Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My Sushi Problem New York City Entry #81 Sushi Seki

I have a sushi problem. I am a promiscuous sushi eater. I consume sushi from the supermarket with as much relish as sushi from a four-star Tokyo restaurant (say, Kozue, at which I recently dined). Raw fish is like chips; I can't stop with one. And perhaps I am tone-deaf when it comes to maki and sashimi. It's all good. Soy, no soy. Wasabi from a tube or chopped fresh. Ginger fresh or preserved. It's one big happy deal.

Thus, when I say that I really enjoyed my sushi platter at Sushi Seki, the busy, late-night fish emporium on the Upper East Side, let the buyer beware. Sushi Seki has more of the flavor of First Avenue than a Kyoto teahouse, and its noise may put off those who desire the quiet elegance of Sushi Yasuda. But the meal is fine.

We began with an order of Shumai (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings), in which the dumpling was lighter and more impressive than the somewhat ordinary shrimp inside (I am not tone-deaf on the dumpling front). We also started with a delightful snow pea salad: a haystack of snowpeas in an assertive soy-garlic-onion sauce.

But the main course was Seki's Original Special Recipe Sushi Platter. I can recommend the raw fish, the rolls, and the more intriguing chef-designed creations. Among the latter, I found a ethereal pile of snow crab wrapped in nori, a tomato and salmon sushi combo, and a toro tartare particularly memorable. The fish was, I recognize, several steps above that to be found at the Food Emporium. The maki rolls: avocado, salmon, and shrimp were all delicious, but only slightly more delicious than many rolls of my memory. Perhaps the two pieces that I will most treasure were a perfectly fresh, slightly sweet raw scallop and a breezy and herbal eggplant. Bass, red snapper, and salmon both hit the right note. I particularly admired the touches that made these bites special and visually startling, a tiny band of jalapeno, for instance.

New York is fortunate to have a sushi culture: from Brighton Beach to Gristede's, and I am fortunate to indulge. True, my skills need to be sharpened to be able to distinguish among remarkably fresh fish, very fresh fish, fresh fish, and catfood, but it is an effort well-worth making, and Sushi Seki is a location well-worth the effort.

Sushi Seki
1143 First Avenue (at 63rd Street)
Manhattan (Upper East Side)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Daniel's Boon New York City Entry #80 Daniel

Three years back my wife and I had a sparkling dinner at Chef Daniel Boulud's eponymous restaurant Daniel. The meal proceeded without a hitch, but without lasting effect. I recall the room - an elegant stage setting for the drama of cuisine - and the lustrous service. Of all of the grand New York restaurants, Daniel's space is the most theatrical. Despite the elegance of the setting, Daniel never feels stuffy, and the servers, refined but not snooty, set the tone. Yet, without the aid of a blog, I cannot recall a morsel.

Recently a friend of mine and I returned to Restaurant Daniel, and the service is as smooth and sleek as ever, the flowers still bloom in profusion, the stage is set for dinner, but what of the food? Daniel Boulud is a perfectionist, and it may be a function of the fact that he was on spring break this week that I can report a few slips, and the possibility of dishes that will last in my memory. Perfectionists avoid the edges of creativity: Boulud produces dishes more silky than saucy.

Sometimes the best indicator of the quality of a restaurant is in what seems simplest: soup and bread. Here Daniel (overseen by Chef de Cuisine Jean François Bruel and "Bread Baker" Mark Fiorentino) hits .500. Daniel's soups are as satiny and intensely flavored as one could imagine. We were served small cups of Daniel's signature English pea soup "a la Française" with bits of bacon and a creamy garlic soup with watercress and morels. Although my previous culinary memories have been rinsed clean, the ethereal garlic soup will surely remain for years. The subtlety of texture and taste of the soupman is what Chef Boulud is known for. He rules!

Bread is, sadly, shabby. Although Daniel is one of the few restaurants that advertises their baker, our bread was hours from stale. We heard the clock ticking. We tried three varieties - raisin-walnut bread, olive roll, and sourdough - and none passed muster. They tasted like yesterday, and, in contrast to the beautiful bread display at Alain Ducasse, were out of character for a luxe restaurant. Two soups, three breads, a split verdict.

