Times' Pete Wells Loves Flora Bar

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The Met Breuer's restaurant earns two stars

Pete Wells finds much to love at the Met Breuer's wine bar.

Flora Bar, at the Met Breuer, is the latest restaurant to come under Pete Wells’ scrutiny. Flora Bar is the latest from Ignacio Mattos and Thomas Carter, following Estela on Houston Street and Café Altro Paradiso in SoHo. Both restaurants have earned two stars from Wells, who found something enchanting about the food at both restaurants.

In retrospect, nothing I wrote captured the qualities that made the food compelling. I latched on to visual style because I couldn’t figure out how to explain why the flavors grabbed me the way they did. After spending some time at Flora Bar, which Mr. Mattos opened in October, I’ve started to think that whatever it is that sets his food apart is something you can’t see. It’s a kind of cooking that’s almost invisible.

The duo’s newest is located in the lower level of the museum, overlooking where the sculpture garden was when the space was the Whitney. Jake Nemmers runs the kitchen and turns out dishes that are “tidily formal circles and squares.”

A simple red disc on a white plate, Flora Bar’s tuna tartare isn’t like any I’ve had before; it pops with toasted flax seeds and crunches with fried shallots, neither of which hides the clean, cold taste of chopped yellowfin tuna. Flora Bar does not quite reinvent tuna tartare the way Estela reinvents beef tartare, but it comes closer than you’d think was possible.

He does note that the formal dining room isn’t as much a restaurant as a bar.

Flora Bar is, when you get down to it, less a restaurant than a wine bar. The plates are almost all small; even the steak, which could pass as a main course, is a far cry from a steakhouse portion.

There are only a few dishes that don’t measure up to the rest of the menu.

Stracciatella with lemon peel and cubes of fennel struck me as an ordinary burrata salad traveling under an alias. Halibut with wild mushrooms was no more than the sum of its parts, although they were very good parts.

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The Met Breuer is the latest New York City museum to feature a Times-starred restaurant. Danny Meyer’s Untitled at the Whitney earned two stars in 2015 and his dining room at The Modern earned three in 2013.