Located in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, The Modern is a Michelin 2 Star fine dining restaurant that is part of the trend of good eats in the museums. Odette in Singapore National Gallery has 3 Stars but they do not have art directly in their courtyard.
The Modern holds two Michelin stars, a Three Star review in the New York Times, four James Beard Awards, and the Grand Award from Wine Spectator.
The Modern features Executive Chef Thomas Allan’s refined, contemporary cooking in a beautiful setting overlooking MoMA’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The ever-evolving, seasonal menu is complemented by an award-winning wine program. So you can sit back and admire the Botero and Degas while enjoying your wine and fine dine.
The lively Bar Room offers Chef Thomas Allan’s vividly seasonal contemporary cooking à la carte, along with an award-winning wine program and carefully curated cocktails, beer, and spirits. Guests have the option of sitting in The Bar Room, the adjacent lounge, or at the vibrant 24-seat marble bar.
The Kitchen Table at The Modern offers a front-row seat in the heart of the restaurant’s kitchen with an enhanced tasting menu and this was where we were dining. Only four per seating of lunch or dinner. Very precious and comes with a price and reservation required.
What is the Kitchen Table
It’s a four-seater couch built to one corner of the kitchen that overlooks into the heart of all the culinary actions. This is not the typical kitchen one imagines to be. Everything has its place, everything is executed according to clockwork precision. You can dine here and not smell like it afterwards.
The brain behind this whole operations is Executive Chef Thomas Allen. Born in England and raised in Canada, Tom’s passion for the culinary arts led him to New York at age 19, where he began his career as a line cook at Blue Smoke in 2007.
While a sous chef at Eleven Madison Park, Thomas participated in the 2010 Bocuse d’Or USA competition as commis to James Kent; together, they won the USA competition and placed 10th in the world—Thomas was just 22 years old at the time. In 2012, after years of admiring the Modernist French cuisine of Chef Yannick Alléno from afar, he moved to Paris to work as his sous chef at Le Meurice.
In 2014, Tom joined as Chef de Cuisine at The Modern, and over the years has contributed to its many accolades, including gaining a second Michelin star. He was named Executive Chef of The Modern in February 2020.
Chef Allan is assisted by a team of young and talented chefs from around the world. A strong foundation with French Culinary Institute and a career that started in Canada and then Aquavit and Per Se, Chef de Cuisine Sarah Hsieh leads this young team of chefs in the kitchen. You can see here giving instructions and pointers throughout, and she gave me a kitchen tour at the end of the dinner. She was originally from Taiwan.
Executive Pastry Chef Kazuo Fujimura was born in Tokyo and came to NY since 13, and fell in love with pastry. He went on to study in the Culinary Institute of America and worked in Picholine, Cafe Boulud, Le Bernadin. And it was with Chef Eric Ruppert that he learnt to accentuate the ingredients in his dessert creations. He was a recent addition to The Modern.
And besides these heavyweights, there were a couple of Singaporeans working here that came out of Republic Poly and ITE. I was so proud of the ladies holding our flag high in this establishment. Wish them the best and move up the fine dining world, I hope to taste their original creations soon.
In addition to the chefs, there’s a tireless team of professionals working on the different stations in the kitchen, each with his/her own task. It may be a putting the basil on the finishing touch of the salad, to assembling the eggs on eggs on eggs, the place looks more like a science laboratory than a hot and smoky kitchen that I am accustomed to.
And then there’s the frantic activities in the Bar Room Kitchen at the far end of the kitchen. This is a casual dining facility and churns out dishes after dishes in smoking speed. In comparison, this place was always buzzing, and the three line chefs were constantly cooking.
But we were here to eat. After the usual allergy checks and drinks order, we set off to the 10-course degustation menu by Chef Thomas Allan.
Eric Texier Saint-Julien En Saint-Alban 2018
AOC Côtes du Rhône
A Bordeaux native who has lived in or around Lyon since 1979, Eric Texier is a trailblazer, putting all the but extinct regions of Brézème and Saint Julien en Saint Alban on the map. He originally became a winemaker after a first career as an engineer in the nuclear industry and without any family background in vines or wines.
Eric Texier Saint-Julien en Saint-Alban 2018 is a Syrah red wine from the Rhone Valley. It displays aromas of berries, underbrush and dark flowers, and has a harmonious mouthfeel and a great body.
Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese 2020
A sweet Riesling wine with light straw colour with slight greenish tint. Fragrant aromas of guava, star fruit, pomelo, kumquat and calamansi. Quite sweet though not cloying palate with considerable acidities, as well as elements of calamansi, lime, honey and guava, great balance, and an understated yet very very long finish.
There are six categories of Riesling which indicate the ripeness of the grapes. Kabinett is considered “off-dry” and is a typically ripe grape. Spätlese is riper and therefor sweeter, and Auslese is even riper still. Beyond on that you have Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein (or ice wine), all getting sweeter, more viscous and more expensive.
crab and crispy squash
The tempura fried squash blossom with a dollop mix of lump crab meat, mascarpone cheese, tarragon, lemon and basil. The results were addictive. Light crispy squash blossoms with a creamy crab filling.
