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May 10, 2011 01:09 PM

Corton or The Modern

I'm trying to decide, please help. Thanks so much.

The Modern
9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

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  1. We went to Corton once (and enjoyed it) but are going back to the Modern this week for the third time (I can't wait). The food at the Modern is more exciting to us.

    7 Replies
    1. re: buttertart

      We had a lovely dinner there last night, but I have to say it wasn't quite up to the dreamy status of my birthday dinner last year.

      And darn you, RGR, I did notice the noise level (hadn't at all before) - at a window table (had requested same on confirming the reservation) it's not at all unpleasant, more of a happy buzzy party conversation level. We had no problem whatsoever talking to each other (my husband is a tiny bit hard of hearing so we notice these things).

      We had the 4 course dinner - we had had the summer tasting the last time, the spring one looked good but the menu was too enticing to be limited to the prechosen courses of the tasting. It was very fun to consider what would make up the best combination of the choices available, virtually everything was very enticing.

      To start I had a perfect Martini (perfect size, too, not a bathtub) and he had a Pernod. The menus were not put in our hands until we were well into our drinks, which I prefer.

      The hors d'oeuvre were pleasant (a sphere of hibiscus and something on a spoon, to be eaten from same; a tartlet with a very thin crust (very nice, that) of asparagus with tapioca pearls, and a tiny barquette-shaped vol au vent with a pea filling. And their porcini- (and curry?) dusted popcorn.

      The breads are very good, particularly the French and the olive - the whole-grain is a little too hearty in this context, they would do well to copy the one at SHO which is very light and crisp.

      The amuse-gueule was a vegetable (not sure what) panna cotta in a passionfruit (? mango?) thin sauce, good but not thrilling.

      I had the king crab salad "canneloni" as my first course - a $15 supplement on the menu, which in retrospect was not worth it. There were 2 rolls about the size of my ring finger wrapped in a rice flour (I think, I asked and was told it was a special thin pasta...) pasta, which added very little to the experience. The crab salad was delicious as was the sauce - a lobster bisque-type, I wished I had chosen the French bread because all of it would have been scooped up (they provide sauce spoons). The dish was garnished with sustainable caviar and edible flowers. Beautiful and sexy but a teensy portion.

      He had the foie gras en terrine - a nice-sized portion, triangular in shape, with a fruit garnish and drizzled at table wiith what was said to be Canadian maple syrup. If so they had boiled it down, because no maple syrup is that thick naturally. (I'm from the home of the brave and the land of the free, so I know from maple syrup.) Toasted brioche with. Yum.

      For second course I had the grilled foie gras with cucumber "spaghetti" (long julienned strands formed into a little pillow), which was sauced with a very thin yogurt and cucumber emulsion. The foie was perfectly rosy and pillowy and the tart sauce and cucumber worked with it very well. It was a small portion as well (I am not a huge eater but the portions seemed almost all on the tasting menu, rather than the 3 or 4 course meal, size).

      He had the king crab with grapefruit crumble - the best dish of the night, 4 good-sized sections of butter-poached crab with an intriguing garnish of grapefruit on what seemed to be a roasted shallot crust and a crumb topping, and a bit of mildly spicy jalapeno sauce. This was brilliant.

      A considerable longueur ensued between the second and third courses, at least 20 minutes. We were enjoying the wine and were not unhappy with the pause, but when the third courses arrived they were not particularly hot and I rather wonder if they'd been forgotten.

      I had the poussin breast with fresh morels and white asparagus, which arrived garnished with 1 morel - more were produced in the sauce that was spooned over. It was very good but also very salty (this coming from someone who salts the tomatoes in a BLT).

      He had the veal tenderloin with chestnuts, which came with a strong-flavored (along the lines of hoisin) sauce which I did not particularly like. It was not very attractively plated and the meat looked unappetizingly grey, but its taste belied its appearance.

      For dessert - which we were asked to order at the same time as the rest, something I'm not totally crazy about - I had the mango croustillant, which was exciting to eat with its multiple textures, and he had the vacherin with raspberry sorbet (deconstructed vacherin, meringue shards poked into the sorbet), which he liked a lot.

      We had ordered a half of Chablis for the first two courses, but they were out of it. The sommelier suggested two other whites - one an Au Beau Climat California Chardonnay (described as in the Chablis style) and another I forget. My other favorite whites are from Alsace so we decided on a half of the Hugel Riesling, which was lovely and went well with the food (after all the chef is from Alsace).

      For the third course we had a half of the 2008 Nuits St Georges, a very nice wine and a sentimental favorite (our university residence was on St George St).

      The sommelier poured us a glass of an Austrian dessert wine as well - terrific with the desserts.

