I’ve only worn a suit three times during my time in college. First, it was for my sister’s wedding. The second time was for my meal at Eleven Madison Park. Now, I’m putting my jacket back on for the third time. It’s time to play at The Modern.
Fine dining often has the connotation of being stuffy and monotonous, but restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and The Modern seem to throw away such stereotypes. They redefine the system through spontaneity.
First came test tubes of cold soup shooter that evoked memories of sweet corn in the summer season. Then arrived popcorn served on a chalice (reminds me of a pimp cup). The show was just about to begin.
The lights dimmed, but there were many other trailers. Two canapés (Ceviche and Marshmallow with Farro) as well as an amuse bouche of apple gelee stimulated my palate.
Many hours before our meal, my friends and I carried the suspicion that the smaller portions The Modern would leave us starving by the time we exited the doors. To conciliate our (potentially) hungry stomachs, we unconsciously stocked up on homemade bread. Cow and goat butter was lathered onto three types of warm selections (cranberry wholewheat, rosemary olive, French baguette bread) and went straight to our hips. We later found out that the portions at The Modern are actually very sufficient. We managed to outdo our stomach’s expectations, once again.
– THE MAIN EVENT –
Dinner is set at a four-course $98 Prix Fixe. Although the majority of the diners opt for the menu, my three friends and I left the option open to the kitchen staff. Here are some of my favorite selections from the sixteen dishes we received.
The three selections proved to be a remarkable starter to the night. Of the three, the delectable yellowfin tuna adorned with pearls of caviar proved to be the standout. The preparation is minimalistic, but the fish (and the bivalve) are stunning quality.
If a king were to dine at The Modern, there is no better introduction to the meal than this dish. I remember tasting the aromatic juices from the rich and earthy mushrooms. The almonds also provide a contrasting crunch to the bouchot mussels and soft trumpets. The iberico jamón wrapped in a spoon is also a enchanting tease at the end of the course.
At first, I thought that a dessert course had mistakenly ended up at our table. The pickled wild strawberries are not normally what you would find at the early stages of the meal. However, the fruit truly does provide a compliment to the fragrant poached foie gras. Compared to the Pralines of Foie Gras Terrines at the first course, this preparation is sweeter, but not sugary. The black pepper caramel mischievously provides subtly spicy note at the end of the bite.
One lesson I learned from Chef John Karangis is that one does not simply leave The Modern dining room without trying the squab and foie gras croustillant. Normally, this dish is a two person commitment, meaning that each person gets one piece of croustillant (lunch and dinner). This dish might evoke wonderful memories of home for beef wellington lovers. The crispy puff pastry delicately holds a piece of foie gras caressed by two loveable pieces of gamey squab. The bird is adorned with a caramelized ginger jus and a bed of farm vegetables. The kitchen was gracious enough to send both portions for one hungry belly.
Good gracious. Pastry Chef, Marc Aumont is a force to be reckoned with in any kitchen. The panna cotta was smooth and velvety and the strawberry soup was a truly a tribute to the successful summer season. I fell in love with the crispy pastries that were broken into the plate. It’s crunchy, sweet, and refreshing, making it a pleasant end to the dinner.
– WAIT –
As soon as the desserts are cleared, a three tiered pushcart arrives at the table. HOLY MOSES. From cocoa nibs to tuiles, the sea of petit fours is a chocolate lover’s paradise.
How much can we have? “Well, as many as you want.” One of everything seems to be a proper response.
There is no better send off after a three hour dinner than a celebration with mini ice cream cones. I remember a subtle of hint of ginger and maple as well as a sensation that reminded me of homemade pop rocks. It kept me buzzing the entire night.
Although the price tag for dinner is hefty (three courses + dessert during lunch is $70), the incredible level of food and hospitality provides tremendous value. It also makes me wonder why Michelin hasn’t awarded the restaurant its second star.
The Modern is a special destination restaurant that will certainly seal the deal on any occasion. Until my return to the dining table, find me in the bar room stuffing my face with tarte flambée. Both are majestic.