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Eleven Madison Park vs. The Modern

Hello everyone--I need advice on whether I should take my boyfriend for his 28th birthday to Eleven Madison Park or The Modern (dining room). I assume many people reading this have been to both. I don't want to go overboard on price, but they are pretty much on the same level, I believe. Any recommendations on tasting menus, particular dishes, or advice on atmosphere at either place? Any help would be appreciated. We are both adventurous eaters.

Any suggestions or advice would be helpful--I have reservations at both for 9PM on Friday and need to decide ASAP!

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  1. Interesting choice. They are both great (obviously, since they belong to the same group). The Modern Dining Room is elegant, even cool. EMP has a more spacious feel, though the decor isn't mind blowing. EMP servers tend to be more smiley/friendly; the Modern, a bit more reserved. Either experience will be great. If you go to the Modern you can hang in the museum, since it is pay-what-you-want after 5, I believe. So that might make a nice experience.

    1. While both are great, my vote is for EMP.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ellenost

        Ditto -- the service at EMP is unbelievably friendly, they will bend over backwards for you, almost to a ridiculous extent. If it's a birthday, let them know, and they'll do something special. They live to please. The service at the Modern is fine, but feels a bit more standoffish in comparison.

      2. Eleven Madison Park is tremendous! Never been to The Modern, but I echo kathryn's comments. The service is impeccable and the food is incredible too. If you would like please read my full review for extra details on my EMP dinner which was probably one of the best experiences in my life.

        1. EMP I visit once a year perhaps, only because people keep saying it's good, and I find it boring. Food is well prepared, but it does not stand out from all the other restaurants serving that same old well prepared food.

          I go to the Modern once every two months or so, and it's always great foodwise. In terms of standoffish service, I would call it a "cool reserve" and it's what I personally think is the gold standard in service, I don't need people grinning at me in a restaurant. Staff of restaurants are generally not even allowed to eat at the restaurants, and they barely get to taste the food, so don't be fooled by friendliness; it's their job. I know this because I have plenty of friends (even relatives) who work in restaurants, i.e. restaurant staff are people too, but there is a difference for them between off work and at work.

          Since I nurse stronger preferences than most people (i.e. dislike more :"good" restaurants), I prefer if staff is not beaming and exulting the food and experience and putting *me* on the spot to display as much enthusiasm as them. I don't need to tell the staff at Per Se after each little course that I really didn't think it lived up to its billing as I'm not there to spoil anybody else's experience, so I shouldn't have to feel that I need to "perform" for the staff.

          My point in explaining this is to point out why a "cool reserve" is a nice thing in service. For people who generally enjoy every special restaurant they go to, yeah, I can see it would not matter.

          7 Replies
          1. re: acidity

            "I prefer if staff is not beaming and exulting the food and experience and putting *me* on the spot to display as much enthusiasm as them. I don't need to tell the staff at Per Se after each little course that I really didn't think it lived up to its billing as I'm not there to spoil anybody else's experience, so I shouldn't have to feel that I need to "perform" for the staff. "

            You're making way to much ado about how you need to act/react during your dining experiences. Beaming and gracious servers do not translate into the need for customers to reciprocate with positive feelings about the experience.

            1. re: RCC

              I describe my experience and my preferences so that people who identify with me can find useful information. There is no need for us all to fit your mold.

              1. re: acidity

                That's right. So, unlike your mold, nobody is forced to react like the way you feel you are forced to when your servers beam and smile.

                1. re: RCC

                  But I am free to prefer a cool reserve in my servers? Because that's what I said my point was. Is that OK with you?

                  1. re: acidity

                    When I said "reserved" for the service at the Modern, that was praise. I'm with acidity on this one. I want servers to be attentive, know what I need, see a nod of the head, actually DO what's asked of them, and be unobtrusive. I don't want to know their names, I don't want them quizzing me on each course, I don't want them asking me if I am finished with the EMPTY PLATE before me, and I despise when they ask me "are you still working on that?" No, I'm playing with my food.

                    If I want big smiles and chit chat, I'll go to the midwest and eat bland, boring food, too. Laughing.

                    That said, I've had great experiences at EMP and only rarely have felt the smile wattage to be overly bright. But I do prefer the Modern for food, decor, service, and the setting. At the MOMA. Ah. New York.

                    1. re: simetrias

                      oh cool, thanks for clarifying, I did miss the praise angle.

                      1. re: acidity

                        Cool and reserved is virtually always praise.

          2. disclosure: I live in CA not NYC.

            Anyhow, I have been to the the dining room at the modern, the bar at the modern, and I had a meal at eleven madison.

            The execution of both the dining room and eleven madison are about equal in my opinion. I got the tasting menu at the modern, so its not a fair comparison. for a tasting menu, I was a bit dissappointed just because I have high expectations during a tasting menu, and two of the items were quite boring/bland.

            At eleven madison, most of the food I got appealed greatly to me. I had the duck breast (sous vide?!) and a confit of duck with kumquats. I had a very nice seafood dish in a light broth (amazingly fresh and flavorful seafood simply prepared with a broth that really elevated the dish). I also had an extremely boring asparagus and poached egg dish (jidori, quail?!?). The amuse and desserts also appealed to me a lot.

            Food execution is equal at both, so check the specific menu to see what food appeals to you most. Madison has better service but a more staid and stately atmosphere compared to the modern.