Crusty on the outside, pillowy inside, these brioche were little bundles of joy. With the hand churned butter from nearby village, the butter was creamy and delicious.
eggs on eggs on eggs
The first main course is a play on eggs on eggs on eggs – caviar on a sous vide egg housed in a porcelain egg. They put this crispy little perfectly toasted rectangle of brioche with dill and little onions that totally balanced the texture and taste.
Inside the porcelain egg-shaped container was a precisely toasted bread stick resting on a sous vide egg yolk that was sitting on an egg custard and topped with sturgeon caviar. There’s the three types of eggs in three different texture – crunchy for the caviar, creamy for the egg custard and satisfying for the perfectly poached runny egg yolk.
And the way to enjoy it was to dip it all with the toast stick provided to mix everything with the dill oil. And when I quickly finished the first toast stick, the second one was magically appeared for me to continue. A very reach and satisfying egg course.
hiramasa with marinated plums and shiso
A course that was inspired by Japanese and Peruvian influence. Very precious hiramasa (yellowtail amberjack) which was perfectly plump at this time of the day cured in umeboshi. Served with marinated Californian plums and beet root and topped with a refreshing umeboshi and perilla cold soup with lemon drops. Decorated with shiso flowers and leaves, basil and mint.
So it tasted like a Peruvian ceviche, but the fish was not cured and was just lightly flavoured with the umeboshi. It’s not like Japanese sashimi, as it was very elaborate and complex, and the fatty taste of the hiramasa was covered by the accompanying entourage. But the cold consommé was delicious and I finished every last drop.
lobster roasted with celtuce and brown butter
Half a grilled lobster tail with sautéed celtuce ribbons with EVOO and chopped parsley. Deep fried basil leaves and green olives, and brown butter sabayon.
This course had all my favourite ingredients – lobster, celtuce, marinated green olives – and they worked harmoniously together without intruding into each other’s flavours.
turbot, roasted on the bone with sun gold tomatoes
Two parts of the turbot were served separately – the fleshy filet taken off the bone, and bits of meat from the fins of the flatfish that look like orzo pasta. Served with blanched ribbons of yellow zucchini and orangey colour poached sun gold cherry tomatoes.
Bits of garlic sprouts that I usually associate with Chinese cuisine was found hiding among the zucchini that gave the garlicky taste to the dish. The sauce was a light tomato based sauce with either a crustacean oil for umami.
The turbot has never been my favourite fish in Singapore because there were too many times that the taste failed on me. However this time, the turbot was grilled to perfection and there was none of that fishiness that I have encountered previously. This has revived my faith in this fish. However I could not taste the roasted on the bone smokiness, only a very delicate and fresh turbot.
hand-cut tagliolini with shaved black truffles
House made tagliolini pasta with a simple carbonara sauce to feature the ingredient of the season – black truffles. The effect of truffles on humans may include aphrodisiac aspects, but the real pleasure is simply in the intersection of earth and musk and luxury that, when complementing certain, simple dishes, can be transcendental.
The nutty, musky, indescribable flavour of the truffle at the right time can only be brought out by the simplest of dishes. Topped with a generous shaving of Parmigiano Reggiano, and fresh shavings of the black truffles (at an additional cost), the simple carbonara pasta became something wonderful.
dry aged duck with apricot and endive
These days, they dry age everything. First started with beef to intensify the flavours and make the meat tenderer, the chefs start to experiment with lamb, and now duck. My neighbourhood Chinese restaurant does that too for their roast duck (for 60 hours) and the result was outstanding. Charantelles are among the most popular of wild edible mushrooms, and I love them for the unique musky flavours.
The dry-aged duck breast was roasted to perfection, I would almost believe that this was Chinese roast duck if not for the grilled apricot and red wine au jus reduction that came with the duck. Served with roasted charantelle mushrooms and steamed endives with shichimi pepper, this was a beautiful end to the main courses.
market strawberries and cucumber
The first of the desserts worked like a palate cleanser, with a seriously sour overtone from the quenelle of strawberries sorbet on a bed of cucumber crushed ice, on top of chopped fresh strawberries.
The strawberries were sour, and I didn’t like anything sour as I grow older.
chocolate torte with almond praline
Honey roasted hazelnuts, coconut cream mousse, vanilla ice cream, chocolate torte with almond praline on a chocolate crust. All the goodness on one plate. I had to order a double espresso to work through these sweets.
chocolate • melon • pistachio
And the final course of the day, something for us to bid farewell to this wonderful afternoon.
Compressed musk melon with parsley. Refreshing, cold, crisp.
Chocolate truffle with sour cherries filling. Pistachio tartlets with pistachio chips – not for the nut allergy.
The service was attentive, the wait staff and sommelier were all knowledgeable, kind and polite, and the dishes came out of the kitchen at just the right pace. We also thought that the amount of food was not as much quantity as say, the three Michelin starred The Inn at Little Washington, or some of the other fine dining restaurants we’ve been to, but both of us left satisfied.
Let all meals that I had in a Michelin starred restaurant, it was a well-orchestrated meal. But The Modern had tenacity – the tenacity of a group of young chefs trying to make it big in the Big Apple. You can see it in the bold use of interesting ingredients from different cultures. I wish I was young again. Being a chef these days is so much fun!
The Modern at MoMA
9 W. 53rd Street, New York City, NY 10019
Tel : +1 (212) 333-1220
Visited in Aug 2022
Michelin Guide NYC Edition 1 Star 2010-2015, 2 Stars 2016-2022