Danny Meyer's high end restaurant connected to MoMA.

Everyone loves this place.

I don't.

Well, I didn't.

The highest expression of (formerly) Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, this 2 star restaurant gets consistent raves and recommendations on the boards and blogs I read regularly. My experience with Union Square is that the boxes are checked, but the dishes are sterile. It's like painting by numbers. Everything is in its place and done properly, but it lacks the creativity and personal touch that lets you feel something.

Combine that with my last visit - albeit to the non-starred bar area of the restaurant - and I didn't think I'd ever return.

But with a lunch spot open at their kitchen table experience and my sons in town (one of whom is a chef), I figured it was time to see why everyone (else) loves this joint. If nothing else, my son could enjoy watching a 2 Michelin star kitchen for a few hours up close.

We were greeted by Jenna, our primary host for the meal. She is easily one of the best front of house people I have ever met. Bright and bubbly, brimming with excitement, but without being fake and overdone. She is doing what she is made to do. And boy, does she do it well. It was an honor to be on the receiving side of her hospitality.

The table itself - a single table for 4 inside the very large kitchen - is an exciting place to be. It feels special. It is special. Definitely worth the $50/pp upgrade from the dining room. Plenty of added touches too, like a large gift box with a polaroid camera. "Take photos to remember your experience here. Keep the last one available for the chef, please."

The table is within arms reach of one of the chefs, working away. We were encouraged to engage him as often as we'd like, asking anything we wanted. He was very friendly and seemed happy to share, though we had too much respect for his responsibilities to poke him too often.

The dishes began coming and whoa! This isn't what I remembered.

The two canapes were diverse and delicious. A white asparagus ice cream sandwich topped with cheese? Creative, palate-awakening and super inviting. Their signature eggs on eggs on eggs followed. I've seen this before, of course. 20,000 Leagues did a version. Disfrutar kind of did. This was one was truly spectacular. So well made. Perfectly seasoned. Beautiful to look at. Generous. Each time we saw a tray of them being picked up by a server, we hoped they were bringing us a 2nd round rather than delivering them out to the dining room.

The hits kept coming. Lobster, scallop, the venison...all diverse. All outstanding. All well made. All enjoyable.

There were some definite misses though. Three desserts were offered and we made sure that between the four of us, we tried all three. None of them were great. Most were barely good. Quite a miss to follow the rest of the meal.

Our experience was also interrupted by a long pause following the (tremendous!) scallop dish. The kitchen lost its rhythm and seemed a bit flustered. About 20 minutes later, a server came and changed the silverware to something different. "The chef has something special planned for you."

Nice try, but we didn't buy it. Something was definitely amiss. 

The next dish (the potato ravioli) was fine. Even with black truffle (generously gifted to us), the dish was just flat. We found out later that fish was supposed to be delivered but had been overcooked. Kudos that the kitchen's standards kept it off of our table. But clear communication about what was occurring would have elevated an experience like this. And how did they not have enough mis en place to recook the same dish?

A clear bump in a road that had thusfar been stellar.

We also learned that this experience can be booked at 12pm, 2pm, 5pm and 7pm. Fortunately, no 2pm reservation existed so our experience was relaxed and enjoyable. Forcing this menu and upgraded kitchen table experience into less than 2 hours would be frustrating at best. If you go, I would book the later seating or confirm that no one is directly following you.

Our lunch concluded with that final polaroid behind the line with the entire kitchen staff alongside. It's a really nice touch.

So...the Modern won me over. Absolutely deserving of its 2 stars and an experience I will look back on fondly. With so few Michelin lunch options in New York, I can definitely see myself returning.

You should go. Check it out. 

And ask for Jenna. She's fantastic.

Stopped in for a quick lunch in the bar room here before visiting MoMA. Even with 2 stars, it's not a place I would target based on my previous visit. But it's literally connected to MoMA and I was introducing a friend to high-end eating, so it made sense. On paper.

Why does this restaurant have 2 stars? Why does it even have 1? I haven't a clue. The cooking is good - better than a random restaurant in NYC. But without a vision or soul. No inspiration. Simple dishes done well, but that's it. 

Empty oyster shellAnd the service was laughable. You would likely be better off in this regard at a random other NYC establishment. My friend shared an oyster with me which I put on my bread plate. Upon clearing the appetizers, it remained on the table and was there through the end of the meal. 2 Michelin stars? Denny's would do better. They wine I ordered arrived 30 minutes into the meal, after the appetizers. And they were out of the one I requested.

I'm not sure what else I can say. Don't come here. There is no reason to.

My first visit was for lunch - the tasting menu in the dining room. I remember it was fine. The dishes are beautiful to look at but lacked anything to really draw you in. It is like the chef was mimicking what he has seen without having really lived it enough to know.

The service was top notch - it's what Danny Meyer is known for. But the entirety of the delivery (food, ambience, etc.) is detached, never fully welcoming you "in" to feel at home in the experience.

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