts are inexcusable for a restaurant of this caliber and price point.

                                          Interesting, because when we were at The Modern our table was close to the adjacent Bar Room/rest room area and we we surprised it wasn't louder. Lucky I guess. At Corton we were in the corner farthest away from the kitchen, rest room, entrance so noise was not an issue.

                                          My SO liked the brioche better then me. I enjoyed the sauces and ice cream. I found the cheese course very enjoyable (thanks again Miss Needle). To be fair, we only had one dessert so it's hard to comment. Compared to desserts at The Modern Dining Room and GR the brioche was nothing memorable, IMO.

                                          1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                            Coincidentally, we were there early Saturday night and will have to agree with most of fdr's impressions. The SO judges restaurants by their foie and lobster preps (must not overcook the latter) and thus thought Corton was top-notch (EMP ranks high, too). I had the egg/cod/Old-Fashioned combo and found the overall flavor palette to be surprisingly subtle, demanding of a lot of thought to tease out individual elements. OTOH, the SO thought the flavors were very well-defined, with a dominant note in each dish. The SO is always right, so there you go. Oh yeah, the kid had the hamachi/scallop/Vacherin, snarfing everything up without comment, so it must have been good.

                                            Anyhow, what made the evening super-nice was running into Drew Nieporent outside Centrico after the meal. He was greeting guests at the door when we first walked into Corton and schmoozed the table next to us a bit. Brush with greatness, and all that. Two-and-a-half hours later, outside Centrico, he actually waved at us and remembered my name. Not only did he come down the steps to shake our hands, he asked us (the kid, too) how we enjoyed everything and took the time to reminisce about his days at Stuyvesant High School. Getting an idea of how he won that James Beard award...

                                            1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                              The gougeres were filled with mournay sauce, which probably contributed to their extra yumminess (don't kick me off for using that word).

                                              While I would agree that the pea sponge was more flavorless than flavorful, what struck me about those softer-than-air cylinders was that they tasted entirely of pea shoots. Very grassy. Very green.

                                              1. re: ulterior epicure

                                                I would have gladly traded a "pea sponge" for another gougeres . . .

                                              2. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                Even less memorable after having the simple, delicious carmelized torija (brioche) with fresh grapefruit and orange sections at Degustation last week . . .

                                                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                  That brioche dessert was one of the best things I ate while in NY

                                    2. re: RGR

                                      Hi RGR,

                                      You've been to both restaurants, if I'm not mistaken. Any thoughts on how the food compares?

                                      1. re: rrems

                                        Hey, rrems,

                                        You're correct. We actually went to The Modern and Corton recently, each for the first time, on successive days. Although The Modern was lunch, we ordered one of the multi-course dinner tasting menus, which are available at that meal as well. At Corton, we had the tasting menu and supplemented in a few additional courses.

                                        Our meal at The Modern was a total wow! Lots of oohing and aahing throughout. The food was plated gorgeously. Such beautiful colors! And all the dishes had interesting, sometimes unique, flavor combinations, which tasted even better than they looked. Kreuther richly deserves the James Beard Award he just won as Best Chef NY.

                                        I had, of course, read much about Liebrandt's "way out" cuisine and that, at Corton, he has "dialed it" back. Although he does sometimes combine unusual elements, this was not strange food or science on a plate, so I found his cuisine much more accessible and likeable than I had expected. Several dishes wowed me, and those that did not were still excellent. Many of the courses came with separate, intriguing side dishes. The biggest letdown of the meal for me were the desserts, the responsibility of the pastry chef, Robert Truitt. There was a cheese course, which was nearly like a dessert in its sweetness, and which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was followed by two dessert courses. The first one wasn't bad but had some Asian elements that didn't particularly appeal to me much. However, the second dessert was, imo, just plain awful!

                                        While I will happily return to Corton, I am literally panting to get back to The Modern.

                                        Like you, I'm looking forward to fdr's opinion of Corton and her thoughts on how she feels it compares with The Modern.

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          RGR, thanks for the report. The Modern is hard to top, isn't it? Glad you had such a good experience.

                            2. Thanks to all. You have made my decision much easier. I've had the Modern on my list to try for a long time, and I think this is the time to do it. We will probably get to Corton in the next few months.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: rrems

                                rrems, my pleasure. Enjoy and please report back on your experience.

                                1. re: rrems

                                  I just ate The Modern last night. Had the 3 course prix fixe. The service and ambiance were lovely. The room has the right elegant tone for a dinner without any stuffiness. That said I was underwhelmed by the food. I was pretty disappointed because I had read so many nice reports. We had the foie gras terrine and the cauliflower panna cotta as apps. The foie gras terrine was pretty tasteless, too cool and the consistency was not as pleasant as I would have hoped. The panna cotta was just boring - again barely any taste. For entrees my companion had the duck - tasty, but not exceptional - and I had the pheasant - chewy and bland.

                                  The desserts on the other hand were excellent (and I am not usually an avid dessert eater). These were the highlight. I had the delicate, crispy and flavorful lemon napoleon and my companion had the gran marnier baba. Both very good as were the little treats served post dessert.

                                  I guess I'd suggest reviewing the posts here to identify the best bets for apps and entrees so as to maximize the experience given the cost.

                                  1. re: LBNJNY

                                    LBNJNY, thanks for the report. I still think about the duck (carved tableside) I had at the Modern. Sorry your experience was not as good. We also had seared foie gras. I am not as big a fan of terrines. Again, my experience was some time ago.

                                    1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                      I think they deserve a second chance. Maybe I'll ease back into it by trying the bar menu or their pre-6:30 deal. I'd never rule them out completely especially given reports like your previous one. Agree about the foie gras - I also prefer the real deal versus a terrine. Probably a poor choice on our part!

                                2. FYI, Corton's chef, Paul Liebrandt, was just named one of Food & Wine magazine's "best new chefs."