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Any early feedback about EMP's new format??

r
ricardo87 Sep 7, 2010 12:58 PM

Although it just launched today, I'm wondering if anyone has feedback about EMP's new menu format. What do you think of the new concept? Any ideas on what prompted the changes?

The explanation of the new format and a sample "menu" is up on their website: "Our menu format is intended to offer an experience in which our guests can enjoy the inherent surprise of a tasting menu, while still maintaining some control. Dishes are listed solely by their principal ingredients, and guests are invited to make their selections, share any ingredient dislikes, and allow us to design their meal from there."

Personally, I'm not very excited. At all. I have a dinner reservation in a couple of weeks (made before I knew about the changes) and was planning on the Gourmand menu, but that option is gone now. I don't get to travel to NYC very often, so when I do I enjoy trying as much as I can by getting longer tasting menus when they're offered.

Now at EMP the only option at dinner is a four course meal at $125. It's kind of hard to tell from the sample online, but it looks like 3 savory and one that's either cheese or dessert (or your choice?). I just called the restaurant to ask if the Gourmand still existed, and was told that the four course "menu" is the only option. I was told that you can request to add extra courses to the four course meal, but they got rid of the longer tasting menu. She also told me it's not coming back.

To me, this seems like the format of Blue Hill Stone Barns gone wrong. I enjoy BHSB and think the format is fun, but they have 5 and 8 course options. I'm not sure what motivated the changes, but removing the option of a longer tasting menu certainly puts them at a disadvantage compared to other top restaurants in NYC (there's a tasting menu with 8 courses at Le Bernardin, 9 at Per Se, 7 at Jean Georges, etc).

So what you think? Good idea? Bad idea? What do you think about not having the option of a longer tasting menu? Obviously I can't comment on the execution since I haven't been yet, but the limited options have me worried.

-----
Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

Blue Hill
75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

Jean Georges
1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

  1. Miss Needle Sep 20, 2010 09:53 AM

    As promised, I wanted to report back on my meal I had last week. We decided to do the 5-course tasting menu, each of us ordering a different item so that we could try as many things as possible. I did ask what each course was (well, at least the ones we were interested in). I found out that if both of us ordered the same ingredient, we would receive the same exact thing. So we ordered 10 different "ingredients." They asked us if we had any food aversions. I told them I just had one food allergy, but was open to eating everything (I doubted that they were going to serve dill pickles, something that I absolutely HATE with a passion.)

    Sorry for my pithy descriptions. I don't take notes or pics during meals. And I'm not the type of person who remembers every minute detail. I just get the general gist of something.

    They started off with some starters. Offhand, I can remember the gougeres, tomato water with lemon thyme, truffle marshmallow (huge improvement over their carrot(?) one), preparation of hamachi crudo, parmesan crisp with espelette pepper. I know I'm missing one or two things. All of them were delicious, with my favorite being the hamachi. Two breads were presented -- white French and olive loaf served with two different butters (goat and cow's milk) and fleur de sel. Butters were both replenished in the middle of the meal (even though there was plenty left). I remember having my brioche replenished during the middle of a foie gras course at a couple of restaurants so that it stays nice and hot (maybe one of the restaurants was EMP, I can't remember). I really appreciated that. But the butter thing seemed unnecessary and kind of wasteful.

    We ordered: crab, langoustine, lobster, potato, snapper, pork, beef, squab. The crab and langoustine were both cold dishes, langoustine being a crudo. DH isn't a fan of raw shrimp, so he would have preferred it if it was cooked. Personally, I thought both were very good, with the edge going to the crab. The crab was wrapped in slices of avocado and molded into the shape of a log. Sorry, I know the word "log" doesn't sound elegant at all, but this dish was really refined and quite aesthetically pleasing.

    The lobster was poached with fennel. Delicious. And the potato was gnocchi served with seafood. Out of the two, the potato was definitely my favorite. Even the gnocchi looked dense, they were delightfully fluffy. It went really well with the seafood, which was perfectly cooked.

    Our third course was the snapper and pork. The snapper was good, but not one of my favorite dishes of the night. The pork was really good. It was a pork chop sous-vide and served with a fruit-based sauce. I held it by the bone to gnaw off every bit of available meat when my knife wasn't doing me any good. Normally, I probably wouldn't do that at an EMP-caliber restaurant. But I was kind of in the corner with nobody around me and the meat was that good.

