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Best Midtown Lunch

9 W. 53rd St.

Considering its location, the Modern was bound to attract the requisite busloads of stampeding tourists and fatigued museum- goers. And considering its provenance-Danny Meyer & Co., bolstered by a crème de la crème team skimmed from the upper culinary and management echelons of Jean Georges, Ducasse, and Bouley-it was equally destined to become a mecca for foodies. But once the opening buzz dies down, the Modern will belong to its most grateful and desperate constituency: jaded prisoners of midtown Manhattan, hungry as hell, armed with expense accounts, and nowhere to go. Following the Gramercy Tavern model, Meyer has divided the Modern into two restaurants, and keeps one of them-the casual front Bar Room, with its long bar and chic lounge-open all day. The main dining room won't start serving lunch until next month, but chef Gabriel Kreuther's Alsatian-accented Bar Room menu is more attuned to the improvisational rhythms and appetites of office life. Mix-and-match small plates like grilled shrimp with green-cabbage-and-Gruyère salad, and horseradish-crusted wild salmon with cabbage and Riesling manage to be both rustic and refined. The setting is sleek and modern, and so are the place settings, which celebrate Danish design and give the cultivated crowd something else to chew on.

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