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The Modern at MoMA


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No no 2 friends (should have said "a couple"). I don't think anyone on this board would make such a rookie mistake with a party of 6. I will be calling but i'm a bit miffed that someone would take a liberty like that - wouldn't you be?

Edited by raji (log)
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I ate there with a few friends last night. The meal was great and I'll post about it later, BUT

I paid with credit card and my friend left a cash tip with it. I checked my statement today and they had added 20% to it! Now, perhaps something shady happens with cash tips on their end, but does it seem unethical to any one else that they did this? I just would never expect this from a Danny Meyers restaurant...

Why this happens I don't know but when I pay with a debit card the 20% is always added, even when I pay in cash. When I look at my online statement and the transaction is pending the 20% gratuity is there. After the transaction is posted, the 20% is dropped. Like I said, I don't know why this occurs but my feeling is it has to do with the credit card company and not the restaurant.

Edited by Lreda (log)
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That 20% is just a temporary "charge" that everyone does to make sure that there's room in you account for all incidentals. I say "charge" in quotes because it's not like they take your money, then refund it later, but it's more like holding space on your card. It's called a "block"; hotels do this, generally adding a "charge" of $100 or so, and rental cars most always add $500. They're blocking off the money just in case. This probably happens every time you use your credit card while eating out - I know it certainly does for me when I check the balance the next day...

For more information on this, check out this article from the BBB.

Edited by lambretta76 (log)
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lambretta is pretty much on the right track here. one thing i would add is that if you use a pre-paid card, e.g., a $100 amex gift card, the authorization system may try to pre-authorize the extra 20% to accommodate the assumed tip and could cause a rejection for insufficient funds. if you use a pre-paid card, you need to be crystal clear with your server because they generally don't see all of these behind-the-scenes mechanics.

just something to keep in mind to avoid potentially embarrassing situations.

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Maybe this is the first time I've noticed because it's one of the first times I paid with credit card and a cash tip. Normally I'd see the charge and just assume that was the 20% tip I normally leave.

I guess I'm preaching to the choir here but it seems weird for a restaurant to do this, and in fact that BBB article only mentions hotels and rental cars. What am I going to do, break a bunch of dishes AFTER I leave the restaurant? What incidental could they possibly be covering?

Maybe it has to do with the fact that they run it once to authorize it, and then again when you put your tip on the card.

Not that this has anything to do with the Modern because now it sounds like everywhere does this - I'd like to reiterate I had a GREAT meal there and the service was good too.

Edited by raji (log)
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I've never encountered a hold on my credit card after paying at a restaurant. I have encountered it with car rentals and been told that it will take a few days for the hold to be released even after I return the car and the final charge is put through. A "hold" should never show up as a charge on your statement.

I think this is precisely the sort of thing that should be taken up directly with the restaurant and precisely the sort of speculation that that makes some people look askance at online conversations. Any charge entered on your card by the restaurant is a matter of fact that can be explained by the restaurant and they are the only ones who can make the correction if one is due. Moreover, if the restaurant did make a mistake, I believe they should be given the oportunity to rectify that mistake without being dragged through the mud in public.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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In terms of the block: restaurants need to block extra funds because you don't leave the tip until after the card has been authorized. For example, let's say you have $200 remaining of your limit (or $200 in the account in the case of a debit card) and you charge a $199 meal. Then you fill in a $40 tip. By the time the restaurant processes the tip, you're long gone and over your limit (or you've overdrawn your account in the case of a debit card). So in order to charge that $199 meal, you need to have about $240 in the account so the restaurant can block 20%.

Raji, have you called the restaurant yet to inquire about this?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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As Bux says, a block shouldn't show up as a charge, because the actual tip amount should replace it. My guess is that what happened here has to do with the fact that there was no tip (on the card). It must have caused something to get screwed up with the release of the block. There are also some differences between the ways credit and debit cards are treated for accounting purposes -- that could have something to do with it. Who knows? In any event, again as Bux says, this should be taken up with the establishment not lodged as a public complaint prior to any investigation. I seriously doubt the Modern tried to steal anybody's money.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't think anyone is dragging anyone else or anything through the mud here. Actually I think Raji was asking about a questionable situation in a very nice way. I know I would have been upset, but now I have learned a something and due to the explanations provided I may not totally lose it should I experience the same problem either at The Modern or elsewhere :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 1 month later...