The trio of amuses at Daniel was were not revelatory, but welcome. The gougere was pleasant, not intense, and revealed again a "bread problem," although the crispy Parmesan wafer was appreciated. Better were smoked salmon with lemon creme fraiche and a spoonful of pureed squash with avocado that was spicy without overwhelming. Unlike the competition, amuses at Daniel are not attempts to amaze, startle, or frighten, but simple, confident curtain raisers.

I had convinced myself not to order the tasting menu, a decision that the restaurant supported by not permitting the full tasting menu on weekends and placing the most intriguing seasonal dishes on the daily menu. With Daniel's commitment to fresh ingredients, diners are well-advised to eat seasonal food. As March's lion became a lamb, we had our fill of cress, morels, fiddleheads, and, of course, spring lamb.

I started with a seasonal appetizer, Roasted Sea Scallops with Blood Orange Glaze, Cardamon Mousseline, Turnip Fondant, and Shaved Botarga (a similar dish is listed on the webpage). This is an impressive combine, and a very rewarding one. I was surprised, given the claim that blood orange would be a glaze, at how unobtrusive it was. The dish was far less fruity and more rooted than I imagined from reading the menu. The cardamon mousse complimented the scallop beautifully and, surprisingly, brought out the sweetness of the seafood. The plate was precisely fashioned, and given that it is a full-size starter, was a pleasure to explore.


My companion selected a delightful crayfish timbale also beautifully presented, and like the scallops, displayed seafood luscious in its freshness.

As entree, I selected Colorado Rack of Lamb with Meyer Lemon Crust, Glazed Radishes and Avocado-Mint Chutney. As with my appetizer, I admired Daniel's composition. The lemon crust was an astute take on lamb, not too tart, but suggestive of the season. My lamb was cooked more than I preferred (I asked that it be cooked "as the chef wished" - tonight he wished to overcook it, or perhaps concluded that I was not the rare diner but only medium well). With the crust, a more moist lamb would have been more suited. The little logs of avocado-mint chutney were subtle and mild, less savory that they might have been in the hands of other chefs.


Of the prix-fixe dishes, I was most taken by dessert, an angelic and blissful Champagne Mango Vacherin with Black Sesame Meringue "Ile Flotante" (floating island) and Lemon Thyme Anglaise. Next to the Vacherin, the parfait of "Ile Flotante" presented layers of egg white, thyme, and mango, the combination of fruit and herb was celestial. The snappy meringue was slightly sweet/slightly savory, and the mango had just hit its peak. Not ponderous or sugary, this dessert proved wise and crisp. Dessert at Daniel is no afterthought.


Daniel is an essential Manhattan restaurant; a boon for New York diners. While grounded in French culinary techniques and modern sensibilities, it is not as Parisian as Alain Ducasse nor as Californian as Per Se; it is a happy outpost of an updated international cuisine. Daniel revels in a display of seasons, of technique, and of ingredients. Chef Boulud is not a big thinker; he is not revolutionizing contemporary cuisine. Rather his culinary explorations are based on the dish not on theory. No philosopher in the kitchen, Chef Boulud is a skilled synthesizer, borrowing, altering, ignoring, and searching for the best ingredients and most apt techniques. Chef Boulud's dishes never feel musty or nostalgic, but neither do they inspire tomorrow's cuisine. Daniel Boulud is a chef for now.

60 East 65th Street (at Madison Avenue)
Manhattan (Upper East Side)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Macroscopic Cuisine New York City Entry #79 Gilt

Artistic movements pass through several stages. First, one finds brave experimenters, those who stretch the envelope to its limits, hoping that it will break asunder. But for movements to develop and to enlarge, practitioners must be more than bad boys. They must incorporate what is best of the new with what is best from the tradition. Novelty must become establishment. Over the past half-dozen years, at El Bulli, at Alinea, at Moto, at WD-50, each in their own way, the experimentalists have been developing what has variously been called microscopic cuisine, sci-fi cuisine, technocuisine or cuisine agape. With the opening of Gilt, Paul Liebrandt's new restaurant at the New York Palace Hotel, experimental cuisine is showing signs of coming of age.

