The Modern is the latest star in the constellation of Danny Meyer's restaurant empire. Gothamist recently stopped by its more casual half, the Bar Room, after a visit to The Museum of Modern Art, which houses the restaurant. Chef Gabriel Kreuther's small-plate menu dazzles. It's divided into three sections: cold appetizers, hot appetizers, and half-sized entrees. Portions are generous and many dishes are laced with an unusual ingredient.

2005_12_BarRoomTagliatelle_v003.JPGTake for instance the tagliatelle with escargots, hen of the woods mushrooms, and basil. What would otherwise be just another pretty plate of pasta pesto is elevated by the mushrooms and escargots. The snails may cause you pause, but their taste is a mild earthy one, blending well with the mushrooms and providing balance to the divinely light noodles.

We felt a bit schizophrenic eating the cassolette of fingerling potato, smoked tongue and raclette cheese. "This is delicious, like the best potatoes au gratin ever," one half of our brain said, while the other half protested, "You have an animal's tongue in your mouth!" As satisfying as comfort food, the cassolette delivers a little kick, not just with the bacony tongue, but also with a topping of bonito flakes.

Order a quartino of wine, and it is served in the most delightful carafe. Made of bulbous, clear glass, it wobbles drunkenly on the table like a toy top. The design fails with the coed bathrooms, though: what girl wants to apply her lipstick with three drunken men looking on?

The Bar Room accepts walk-ins at the bar and a few tables behind it. For the rest of the room (which seats about 100), it accepts reservations. Prices range from $9-$19. Come early on Friday night and afterwards take advantage of the free admission next door. You’ll be primed to take in the art after having your culinary ways of thinking expanded here.

Bar Room at The Modern
9 West 53rd Street
Between 5th and 6th Aves.
Tel: 212-333-1220