Lost in Translation New York City Entry #76 The Modern

When friends visiting New York inquire where they should eat, I ascertain how important is it that they have the very finest, very most creative food that this city has to offer. If they waver, I direct them to one of Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group Restaurants (Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Tabla, Eleven Madison Park, Blue Smoke, and, now, The Modern). I know that they will be treated right. If they lack the critic's fork and tongue, they thank me.

A case in point. Some friends and I were sitting in the Dining Room of The Modern, the ambitious high-end restaurant, and I noticed the slightest chip on the edge of my cocktail glass. As an altruist I pointed the flaw to our server, fearful that the next diner might be less amiable about this micro-nick. As our checks were presented, she informed us that the drink had been comped. Service at a Danny Meyer restaurant is not always glitch-free (there were gaps between some courses), but at his restaurants staff turn somersaults to keep diners satisfied. One is inspired to forgive.

Chef Gabriel Kreuther, formerly at Atelier and sous-chef at Jean-Georges, oversees The Modern, the most ambitious of the Union Square restaurants. The space is spectacular. Most museums treat their culinary artists as day laborers and their cafeterias as mess halls, but not so at the new MOMA. This space is the most elegant at the museum. The bar area is tastefully designed, but it is the sleekly modernist dining room, hidden behind frosted glass, overlooking the Abby Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, that stuns. It overshadows the cuisine, although the food strives and struggles to rise to the occasion. Not since a visit to the River Café did I so desire to chew the scenery.

And Chef Kreuther's food tries, it really tries. I found much of it satisfying and inventive without being compelling. Although the dishes as described are pungent, the pungency is often lost in translation.

Our first amuse was a beggar's purse filled with morel mushrooms and sweet pea puree. This was a bright idea but a failed execution. One of the treats of eating morels is the texture of these fungal sponges. Chopping morels to fill a small pastry defeats their moral purpose. Add a grittiness (soil protein) and a slightly gummy pastry and the dinner started on uncertain footing.

Our second amuse was a carrot-parsnip terrine with parsley and ginger foam (well, sauce, but it was foamily designated). This was a charming small plate, although the ginger barely registered in the taste profile. As was often the case throughout the evening the kitchen pulls its gustatory punches.

I began with Escargots and "Potato Gateau" with Pearl Onions, Shiso and Parsley-Ginger Vinaigrette. The potato cake with bites of escargot was creative and satisfying, even if one recalled just why escargots are graced by a buttery-garlic bath. However, the vanishing shiso and (again) ginger seemed a cheat. I had been happily and compulsively eating shiso for the past two weeks in Japan and had become addicted to these magic, exotic leaves, a fragrant mélange of cilantro, cumin, and cinnamon. As a potato gateau, the dish worked, but as a taste symphony too many notes had been dropped. Tastes of my companions' Foie Gras Terrine and Tartare of Yellow Fin Tuna and Diver Scallops revealed a similar problem. The central ingredients were properly executed, but the accompaniments didn't add much. They were all roots and no wings.

My entree was a splendid Long Island Duck Breast with Banyuls Jus (a thick reduction of wine from the Banyul region of Southwest France). The duck was perfect and it was enhanced by the deep jus, but where was the promised Black Truffle Marmalade. I demand more. As intriguing as the ingredients sounded, they were not calibrated. The truffle marmalade proved a marketing tease. I admired the "Fleischneke" - a hoop of duck confit in a pasta wrap - an inverted derma with meat on the inside.

My companion's sturgeon was supposedly braised in pink (!) grapefruit juice, but although the fish was moist, one strained to find the slightly bitter citrus taste.

We were provided two palate cleansers (counting the post-prandial treats, we each ordered the three course prix-fixe and received another seven gratis!). Best was the lemon geleé with passion fruit and mandarin sorbet, a symphony of tastes and textures (although more passion was called for). Less profound was a fromage blanc ice cream cone that proved less cleansing with a "raspberry" cone that had traded crispness for stickiness.

As dessert I selected the Vanilla-Raspberry-Licorice Vacherin. The lovely creamy-crisp meringue leaves were napped with an elegant vanilla sauce and a compelling raspberry sorbet, but where was my licorice? I imagined a powerfully bitter-sweet tang, but everything was cream and crimson without black; all light lacking the hint of night. This kitchen is skittish of big flavors - an un-Bouley.

The kitchen at The Modern is technically proficient, and they certainly can imagine a menu. For The Modern to compete with its setting or to compete with Tom Colicchio's Gramercy Tavern, Chef Kreuther (and Pastry Chef Marc Aumont) need the courage of their convictions. I was thrilled by the literary account of these dishes. But where are cooks who can translate words into deeds?