While I am not equally passionate about all of Chef Liebrandt's dishes, he has created a menu that merges technocuisine with classical tradition, revealing a chef in command of his faculties. The prix fixe menu is divided into two sides, "Classical" and "Modern," but it is in the Tasting Menu, "Le Menu," where the chef attempts to combine techniques. And it is not the food alone in which classical and modern interpenetrate, but in the space itself. The wood paneled room in the Villard Mansion is set off with red back-lighting, suggesting an otherworldly charm, a traditional setting that is cracked through the fire of illumination. I was impressed by the bravado of the synthesis, although the dining room, barely half-filled throughout the weekday evening, causes me to wonder whether this fusion appeals either to uptown or downtown.

Gilt has been open several months now, so it was startling how little the staff seemed to know about the menu. On several occasions servers corrected themselves, and at least once claimed ingredients that could hardly have been in the dish I tasted. Not only were we not offered coffee, we were stiffed our complimentary macaroons. The staff was perfectly friendly, but there seemed a disconnect between the kitchen and the front of the house, confusion that could not be justified by a dinner rush.

Gilt has taken to heart the heat over their infamous supplemental charges and the absence of modestly priced wines. Now only two dishes have supplemental charges, and several wines were priced in the mid-two-figures. Customers have spoken. Whether the damage is too great to repair, given the image of a restaurant too greedy for its own good, remains to be seen.

My companion and I selected Le Menu, a eight course sequence that, in the end, amounted to a dozen courses. I have mixed feelings about Tasting Menus. When I dine with my wife and she can be hectored to share, I typically avoid the abundance of mini-plates. All too often - and certainly at Gilt - the small size of the plates works against an appreciation of the chef's skills. Every little thing is piled together: one can not appreciate a dish in a bite. Understanding a chef's work is a deliberative process. It is not only the cuisine that is microscopic, but with the dominance of the tasting menu, the plates are as well. On a second visit, I hope to watch Chef Liebrandt create on a larger canvas.

What should one term the dish that precedes the amuse, an amusette? We began with two of them, a pair of odd constructions. Strangest was a little marshmallow, flavored by passion fruit and dusted with powered saffron and paprika. This petite pink cube was a alien mix of fruity and musty. Consuming it was a novel experience, and one that I still taste, but not one that provokes a hankering for a second. Paired with it was a tiny financier flavored with arugula and Stilton. I am not a fan of these often dry cakes, and the mix of green leaf and blue cheese didn't convert me. As a bite, it was passable, but not a creation that demanded a larger slice.

Our amuse set things right. The oyster vicchyssoise was delicious, presented with, if memory serves, a Parmesan tortellini, butternut squash puree and lardon. This combination was a treat that made me regret that it was only an amuse. The oyster soup managed to be both airy and intensely spicy with a slight citrus aftertaste, never heavy handed. It was superb.

Our first course, "Fluke with Salad of Porcini and Yuzu, Salad Burnet and Olive Oil Pebbles," revealed Chef Liebrandt's restrained play with molecular cuisine. The structure of the dish was sashimi-plus-salad. The citrus yuzu added a culinary twist. However, it was the olive oil pebbles, little beads of olive oil ice cream which slowly melted as the appetizer was consumed that was a cheery surprise. These dippin' dots seem the rage at establishments such as Chicago's Moto, often overused as the center of a dish, a statement of a young chef who feels he can do as he pleases. Liebrandt's is more restrained and more respectful of the structure of the dish. It was a masterful touch.


Our second dish borrowed from the vaults of WD-50. We were served Foie Gras with "Vinette" Jelly and Black Olive in Textures. The olive was what the downtown monde might call "olive soil" and "Vinette Jelly" was described as being from huckleberries, although traditionally the glaze is made from barberries. Although not busy, the flavors, herbaceous and fruity, created one of the more appealing foie gras dishes I have tasted this year. The olive soil did not seem like the conceit that it would have been elsewhere, but more a flavor enhancer, a reconsideration of salt and pepper.


The third course played with the idea of foam. Chef Liebrandt served Lobster with Smoked Haddock Foam, Almond Croquant, and what was labeled "Jus Vert" (presumably verjus, liquid from unripe fruits such as grapes). Oddly the servers suggested that the Jus Vert were the bits of asparagus and snow peas hiding under the lobster. With fresh lobster, complications tend to overwhelm the simple crustacean's flavor. I would have been pleased without the haddock foam. Granted this was the only foam of the night, and young chefs need to be given their due, but lobster deserves a classical treatment.


