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Jul 24, 2009 07:21 AM

EMP Gourmand Menu vs. Per Se -- which do you prefer?

My sister is being the best ever, and is treating me tonight to the 11 course Gourmand menu at Eleven Madison Park (we've never had it before). I was curious as to how it compares to Per Se. I know it is much less expensive than Per Se. Don't worry, I'm not changing my plans. (Per Se is on the agenda next month for a joint birthday celebration for our mother and me--my sister is joining us too).

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  1. ellenost,

    As you know, EMP is our favorite NYC restaurant. So, no surprise to you, I'm sure, that since we've been to EMP too many times to count, we've had quite a few Gourmand menus dating back to when they were first introduced. It used to be a published menu, but that changed, and it is now "at the whim" of Chef Humm. A few of the eleven courses may be from the prix fixe or seasonal tasting menu; others are available only on the Gourmand. Since we do go to EMP so often, we usually reserve the Gourmand for special occasions. The last one we had was in January.

    The first Gourmand we had was thoroughly wonderful food-wise but suffered from a major problem: portions were way too large, so much so that by the time we got to the second "main course" (at that time, it was Chef Humm's signature pork dish), we were so stuffed, we could barely eat a forkful. And there were two desserts yet to come! Plus mignardises! OY! We mentioned the problem to our captain, and that info was apparently relayed to Chef Humm because the next time we had the Gourmand a few months later, he had made adjustments, and portion sizes were perfect. In short, over time, it's been one sensational Gourmand after another.

    We have been to per se only once. Overall, the food was superb though it still bothers me that what I would consider the "main course" of the meal -- an exceedingly bland veal dish -- left me sorely disappointed. I'll most probably go back sometime, but I'm not rushing, especially since, imo, the quality of the cuisine at EMP is at the very least the equal, and in many ways superior, to that one meal we had at per se.

    You're in for a real treat tonight. Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

    1. I hope you have a wonderful time!

      I have recently tried both menus you mention and prefer EMP over Per Se. I thought the service and the experience were better at Per Se, but for food, EMP was the winner.

      The heirloom tomato course at EMP had several stages: the globes were wonderful, the foam was not. It strikes me as most memorable because I still can't understand how I had a ball of tomato soup. It's boggling.

      EMP also had the only mistake of the two meals: the strawberry champagne pre-desert was too acidic. I was not pleased.

      The fois gras at EMP was not as good as that of Per Se. The lobster course at each place was, of course, divine, but it was also strangely equal in my mind. Per se might have the edge, but if I had to choose right now I would take EMP's. The lamp at EMP was significantly better than the veal at Per Se (the centerpieces of the tasting menus if you're a carnivore as I am).

      And for the smaller courses, Per Se offered a bit of sashimi while EMP offered that wonderful sea urchin cappuccino, the frogs legs, and while they both offered caviar, in my mind it cancels out and on balance, EMP won.

      I wish you the best!

      1. Thanks very much for your replies. I'm definitely looking forward to this dinner after the crazy week at work. I've skipped lunch and am wearing elastic-waist pants so I can enjoy all the wonderful food.

        1. These are my two favorite dining experiences in NY so the short answer is I think you will love both. I think that the overall experience at Per Se is slightly more memorable. The atmosphere and service are such that you really feel like they are there to make your night special. We've been twice and last time in particular they served many additional courses, and made the whole evening very special. Also, I would say that the best dishes at Per Se (oysters and pearls for example) are absolutely fantastic.

          That said, we went to EMP for the gourmand menu to celebrate our engagement and it was incredible as well. I think the food overall was on par with Per Se, but while the service was very good, it just isn't the same level of coddling you get at Per Se. In any case, given the price disparity I think it is the better value if you can call it that. Also, they will do a wine pairing so getting to try 11 wines is a lot of fun whereas Per Se doesn't really do a formal pairing. Enjoy, and please tell us what you think!

          1. The Gourmand menu at EMP is exquisite! I've always enjoyed EMP, but after the Gourmand menu, I doubt if there is a restaurant in NYC that serves as creative and delicious food. No kidding, dinner took over 4 hours (with significant pauses between courses that were much appreciated). We shared a bottle of the 2005 Willi Shaefer Auselese Riesling that went perfectly with all of the courses. Our favorites: caviar (served in its tin) over panna cotta and sturgeon; heirloom tomatoes covered with a cloud of foam and tomato tartare and tomato sorbet with granola; sea urchin capuccino with crab and cauliflower; lobster poached with lemon verbena and flavors of ratatouille. Desserts were wonderful too: "strawberries and champagne": strawberry sorbet , lemon emulsion and champagne emulsion; and a chocolate raspberry dish that I thought would be too heavy, but was delicious! Service was as usual perfect. Chef Humm visited with all of the tables. He is very sweet and seems very interested in his diners.

            Bottom line: Per Se is going to have a tough job to top EMP's Gourmand menu!

            4 Replies
            1. re: ellenost

              Here is a look at a recent expanded menu a Per Se...If you want to knock it out of the park (price is no object) I would have to lean this way...

              scroll down a little...


              1. re: ellenost

                "...I doubt if there is a restaurant in NYC that serves as creative and delicious food."


                Needless to say, I couldn't agree more! So pleased you loved the Gourmand.

                Looking forward to your opinion as to how per se compares.

                1. re: ellenost

                  "Bottom line: Per Se is going to have a tough job to top EMP's Gourmand menu!"

                  I honestly (and without any bias) think that you'll just have to try Per Se first just to expereince the difference between the 2.

                  1. re: RCC

                    Actually, I've already dined three times at Per Se (but not in the last 3 years), so I'm looking forward to see how it compares to EMP. I've always loved Per Se (that's why I'm dining there for a joint birthday celebration for my mom and me).