What's Modern Now?

It's been 241 days since the Modern, Danny Meyer's restaurant in the new Museum of Modern Art, elevated the humble canteen—and redefined dining as a full sensory experience. Jeffrey Slonim talks to 19 New Yorkers at the intersection of high art and haute cuisine.

JULIAN SCHNABEL, artist
Nice big rooms.

FRANCINE DU PLESSIX GRAY, author
Nothing is more exhausting than looking at paintings—and nothing is more delicious than relieving the exhaustion by stopping at the museum restaurant for a snack and a glass of wine. You feel ready to look at art again, with a renewed eye.

MICHAEL CHOW, restaurateur
What is modern in food? Everything's the same at the end of the day—filmmaking, architecture, food. Like a soufflé: It's only eggs, but what matters is how you prepare them. The same goes for restaurants. There is a limited structure given to you by the space and you have to create every detail, treat it like a universe, perfect each dot.

TODD EBERLE, photographer
Arty food at an art museum. Divine.

ZAC POSEN, designer
The food is like sculpture.

GLENDA BAILEY, editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar
You have to get there early to see those wonderful sculptures while it's still light out. When it's dark, you feel as if you're in Rear Window because of all the apartment lights above.

HOWARD STRINGER, chairman and CEO of Sony
I love the way the lines of the Sony building are reflected in the windows.

DREW NIEPORENT, restaurateur
It's quite a coup—one of the most talented chefs, Gabriel Kreuther, and one of New York's best restaurateurs, Danny Meyer. I had some spectacular sweetbreads and cod with chorizo slices that looked like the scales of the fish. Terrific. It's the real deal.

JAMIE NIVEN, vice chairman of Sotheby's
I've had salmon. I've had bass. He's a good chef, this guy. But then again I'm a trustee of the museum, so I'm slightly biased.

IAN SCHRAGER, hotelier
I expected not to like the new building. I had heard rumblings it was too corporate, but I disagree. I like it. And I'm a big fan of the restaurant. Danny Meyer is the best restaurant guy in New York. The food, the atmosphere, the whole thing—a huge success.

MICHAEL GROSS, author
Everyone I know eats in the barroom. The food is fantastic and the room has this weird, smoky, almost Max's Kansas City vibe that I really like.

SIMON DOONAN, creative director of Barneys
Only really fancy people get to sit in the garden room. The rest of us nouveaux riches and nouveaux not very riches get shoved into the main room. But then everyone ends up in the coed bathrooms. It's genius. The whole thing reminds me of that Jacques Tati movie Play Time—people trying to navigate and figure out where to go. It really rattles their cages. The food? Don't ever ask an English person about that because we know nothing about food. It looked beautiful.

JONATHAN TISCH, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels
Eating wonderful food and looking at those magnificent sculptures is just so New York. I love it.

GAEL GREENE, author
It's rare that transcendent food and great art combine. But when they do...Gabriel Kreuther's food is complex and modern but never surrealistic. Gazing out at a Calder and Picasso's pregnant goat in a distinctly urban garden as the light goes from dusk to darkness only adds richness to the evening.

DENISE RICH, songwriter
The sculpture, the art, the spectacular lighting—there is beauty everywhere. I feel very much at home with all the art and lighting.

CANDY PRATTS PRICE, fashion editor
Why is there an iPod? It's because we enjoy modernism. Love, love, love the museum. The scale of the sculpture garden and the plane flying above—I love the guts of that. For me that's what the MoMA is about: New York guts. I haven't done the restaurant. I don't go to the museum to sit down and eat.

HENRY KISSINGER
The new building? Marvelous. The restaurant? I haven't been.

JAMES DANZIGER, gallerist
A good museum restaurant is a nice idea. To me, though, modernism is intellectually challenging and not something I want to incorporate into everyday life. I would rather go to a museum by a great architect than to a restaurant. I see food as relating to comfort rather than aesthetics. I've always liked the dining room at the Whitney because in a way it's counter to modernism—homey cooking in friendly surroundings. The name itself, Sarabeth's, is hardly modernist.

MATT LAUER, coanchor of Today
I was at the museum about three weeks after it opened—for about ten minutes. The crowds were enormous and I got a little freaked out, so I got out of there.