John Dory with Black Truffles, Green Mango ‘Gnocchi,' Cauliflower, and Periwinkles is a clever treatment of seafood. I was amused by the tiny ‘winkles winking as they surrounded the Dory, and found the green mango wittily constructed as a jellied square with a taste slightly reminiscent of wasabi. However, such a wee dish was undercut by the multiple tastes presented. Of all Liebrandt's dishes, this was the one that might have worked best if larger, when the several tastes could be appreciated on their own.


Prior to our poultry course, we were served a lovely sorbet, green apple and lemon verbena with extra-virgin olive oil, perched on an oyster shell. The touch of olive oil provided a depth of taste to the refreshing, straightforward sherbert.

Our main course was Poularde with Spring Garlic Purée and Artichoke Laqué (we were informed that the artichoke was pureed, rather than lacquered). The star of this dish was an elegant leaf of Chinese broccoli, a crisp and slightly sweet leaf that dominated the plate. Without this construction, I found the dish pleasant but lacking in memories. The chicken leg was cooked properly and the garlic and artichoke matched nicely, but, leaf aside, there was nothing startling.


Perhaps the most experimental course was the trio of cheeses: Goat Cheese with Hazelnut Financier, Gruyere with a White Chocolate Wafer, and Stilton with Muscat Grapes and Cocoa Nibs (chopped cacao beans, separated from their husks). These small bites of cheese were presented microscopic style and were suitably crazed in their taste combinations. As short tastes, they effectively deconstructed a classical cheese course.

Next was a dessert of pure elegance: Lemongrass-champagne sorbet on white chocolate pudding with a bit of gold leaf on top - a fantasia of white and white. Such a clarifying dessert was most welcome.

I was less taken with the clementine gelée with toasted almond sabayon and lychee sorbet. The clementines that should have been the acidic center of the dish seemed wan and soggy. I'd was tempted to imagined them canned, but the almond sabayon was nicely constructed and the lychee sorbet pungent.

The final dessert was a degustation of chocolate, which my companion enjoyed. Avoiding caffeine, I was served a puzzling dessert, a lovely architectural conceit, but seemingly not as described. According to our server, I received a licorice charlotte (slabs of pineapple replaced the more traditional lady fingers) with rhubarb sorbet. Although the plate had a post-modern drizzle of deep black licorice syrup, I was perplexed by a pudding that had little licorice flavor, but tasted of cream and by a sorbet that seemed more yuzu than rhubarb. Perhaps by this point at night my tastes had dulled, but it was a singularly tame licorice. The dish was beautiful and nicely modulated, but a potent licorice charlotte would have been stirring.


By the end of the meal, I discerned a weening desire to return. Although I admire Chef Liebrandt's vision, a tasting menu is not the best way to experience his skill. The dishes that were the most successful were those not jammed and cluttered. What was so impressive about Liebrandt's cuisine is that he doesn't experiment constantly, but realizes that a twist is sufficient to amaze. These twists are most startling in dishes where a diner was not faced with a new ingredient in each bite. Liebrandt is a chef whose creations deserve to be taken seriously and slowly: culinary foreplay before the climax.

455 Madison Avenue (at 50th Street)
Manhattan (Midtown)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Cheese/Steak New York Entry #78 Artisanal

Some out-of-town friends swear by Balthazar, and so when they were planning to visit Manhattan I suggested that we dine at Artisanal, Terrance Brennan's brassy cheeserie in Murray Hill. American brasseries - Balthazar, Les Halles, Pastis, and Artisanal - seem to result from the same design cookie cutter: walnut, porcelain, tile, posters; gold, maroon, black, and white. An American imaginary exists as to what a brasserie should be, not nearly the diversity found by the Seine.

At a place like Artisanal - a competitor of Murray's as to the best cheese shop in the city (I give the edge to Murray's as to the diversity of their selection, their accompaniments, and their knowledgeable workers) - one is well-advised to focus on cheese. The high point of our meal was the pair of cheeses at the conclusion, a surprisingly spicy and pungent Munster and a luscious Brillat Savarin.

Table service was friendly, although plates were whisked from the table before they were cleaned and our pleasant waitress was not fully conversant with the wine list.

