Located in the former home of the Whitney Museum, at 945 Madison Avenue in New York City, the Met Breuer is the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s new space dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Previously the lower level space was empty and used for lavish parties and galas. But not only are museums for art lovers, nowadays they are meccas for food enthusiasts as well. Not all are successful but I can think of a few in New York like Danny Meyer and the Modern inside the MoMA, and the restaurant in the new Whitney, or Russ and Daughter at the Jewish Museum.
Flora Bar is the latest project from restaurateur Thomas Carter and Chef Ignacio Mattos of Estela and Cafe Altro Paradiso. They both have a couple of James Beard nominations under their belt that put them on the map. Flora Bar opened in October 2016, under the direction of Executive Chef Jake Nemmers. They serve a seafood focused, eclectic menu, matched with an extensive wine list, including many boutique wineries and creative craft cocktails.
The 74 seat restaurant is furnished with black leather banquets and chairs, and tables alternating in marble and natural woods against dark stone floors. It has an attractive with a modern industrial feel. The walls are concrete with circular lighting fixtures and modern accents. The floor to ceilings windows bring in lots of natural light and let you look out into the outdoor garden seating area.
The Upper East Side crowd gets to feast on bold flavours and textures with unique interpretations of dishes. So, you may think you are ordering a simple shrimp cocktail, but you are getting the sweetest, most flavourful and moistest blue shrimps, sitting on a bed of ice pebbles and served with a homemade cocktail sauce, that’s so good instead of just using it to dip you may want to drink it.
The dishes are all quite complicated, but that really isn’t explained on the menu. Lucky for us, our waiter Adam was so informative and enthusiastic, and he could describe every dish in delicious detail.
The red shrimp with sea urchin on a nori crisp is a signature dish, and a small bite of heaven. My salad of purple endives covering a hidden treasure of sweet toasted pecans, tiny cubes of pecorino and Bayley Hazan blue cheese was a case of being surprised, even overwhelmed, with sensory delight. The cod plate is covered with wild mushrooms, greens and a jus. Although the dish is light it is still packed with flavour. I also couldn’t stop eyeing my neighbours choice of sesame and maple pound cake topped with a perfect fried egg and accompanied with a thick slice of bacon.
Other items on the menu that caught my eye was the tuna tartare, potato and truffle dish, the potato croquettes, the lamb ribs with yogurt and mojo verde, and the shrimp roll with hollandaise with pickle. There are a few other meat options if fish and seafood aren’t your thing.
The plates are small, but inventive and elevated. You would be advised to order an appetizer and main if you have an appetite. You could also order a number of small plates, tapas style.
For dessert, I had a beautifully aromatic lavender and lemon panna cotta. Pastry Chef Natasha Pickowicz had some amazing looking desserts go by and I can tell you the flavour of my panna cotta lingered in my mouth.
As Vogue Magazine claimed Flora Bar is “Uptown’s Latest Haute Boîte with an Edge.”
For those in a rush, there is an adjoining Flora Coffee Bar, serving pastries, snacks, drinks and coffee, which you can also take out.
Every dish we tried had a depth and complexity that wasn’t expected. Another victory for this team.