I can’t provide an exact translation of Moderna Kouzina, but you get the idea.
It’s the slick and quietly stylish (50 shades of gray plus a little fieldstone) tenant occupying a former mozzarella-forward restaurant at 50th & France. The globetrotting chef-owner, who followed her husband to town (thank you, 3M), employs a stylish, sophisticated spin to a menu full of foodie favorites — a small but crisply curated list, leading off with “amusements” ($8–$14).
These Instagram-ready starters deliver on their promise, beginning with a medley of shaved asparagus and Pecorino infused with a light walnut vinaigrette in service to the star of the show, a sunny-yolked egg clasped by a crispy crust to bold-up the plate’s texture.
Tender, ivory bits of octopus partnering with wisps of micro-greens upon a yogurt base also proved delicious. Best yet: the “briques,” presenting stacked cubes of pork belly (quintessentially fatty and fab) alternating with watermelon, set upon a slick of apple cider. How’s that for an out-there combo that works?
Or choose beef tartare, a charcuterie plate, a reinvented Greek salad or the kitchen’s spin on pommes frites, incorporating Parm and smoked salt.
Main courses (called “entrée piato” in a sort of restaurant Esperanto) range from $16 for a burger to $27 for scallops with ravioli. Our choices led off with salmon — a hearty, ruddy chunk —served with zucchini in spaghetti strands that proved a bit boring and under-seasoned, despite touches of dill and a cherry reduction abetting the fish. An accompanying wonton seems out of place.
Lamb tenderloin, presented in geometric towers of mildly-flavored meat, came garnished with the translucent white bulbs of spring onions aside a flurry of under-seasoned wild mushrooms and a touch of fig and brandy. All are well prepared but make for a plate that’s more an assembly of random ingredients than a “gotta come back for that” inspiration.
But I’ll definitely return for the beef short ribs, slowly braised till there’s little call for a knife. But wait: You’ll want one for the accompanying sweetbreads because they’re cooked beyond their alluringly nubile state. An elegant and hearty red-wine sauce compliments the dish and its yummy mashed potatoes, while a huge stack of haricots verts calls for seasoning.
Servings are generous, so that when it came to desserts, called “Extra” ($9), we caved. Wishing you more stamina than I, try the combo of goat’s milk gelato with pear crumble, mulled fruit with mascarpone, fudge brownie or “seasonal curiosity.”
Service is hometown friendly and shows training. Wine by the glass — mostly double-digit — and bottle, nine local draft beers and cocktails ($13) help the evening slip pleasantly by.
Well, almost. The pounding beat of the Muzak is in discord with the upscale setting and demographic for which the restaurant seems to aim. (But don’t despair. Conversation is still easily possible.)
3910 W. 50th St.