Birthday dinner at EMP - 4 course or tasting?
For my 45th bday next Saturday I have reservations at Eleven Madison Park. Has anyone had the tasting menu recently? I had it a while ago and it has changed since.
Obviously, I am expecting a wonderful meal whatever choice I make, but my diet makes me ask if I should go whole hog and just get the tasting.
Hi seal, We were at EMP last Friday, celebrating my husband's birthday.
This tasting dinner was totally different from the one we had in May -- the one we have taken to calling the "get acquainted with Chef Daniel Humm's cuisine" offer @ an astonishing low $78! lol When I say different, I mean not only regarding the dishes served (that's to be expected), but also relevant to the number of courses and the portion sizes.
The current tasting menu begins with an amuse, an assortment of 4 little bites. Plus, the return of the gougeres, 8 tasty little specimens for two people. I requested a change in the first course because I don't eat caviar or uni. No surprise, they were very gracious and said it was no problem. While several of the dishes were quite light, others were very rich. In my view, some of the portions were perfectly sized while others were too large for a tasting menu.
My husband, who has a bigger appetite than I do and was also doing wine pairings (I don't drink), agreed with me that by the time we finished the poussin (course # 7), we were quite satisfied and would have been happy to proceed to the cheese and dessert. But there was still an additional major course, suckling pig confit. When it was placed in front of me, my immediate reaction was, "There's no way I'm going to be able to finish this!" That was mainly in response to how big the portion was, i.e., the same size that is served on the 3- or 4-course menu. Definitely not, to my mind, tasting menu size. I managed about 3/4 and gave some to my husband. He finished everything but agreed with me that it was way too much. We also agreed that we should have requested a change to a lighter dessert because both of us found that after this very filling meal, the chocolate souffle was much too rich, and we could barely finish it.
We did not experience this problem when we had the tasting menu last May. There were not as many courses, and portion sizes were perfect. I guess they feel if they are charging $120, they need to make diners feel they are getting their money's worth. Perhaps, some diners would not agree about the portions. But the way I see it, in the case of the pig, which is a long rectangle, a small square would have sufficed. Also, the sensational foie gras could have been smaller, and this comes from someone who is a foie gras addict. Alternatively, they could lower the price just a bit and offer a choice between the pig and the fowl.
I should also point out, in case you haven't noticed, that the tasting menu is not an entirely different menu. Rather, many of the dishes on it are also on the regular menu. So, for anyone who dines at EMP fairly often, it wouldn't make much sense to go the tasting menu route. But if dining there is a very occasional occurrence, then the tasting menu is a good way to sample a range of Chef Humm's dishes.
Let me end by assuring you that Chef Humm continues to astonish, and we spent much of the time swooning over how truly sensational his cuisine is.
I hope this has been helpful to you in making your decision. I look foward to reading your report.
Happy Birthday and Bon Appetit!
Edited to add this p.s.: I forgot to include that the meal was perfectly paced, and we were there for about 3 hours.
I, too, have read some complaints about portion sizes, but they've been about the regular menu and not Chef Humm's tasting menus. When we had the 3-course menu a few months ago, we thought portion sizes were quite adequate and went away entirely satisfied. Based on the dishes we had the other night that are on the regular menu + what I could see being served at other tables, I don't think those portions have been increased.