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Bar Room at The Modern

Last weekend, I wanted to try a couple of the “little sister” restaurants of the city’s fine dining rooms. After our food orgy at the Aquavit Cafe on Friday night, we proceeded to the Bar Room at The Modern on Saturday. The atmosphere here is far more raucous and lively than at the sedate Aquavit.

It is located in the Museum of Modern Art, although there is a separate street entrance. The Bar Room has been a hit – Frank Bruni even suggests that it is more enjoyable than the fine dining room adjoining it – and there is the ever-so-slight hint that the staff know you’re at they’re mercy. However, I was pleased that they were willing to transfer our bar tab to our table, something that even much fancier restaurants will often refuse to do.

The menu is in three columns, labeled One ($9-19), Two ($12-16), and Three ($15-19). Column One are the cold appetizers, Column Two are the hot appetizers, and Column Three are the entrees, which the menu says are half portions.

We were still feeling over-fed from Aquavit the night before, so we ordered a bit less of chef Gabriel Kreuther’s food than we might have had under other circumstances. My friend ordered the gnocchi and the Austrian pork sausage (both from Column Two). I ordered the Warm Veal & Goat Cheese Terrine (One) and Crispy Tuna (Three).

I was struck by the complexity of both dishes I tried, and they were both terrific. I was also impressed with my friend’s sausage. (I had only a bite of her gnocchi, not enough to form an impression.)

Chef Kreuther’s cuisine deserves a more serene environment than the frenetic Bar Room gives it, but service was generally acceptable, and the place is impressive when you consider it’s the cafe attached to an art museum. If I lived in the neighborhood, I’d stop by often just for a plate or two. Just about everything on the menu looks appealing.

Bar Room at The Modern (9 W. 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves, West Midtown)

Food: **½
Service: **
Ambiance: *½
Overall: **

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