The Modern Bar Room is the informal counterpart to The Modern, which holds 2 Michelin Stars, and which I reviewed last year. We had a good lunch in the Bar Room a few months ago, so we were looking forward to trying a few more items for dinner, to provide a more comprehensive review.
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Getting to the Modern Bar Room at MoMA
The Modern is located in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 9 West 53rd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Coming from the West side, the closest subway station is 7th Avenue and 53rd Street (B, D, E trains); from the East side, the closest station is 51st Street and Lexington Avenue (6, E trains).
Originally we had a 5pm reservation, as it was the only time before 7:30pm that we were able to get for 3 guests, when making a reservation on Open Table a week in advance for a Friday evening. Fortunately, the morning of our reservation, we were able to change it to 6pm.
While 6pm seems on the early side to me, the Bar Room was completely full, attesting to its popularity, at least on a Friday evening. Most tables were taken by couples in their 30s-40s, although there were some younger and older diners (no kids, however, apart from our son) and also a few tables of 3-4 friends.
Amusingly, the bathroom, which has a unisex area with sinks, has individual stalls that are either unisex or for women only. The result? Women can go into any of the bathrooms, but men can only go into half of them, so in contrast to most restrooms, there were men waiting for the bathroom and no waits for women.
Menu and Food at The Modern Bar Room
Unlike The Modern Dining Room, which exclusively features prix fixe menus of 3 or 6 courses at lunch, and 4 or 8 courses at dinner, The Bar Room has an a la carte menu. As at The Modern, it's “hospitality included,” so before you raise your eyebrows at the price, realize that tip is baked in. It's still not inexpensive, but is fair given the quality of the food and service and its prime midtown location.
Given its upscale location, the corkage fee is quite steep, $35 per bottle, so we each had a glass of white wine, a Riesling for my husband and an Austrian Gruner Veltliner for me.
I really enjoyed my Gruner Veltliner, its fruit and mineral notes and the acidity were very well balanced.
One of my pet peeves about some restaurants is that they serve very basic bread and don't warm it. Not the Bar Room at The Modern, where the rolls are freshly baked, served hot out of the oven, with dollops of creme fraiche alongside. These were so good that we asked for more.
Our son chose the Charred Avocado with King Crab and Spiced Bread Crumbs for his appetizer, and it was fantastic, even though it doesn't look that impressive in the photo. Thanks to the fresh and sweet King Crab and spiced crumbs, much better than the Saxon + Parole Grilled Avocado dish on my JetBlue Mint flight.
I liked my husband's Broccoli Cheddar Soup, and he did as well, although as he put it, he prefers very rich Broccoli Cheddar soup with so much cheese that it's probably pretty bad for him, whereas this lighter version tasted as though it might be good for him, which (for him) was annoying. Go figure.
The Alsatian Tarte Flambee is something I'd had previously at The Bar Room, and was so good I ordered it again. Of course, my son and husband, as soon as they spied it, asked for some. I expect this is something that was so popular with regulars back when Gabriel Kreuther helmed The Modern, before he left to launch his eponymous restaurant.
For mains, our son chose the Lamb Sausage with Puntarelle (an Italian green) and Kumquats, which I didn't necessarily expect him to eat due to how tart it is, but which proved a perfect foil for the richness of the lamb sausage.
My husband's Roasted Chicken was cooked perfectly, plump and moist, and the foie gras tortellini a delectable accompaniment.
Still, I thought my main course, the Seared Scallops with Roasted Cauliflower and Brown Butter, was especially good. Sure, I would have liked another couple of scallops, for the price, and for the butter to be a bit more browned and nutty, but the scallops had a great sear while still remaining plump and sweet, and there was a piquant, herbaceous oil that complemented the dish.
Of the dishes we tried, my favorites were the Alsatian Tart, my son's Charred Avocado with King Crab, and My Seared Scallops with Roasted Cauliflower. We also loved the fresh bread, served piping hot with creme fraiche. Our server was professional and friendly, including to our son, even though he was the only kid in the restaurant, and the rest of the team working the floor ensured our water glasses were never empty.
While even The Bar Room is pricey enough that it won't be a regular dining haunt for us, it was an enjoyable evening out, and is a good option to keep in mind for visitors staying in midtown who want dinner outside of their hotel, yet within walking distance.
If you've been to The Bar Room at The Modern, what was your experience?
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