The Modern (at MOMA)

9 West 53rd Street (at Fifth Avenue)

Manhattan (Midtown)

212-333-1220

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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The menu you chose from seems to be different from the one we did just the other night. However, we sat in the bar area, so that might be the reason. May I recommend a few dishes to you with the big flavors you are seeking? I prefer the Liverwurst pate to the Foie torchon. It is accompanied by a variety of pickled vegetables and grainy mustard, plenty of bold flavors abound. Whenever I have foie, I am reminded of butter. Livery butter. Rich, but not strongly flavored. The bar also offered a tuna tartar (with roasted vegetables) on the menu, which we didn't order, but was presented for us to try. It blew the arctic char tartar (which one of our party did order) out of the water! The roasted vegetables were chopped and mixed with the tuna, so they were visibly subtle, but added a vinaigrette-like punch to the mix.

We ended up with two dishes featuring excellent sauerkraut, I prefered it with the braised pork cheeks (meltingly tender with a delicious jus) over the Alsacian sausage (eh).

They are also featuring basil gnocci with crab just now, and it was a standout. Tasting the green gnocci individually, you could definitely taste the basil, although it wasn't overwhelming. It was a surprisingly good match for the sweet peekeytoe crab.

As I mentioned, there were a few dishes by which I was underwhelmed. Besides the arctic char tartar (bland), the sausage (boring), I just did not care for the baked gratin of meat and tripe topped with cheese and breadcrumbs (I can't remember the name, I'll email the friend who took the menu), or my "cassolette" of potato, smoked tongue and raclette cheese. Both had an unusual taste I could not identify, and I'm usually pretty good at recognizing flavors. So, true, not all dishes are winners, unfortunately.

Finally, dessert. We had each ordered three courses, and there was an additional surprise or two offered at each course, so by this time, we were pretty full. Jason insisted on ordering dessert, and he got some chocolate and coffee flavored combination -- I tasted but it was just too rich for me at this point (remember, I'm the one that ordered Liverwurst and Braised Pork Cheeks, two rich dishes). So, I opted for the Citrus Carpacio with Green Apple Sorbet, which was just wonderful. A yin-yang of supremed blood orange and white grapefruit, in a gently syrup. The scoop of sorbet was surpluflous, but a nice center to the flower of tangy fruit.

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I hope at some point to try the bar area. I imagine that the menus will be different in scope, and perhaps will appeal to different tastes. However, the challenges with the dishes - which in many ways were quite compelling - were so consistent. This was by no means a poor or disappointing meal. It is very much a two star restaurant, deserving of its one Michellin star, and with the exception of the first incarnation of the Joy America restaurant on the top of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore (now sadly downscaled), it was the best museum food I've eaten.

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For whatever little it's worth, I've only eaten at the bar area, and my impression of the food there is almost exactly what gaf expressed.

Although, looking at Rachel's post, I had the misfortune of selecting only unrecommended dishes.

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There is no overlap whatsoever between the Bar Room menu and the dining room. In fact, I believe they even have separate kitchens.

The Bar Room menu is intended to be creative takes on dishes from Kreuther's native Alsace.

The dining room is much more ambitious in scope.

They are two entirely different restaurants, only sharing the same bathrooms, coatcheck and executive chef.

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  • 4 weeks later...

This was our weekend to try the casual "little sister" restaurants of the city's fine dining rooms, so after booking 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. There is just 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). I haven't figured out the distinction between One and Two; they all look like appetizers to me. Column Three are the entrees, which the menu says are half portions.

We were still feeling over-fed from our food orgy at 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.

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The servers have said to my parties several times "one is like cold appetizers, two is like hot appetizers and three is like half-entrees."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm going to be in the area on Monday afternoon and was thinking I'd stop in and see if I could find a seat in the Bar Room. Are the odds there will be space for one between 12 and 1230pm pretty good, in your collective experience?

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  • 3 weeks later...

That seems shocking to me. The Modern is no doubt a great place and caters to a large number of people, from causal museum visitors to serious diners. Still, Alinea has really redefined American fine dining in only its first year of existence. I suppose the fact that it is rather expensive and the food isn't the most accesible to the "common" diner led to the award being given to The Modern. One could apply the same logic to The Mansion (or whatever it's called)-it's probably simply too expensive and too formal.

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