      Chocolates were excellent, particularly the lollipops (a ganache with a thin hard gilded sugar shell, in Tootsie Pop shape, fun to eat) and the hazelnuts in white chocolate.

      He had coffee which was everything it could be expected to be.

      The four-course dinner is $98.00 - several dishes with supplements - and the tasting $140.00. It was most enjoyable and impeccably served but didn't blow our minds like the birthday dinner did, for the reasons described. I would happily go back, however it doesn't seem the burning, obvious choice for all celebratory meals that it once did, based on this experience.

      A general comment - while I adore desserts and chocolates, it seems to me that luxury meals in the US are becoming too sweets-heavy in their composition. Maple syrup with the foie gras was pleasant but something tarter would have been better, at least to our tastes. It was my beef with EMP as well, the once we went there. Sweetness was not overly emphasized in our most recent comparable meal outside the US - at Hibiscus in London.

      1. re: buttertart

        Great review, and I completely agree with you on the over-use of sweet elements with proteins. The DH and I both don't like this, and it seems as if it is more and more difficult to eat a meal that does not have sweet components. Sorry that the meal didn't live up to your expectations.

        1. re: roxlet

          I don't mind it in very small touches, but by the time you get through with the meal, the desserts, and the mignardises you might just as well have sat down and eaten a box of chocolates. I prefer the savory profile to dominate.

        2. re: buttertart

          Excellent descriptive review, as usual, buttertart! It is unfortunate that the meal did not live up to your high expectations based on your previous experiences.

          Sorry that my comment made you more aware of the noise level. However, as I noted in one of my posts down-thread, the problem is finally going to be addressed.

          I'm surprised that you were asked for your dessert choice at the beginning. On Monday, after our captain took the order for the three savory courses, I asked him if we needed to give him our dessert orders right then, and he said it wasn't necessary, but he would take them if we knew what we wanted. Since we both knew coming in what we wanted, we did tell him right then. However, more often than not, I'm not sure what I will be in the mood for after I've finished the savory courses, so having to decide up front would make it more difficult to choose something I'm sure I'd enjoy.

          Food that should be hot but arrives tepid is a huge no-no for Mr. R. and me. And it is especially egregious at a restaurant of The Modern's high caliber. We would have sent those plates back.

          1. re: RGR

            Was not tickled to be asked about dessert, but we did know what we wanted (or expected to want).

            After the gap between courses we were hungry but we really should have sent them back.

            1. re: buttertart

              You're welcome, buttertart. I've removed that reference.

              It never makes us happy to have to return plates because it really messes up the pacing of the meal though, in your case, the pacing already seems to have been off between the 2nd and 3rd courses.


              1. re: RGR

                They were full to capacity but that's absolutely no excuse.

      2. I love both, but for me Corton is more creative and ambitious.

        239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

        1. I've been to The Modern twice, and Corton once, and I recommend Corton for more creative food and better service.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ellenost

            Agree the Croton is much more special n

          2. We've been to Corton though not recently and enjoyed the food a lot. But it is a style of cuisine that does not appeal to everyone.

            We just had dinner in The Modern Dining Room last night. There is quite a lot of creativity in Chef Kreuther's Alsacian-influence cuisine, and our meal was stunning in its deliciousness.

            If ambiance matters to you, these two restaurants couldn't be more different. Corton's dining space is relatively small and has very simple decor. The Modern Dining has a soaring ceiling, modern decor that fits its location (in MoMA), and a view out to the Sculpture Gardens.

            Photos of our dinner last night in The Modern Dining Room:


            8 Replies
            1. re: RGR

              i'm voting for the modern as well.

              1. re: RGR

                There was nothing remotely as exciting in our meal at Corton as the corn soup with hickory smoke last summer at the Modern. The service was also impeccable, almost on a level with Taillevent under M. Vrinat.

                1. re: buttertart

                  I should have mentoned it in my post above, but we, too, have had impeccable service in The Modern Dining Room each of the three times we've been there. Louis, our captain during Monday's dinner, couldn't have been more welcoming, pleasant, and attentive.


                  1. re: RGR

                    This is the first time in a long time I've been actively excited about going back to a restaurant.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      On another thread, I commented that we were surprised to see so many men not wearing jackets since as far as we knew, jackets were required in The Modern Dining Room. Well, I just called to ask about it and was informed that they are no longer required. The woman I spoke with said that the policy was abandoned about a year ago. For us, this change will be an added incentive to dine there more often. While Mr. R. doesn't mind wearing a jacket occasionally, he much prefers not to especially during the summer.


                      1. re: RGR

                        My husband was born in a jacket, so that's never been a concern! 90 degrees and under, jacket on.

