I didn’t expect The Modern to reach the three-star altitudes I had witnessed earlier in the week. And it didn’t. The lemon verbena and cinnamon-laced popcorn was stale. The yuzu marinade on four formidable langoustines masked any trace of top-of-the-sea freshness the crustaceans once bore; that plate also had a bewildering abundance of cucumber, far more than I knew what to do with.
But there were also moments rich with excitement: a tantalizing cloud of applewood smoke filled the air as a server removed the plate’s carapace, revealing a smoky, caviar-laden sturgeon-sauerkraut amalgam in a flaky tart shell. And that was soon followed by a delicately poached farm egg that explodes across the bowl upon knife pressure as if it were in a Tarantino film. Now I’m not one to profess a meretricious devotion to egg dishes, but the one-sided salt onslaught–parmesan, olive tapenade and Iberico ham–paired with the egg worked wonderfully. Dessert became a delightful ordeal, a hedonistic treadmill, highlighted by a towering pineapple-citrus macaron that went on being a joy for ten minutes.
Service was stellar throughout with my section of the dining room managed deftly by Erin, blonde and bespectacled, with an endearing awkwardness, the kind characteristic of many academics. I’m convinced I had one of the best seats in the restaurant: looked after by Erin, overlooking the MOMA sculpture garden, far away from the blaring bar and next to an investment banker on a date–with nary a chance of amatory success– with a woman palpably oozing boredom as the hours passed; when not enmeshed in the complexities of a course, I was sustained–nourished at times–by the catastrophe-prone confabs of these two. I couldn’t have planned it better if I had tried.