Thorny jazz music plays in the handsomely brutalist space that Flora occupies on the ground floor of the Met Breuer Museum. It’s an appropriate setting for a restaurant that serves food that’s far more assertive/odd than you usually get in this tony, but staid, neighborhood. “It’s actually French Toast,” an elegant octogenarian next to me loudly whispered to her companion, about a pound-cake entrée they were puzzling over at lunch. Well, yes and no. That dish, like so many others, was a culinary pun that turned a sesame-and-maple cake savory with the addition of eggs and bacon. Even more confounding to them (and delightful to me) were the lamb ribs, a messy treat to be eaten with the hands, fingers made sticky by dollops of yogurt and a garlicky cumin and cilantro sauce. Nori cones of raw shrimp with sea urchin were also finger food, delicate looking but with a blast of creaminess and brine, as bracing as any of the contemporary art upstairs in the museum. The cuisine takes some odd turns, which may be why Flora Bar is far less popular than I think it should be (it got stellar reviews from all the major NYC critics). Or it could be portion sizes (small) and prices (large). Translation: it’s not difficult to get a reservation for what I consider the most intriguing (if pricey) restaurant on the Upper East Side.
- Pauline Frommer