                        1. re: buttertart

                          Wow, thank you for your thoughts .....but I'm still confused. I guess I'll have to try both, now which one is first?

                    2. re: RGR

                      I, too, had remarkable service at The Modern at my recent dinner there. The server was very young, but quite good. I remember specifically friendly banter around my initial drink order (Hendricks & tonic) and a rabbit terrine where he demonstrated real comfort and warmth.

                      Having just had one meal at The Modern and one meal at Corton, I have more of an urge to return to The Modern.

                      239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                2. Personally, I think Corton is on a higher playing field than The Modern and is definitely more relaxing and quieter. The food and service are both wonderful. I've had dishes at The Modern that sounded more interesting in their description than they were in their execution. So my vote for first choice would be Corton.

                  239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: edwardspk

                    I don't agree that Corton is on a higher playing field than The Modern insofar as deliciousness goes. But it is a style of cuisine that takes more risks than The Modern's, which makes it, imo, not as "user-friendly."

                    As far as the issue of quiet goes, as I mentioned on another thread, a reliable source has told me that The Modern is about to address the problem of noise filtering into the dining room from the Bar Room by closing the large opening at the rear of the wall separating the two rooms. (Whoever designed it that way is a dunce!) Doing so will no doubt make the dining room's ambiance much quieter and more pleasant. I also mentioned on that thread that the jackets required policy has been eliminated. Thus, one can dress more casually, making for a more relaxed feel.


                    1. re: RGR

                      Jackets are nor required either at Corton. I find service to be better at Corton.

                      239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                      1. re: ellenost

                        We had excellent service at Corton both times we've been there, but I can't say it was better than the service we've received at The Modern. I would judge them as equal. However, iirc, you had an issue at The Modern involving a dessert request. So, I'm guessing that is a factor in your opinion.


                        1. re: RGR

                          I've had excellent service at both restaurants as well.

                          To the OP: if you like small bites and novel flavor combinations (like, for instance, Momofuku Ko or Brooklyn Fare), then go to Corton. Even the three course prix fixe comes with an array of side dishes and the experience will be analogous to a tasting menu.

                          If you prefer a more conventional presentation like Jean Georges or Picholine then go to The Modern, where the flavors reflect the chef's Alsatian background but still exhibit quite a bit of depth and creativity.

                          Jean Georges
                          1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

                          35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

                          Momofuku Ko
                          163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                          239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                          1. re: peter j

                            This was a very very helpful for me to make my first choice, thank you.

                          2. re: RGR


                            You remember correctly. I had wanted the beignets from the Bar Menu while I was dining in the Dining Room, and since I was paying a fixed price regardless of the dessert chosen, I didn't think this would be a problem (we know it wouldn't be a problem at EMP. My captain said that if I wanted a dessert from the Bar Room menu, I would need to change my table and have the beignets in the Bar Room which I thought was very bizarre. Haven't been back since.

                            1. re: ellenost

                              As much as I wanted to love the beignets, having read so much about them, I found them greasy, with a fried-in-old-oil taste. However, I did like the accompanying dips and ice cream.

                              1. re: Nancy S.

                                I agree. I didn't care for the beignets either when I had them again recently. And even though I love the other desserts at The Modern Bar Room, I think the ones served in the Dining Room are even better.

                                1. re: Riverman500

                                  For me, with the exception of the egg in the jar and the ice creams, as well as the Hinny Kick (to drink), I'm not thrilled with the Bar Room's dishes.

                              2. re: ellenost


                                Did they give you a reason? Did you speak with the G.M.? I can understand being annoyed (angry?) about it. If it had happened to me, I'd be royally ticked. But I'm not sure I'd cross the dining room off my list because of it.

                                As far as the beignets go, I liked them. However, they paled in comparison to the seriously luscious Baba au Rhum I had in the dining room earlier this week. Same goes for Mr. R.'s Chocolate and Hazelnut Dacquoise, which I tasted.


                                1. re: RGR

                                  Glad/sad to hear that the beignets aren't that great. It was disappointing since I had told my dining companion that they were supposed to be wonderful, so it was disappointing to hear that The Modern doesn't permit serving dishes from The Bar Room kitchen in The Dining Room. I did ask my waiter to double check, and he did confirm this policy (this was about a year and a half ago). In addition, I had found my "captain" who looked to be about 19, a bit pompous (very unexpected in a Danny Meyer restaurant). The food itself was "fine", but not at the level of even the old EMP. The noise factor and the communal restrooms are not what I expect for a fine dining restaurant.

                                  I enjoyed my dinner more at Corton from a food and service perspective.