International Hounds Chowmeeting in NYC, Part 2 - The Modern
Given only a 2 weeks time window to work with. Trying to secure a dining spot in one of NYC's more popular Michelin Star destination on a Saturday night would require a bit of divine intervention and lots of luck!! For our Chowmeet, Part 2, Fourseason and I were fortunate to find an opening in 'The Modern' at 6:30 pm.
Still partially stuffed from our earlier lunch at Jean Georges, we arrived at our assigned time slot to find the dining room already packed and bustling. Unlike the cool reception we received earlier at JG, we were greeted with smiling and friendly faces all round! A good omen!!
With no room in our system to accommodate the daunting 10 course tasting menu, we decided to forgo our original plan and opted for the more modest 4 course Prix Fixe instead. In order obtain a more comprehensive picture of the food, our strategy was to order all 'non-repetitive' dishes. We managed to achieve our goal except one! We felt the need to double order the signature 'Sturgeon and Sauerkraut Tart' since we all wanted to take a taste.
Our meal comprised of the following:
- BREAD: Yes! A special honorary mention to some of the tastiest, crunchiest, crispiest, softest and piping hot restaurant bread selection I have ever eaten!! Soooo @##$%^^ good!!
- Amuse Bouche: Caramelized popped corn with savory topping, Marinated Fluke, a tube of Carrot smoothie and a plate of ??? (since I was too busy enjoying the bread!!)
- Course 1: Diver Scallop, Yellowfin Tuna & Scottish Salmon
Seasoned 3 Ways
'Pralines' of Foie Gras Terrine
Mango Puree and Balsamic Vinegar
Alaskan King Crab Salad 'Cannelloni'
Sea Urchin Coulis, caviar
- Course 2: Sturgeon and Sauerkraut Tart
American Caviar Mousseline and Applewood Smoke
Cabernet-Poached Sullivan County Foie Gras
Pickled Wild Strawberries, Black Pepper Caramel
- Course 3: Slow-Roasted Maine Lobster
'Folly of Herbs' and Seasonal Vegetables
Quail Baked ' En Terre Glaise'
Macaroni Gratine, Spinach and Chanterelles.
Squab and Foie Gras Croustillant
Caramelized Ginger Jus and Farm Vegetables
- Dessert Course: Pineapple and Citrus Macaron
Balsamic Caramel and Fromage Blanc Sorbet
Mango Ravioli, Coconut Tapioca and Ten Flavor Sorbet
Citrus Mousseline, Almond Spaghetti, Mang-Passion Fruit Sorbet
- Chocolate Cart: 30 different types of chocolate products to pick from!
Overall, IMO, our 'Modern' yet Classic Alsatian dishes were more delicious and intriguing than JG's offering. Food were more artistically presented and the taste, though less bold and multi-dimensional, were refined in their make-up with all the different components complimenting each other harmoniously. Since almost all the dishes tasted delicious, the gap between the good and the 'stand-out' was very minimal. However, a few dishes do deserve a special mentioning.
First and foremost is the Alaskan King Crab Cannelloni. This dish indeed tasted as good as it looked!! Next came the Cabernet-Poached Foie Gras. This was highly recommended by our server even though I have already chosen the Squab and Foie Gras as my main course. Great choice! Beautifully executed, this was one of the tastiest Foie Gras dish I have eaten outside of France. Last but not least was the Squab and Foie Gras combo. The breast meat sandwiching the Foie was pink, juicy and moist and the accompanying sauce was heavenly. Pity I did not ask my server to 'pour' it on!
Some of you must be surprised to see the signature 'Sturgeon and Sauerkraut Tart' being left out from the 'honor' list?! Though pretty tasty and unique, however, we all found the creamy mousseline to be a bit too heavy and overwhelming. Another time, when less full, our opinion might be totally different?
Based on the 'whole package of food, wine, service, ambiance', our dining experience, compared to Jean Georges' lunch was a hands down winner. At 25% less, it was also a steal!!!
We all believe 'The Modern' is an establishment that deserve one more Michelin Star!!!
Like you, Charles, I also tend to "judge" a restaurant by its bread as well - how much care an estalishment takes in preparing something basic like its bread is an indication of the meticulousness of its kitchens.
I wonder how many inspectors does Michelin New York have, and how often restaurants such as Modern or Jean-Georges are being reviewed, for the guide to arrive at their rating?
re: Charles Yu
Hakkasan NY is now 1-Michelin-starred, barely 6 months after its opening! The Malaysian media are reporting it as Hakkasan NY's kitchen is helmed by a Chinese-Malaysian:
I'm always open to a gastronomic trip - San Sebastian? Am most likely back in London next month - heard that St John's at Soho is now 1-Michelin-star in the 2013 UK Guide. May try & catch up with FourSeasons when I'm back in Singapore next weekend, and hear more about your eating adventures in Manhattan.
Given your enthusiasm, I wonder if they changed their bread offering. The last time I was there the selection was an olive and plain roll from Pain d'Avignon (the same selection that used to be served at EMP before its current house-baked offering). I always found the bread at The Modern and the old EMP slightly stale and disappointing.
re: Nancy S.
I thought it was the same bread they always served. Before, they used to have a bread server going around offering bread from a tray of french baguette, olive, and multi-grain/whole wheat. Sometime between February and June of this year, they started giving each table a glass bowl containing a selection of the same breads. The only change is the presentation.
Also, the restaurant used to only offer cow butter. I remember they started offering goat butter right after the EMP sale around October last year. Now that The Modern is Union Square Hospitality's top tier restaurant, they have elevated a number of aspects of the restaurant to match this new status.
I have always liked The Modern's bread, however. They always tasted fresh and warm and delicious to me.
Maybe because I tend to reserve late tables, the bread is past its prime by the time I get it. (I was also dissapointed with the bread at EMP pre-change.) Still, I agree, a restaurant can be judged, at least in part, by its bread (and butter). I do think The Modern does well with the butter part.
Cool review. But, I will stand in defense of the tart! Essentially, it is a carefully constructed summary of the chef's cuisine. Unfortunately, that means as a dish it is more about ideas and less about being "tasty". It's a significant dish, but not suited for everyone's tastes and interests. I for one did not like it at a visceral level, but it succeeded by making me think about food differently thereafter.
The Modern will get two stars when it fixes the sound problem...