With the exception of some fine frites (not as luxurious as those at Les Halles), dishes that lacked cheese were pedestrian. I was unimpressed by Burgundy snails and pastry puffs on a bed of chopped onions. Neither the bread nor the onion added richness to the inoffensive slugs. The dish was bland and constrained. The hanger steak was similarly ordinary, pleasant and tasty, but not compellingly beefy. The garlic sausage was a roughly ground mass that lacked appeal, even with sturdy lentils.

We treasured our gougeres: airy puffs whose lightness made their rich cheesy aroma all the more powerful. Aside from the post-prandial cheeses, the gougeres were the star of the evening. On this Sunday night our Artisanal cheese fondue was less ethereal. The problem was less the heated cheese itself - although it could have been heated more, filled with a bubbling mix of varieties - but with the accompaniments. Both the bread cubes and the cut apple seemed stale and tired: yesterday's products. Better was Onion Soup Artisanal, made with three cheeses and three onions. The topping was somewhat overcooked, but the liquid was both sweet and strong: chicken soup for the Gallic soul.

At Artisanal the closer to raw cheese the better. I may return for a cheese plate with one of hundreds of wines by the glass. Otherwise, despite fair prices, food and service lack a strong profile. At Artisanal man must live by cheese alone.

2 Park Avenue (at 32nd Street)
Manhattan (Murray Hill)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

It Will Be Alright New York City Entry #77 Ebe Ye Yie

Some months ago a friend, an Africa hand, traveled with me to Harlem to eat at Africa Kine, a smooth and elegant Senegalese restaurant. This week we ventured up to the University Heights section of the Bronx (where, incidentally, my father once attended NYU, in the days before it devoured much of lower Manhattan). We visited one of New York's better known Ghanaian restaurants, Ebe Ye Yie, which roughly translates means "It Will Be Alright."

Indeed, it will be alright. Unlike Africa Kine, Ebe's target niche is not middle-class adventurers, black and white, but the sturdy Ghanaian working-class. The restaurant is a modest store-front accented with decorations that oddly do not evoke the homeland - pictures of Kenyan warriors and Lower Manhattan served as decor. Customers order by requesting food served on a steam table at the back of the restaurant. Although Ebe has received some culinary attention (it is the highest rated Ghanaian restaurant in Robert Sietsema's guide and it rates a mention in TONY's 2005 feature Around the World in 80 Cuisines), it serves humble Ghanaian food to local diners. For those who lust after authenticity, Ebe Ye Yie is a destination. Never having visited West Africa, I can not report whether the food is either authentic or ethereal, but my companion suggested that the restaurant compares favorably with meals that she has experienced throughout Ghana (she gave it four of five stars), and she had a delicious time reminiscing with the cordial and sociable owners from Kumasi in the Ashanti region of Central Ghana.

As a novice, I was struck by the fish, the sauces, and the mash - various gummy starches. One of the defining features of West African cuisine is mash - at Ebe Ye Yie, we ordered fufu (a doughy and rubbery starch from Ghanaian cassava and plantain), banku (a fermented cassava dough), and kenkey (fermented cornmeal mash). I enjoyed each (particularly banku), although in smaller doses than might be common in West Africa where filling calories are essential. Of the dishes the best - and the most accessible - was a beautifully fried whole Tilapia. I also enjoyed a stew, or at least the fish and sauce. As in many African restaurants, meats are tough and unappealing. The creamy, spicy spinach (a term that might have been used for other greens) was particularly satisfying. I still have much to learn about using mash as a utensil for scooping up sauce and stew, but had I been trained at the same early age as I learned to wield chopsticks, I might have held my own. As at hospitable West African restaurants, customers were given a bowl of warm water (and dishwashing liquid) to clean their hands. No silverware was provided, although in the middle of the meal I was pitied and offered a fork and spoon. (I didn't accept!)





Ebe Ye Yie is an experience for adventurous New York diners. And far less expensive than a trip to West Africa ($30 for a large dinner for two). The restaurant is a short walk south on Jerome Avenue from the Fordham Road Subway Station (The 4 line). My visit is another glorious reminder why New York is a Global City.

Ebe Ye Yie
2364 Jerome Avenue (at North Avenue)
Bronx (University Heights)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

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)