Their tweezers are at the ready and their gels are out! New York's modernist masters are ready to take on your curiosity, your debit card, and your ability to rethink serious food. Here's where to find them.
New York's most famous modernist restaurant is entirely the expression of its chef, the brilliant Wylie Dufresne. Why? Because he's in the kitchen every night, tasting every dish and expediting ever order, that's why.
Public is one place that definitely deserves the "better than it has to be" award. The room is the very essence of the retro style pioneered by the influential design firm AvRoKo -- no surprise, since its founder, Adam Farmerie, is the brother of Public's chef-owner, Brad Farmerie. The latter does adventurous modernist food made with far greater care and imagination that one would expect from a restaurant this pretty on such a chic block of Nolita. The cocktails are also very high-concept. Some nights you'd rather have a steak and a Rob Roy -- and if that's the case, go someplace else. Public doesn't take the easy way.
Momofuku Ko might have been the most praised, hyped, and discussed restaurant in New York over the last ten years, and its nominal chef, David Chang, the most lionized. So it's hard to get into, but the food is really good. There is no service or comfort level to speak of.
The food, like the room, is somewhat austere here, but if you are a serious student of gastronomy, you probably can't afford not to see what chef Paul Liebrandt is up to -- such is his influence and reputation among New York chefs.
The city's coolest vegetarian restaurant is wholly a product of Amanda Cohen, the spunky chef who redefined what meatless cooking could be like through her embrace of modern technique and the liberal use of butter and cream. (Don't ever mistake Dirt Candy for vegan.) It's small to the point of being cramped and by no means cheap, but if, like me, you have vegetarian food, come here and change your mind.
Aldea’s talented young chef, George Mendes, brings a refined and inventive take on "modern Iberian" food at this fine, modestly-priced Portuguese-inflected restaurant.
Universally hailed as one of the greatest exhibitions of culinary genius in the USA, this small chef's counter (there are only 18 seats) showcases Cesar Ramirez's exquisite food, but it also asks a lot from its customers, who are required to sit in reverential silence for hours, barely talking, never taking pictures, etc. etc. By all accounts it's the sort of meal nobody goes to twice -- more a touchstone for gastrocrats than a meal to look forward to. At the same time, by all accounts Ramirez is a genius.
Atera is far and away New York's most advanced venture into the world of foraged modernist cooking, of the kind found at European chef meccas like Mugaritz and Noma. Not everybody likes it but everyone has to go once.
Roberta's may have started out as a pizzeria, but its brilliant chef needed a stage for his mad skills, and Blanca -- a modernist chef counter on the Ko / Brooklyn Fare model -- provides it, to Bushwick's glory.