    Then came the beef and squab. Both excellent. I don't think I can pick which one I preferred. Beef was served with bone marrow gravy and some potatoes. The squab was served with Eastern European influences such as sour-sweet red cabbage.

    A palette cleanser of milk and honey arrived. A mound of beautiful "snow" with honey inside sprinkled with bee pollen. I've seen bee pollen in granola, but this is the first time I've had it in this form. A nice alternative to the sorbet palate cleanser.

    Then came the dessert course. DH, not having a super big sweet tooth, orders the cheese plate which comprised of 3 goat cheeses. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't try a 2nd dessert. I got the hazelnut, which was a hazelnut and chestnut ice cream, cream, and meringue. I enjoy those flavors, so it was good. DH, on the other hand, isn't a huge fan of chestnut so it wasn't quite his thing.

    We did the siphon coffee service as we never had it done that way before. A bit on the pricey side, but it is very labor intensive. The coffee was good, but I think this type of preparation leaves it a bit too powerful for my taste as I prefer the more mellow ones. And as I'm kind of gauche when it comes to my coffee, I asked for some half and half and sugar. Coffee is kind of too much for two people. I guess we didn't have to finish it. But at $26 a pop, the cheapskate came out in me and I had all three cups. I was feeling a bit nauseous at the end of the night because of the excess coffee.

    We were then presented with the mignardises which included pate de fruits (ginger and some fruit flavored one), chocolate peanut butter truffle. There were many more, but I really can't remember at this point. And then there was the take-home savory-sweet granola filled with dried currants, pumpkin seeds and oats. I had some for dessert after dinner last night -- much better eaten plain than having its delicious flavors obscured with milk (almond milk in my case). It did seem a bit strange receiving granola as opposed to something a bit more refined like a tea bread. But it was really good. I would definitely buy it if they sold it.

    Service, of course, was fabulous. Nothing on the cocktail list appealed to me. I especially liked that there were able to fulfill my wish of a making a cocktail that had rosewater in it (it's not a super common thing that every bar has).

    So ... about the new menu concept. I'm kind of mixed on this. I think ryansm summed it up best. Basically the menu is given to you verbally by the waitstaff, albeit an abbreviated version. And I didn't want to trouble the waitstaff by asking what every single thing was. I'm sure they'll get tired of it after a few months of this. "Tomato" didn't sound too appealing to me on paper, especially when you've got langoustine and foie gras to choose from. But I read somewhere that the tomato included the mozzarella ice cream. That may have swayed my mind, depending on how I was feeling that evening. So on the one hand, I'd like to know what all of my options are if I'm doing a la carte.

    And I am also can be a sucker for a grand tasting menu at times. Luckily, DH is into sharing. So I was able to taste 10 courses in total. But not all people are into the whole sharing bit. If I came here with a non-sharer, I'd probably be looking wistfully at the other person's plate the entire time wondering what the other four or five courses taste like. With some tasting menus, the food is a complete surprise. I kind of miss that. I find myself surprised liking things that I thought I wouldn't have normally ordered.

    In some ways, I can see what EMP is trying to do. And in other ways, I don't. I think some people will feel limited with this concept present company included. While the meal was fantastic, I do miss the old format. There, I said it! I'm probably the only one who has said it online at this point. I'm just now waiting for all the people to flame me. : )

    What I really would like to see is an omakase in a non-Japanese restaurant, where you sit at a bar, converse with the chef, and he or she prepares small plates depending on your food preferences and what is really fresh that day. I'm not sure if this type of dining would work out logistically, but I think it would be a neat idea.

    ETA: I just remembered another one of the amuse-bouches -- celery lollipop. And there was a caramel apple lollipop and nut brittle (pumpkin seeds?) at the end.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Miss Needle
      Miss Needle Sep 20, 2010 09:59 AM

      I should mention a plus to eating this way was that I got to try 10 courses plus other stuff without as feeling as stuffed as I did with the gourmand menu. To me, this is a plus. I'm sure there are others who would say otherwise.

      1. re: Miss Needle
        pizzajunkie Sep 20, 2010 10:04 AM

        Thanks Miss Needle! I am loving reading everyone's experience with the new menu!

        1. re: Miss Needle
          d
          DGresh Sep 20, 2010 10:41 AM

          thanks for your excellent review. I myself feel like the process as you've described it is a little "strained". I would much prefer to have written descriptions *or* a more traditional tasting menu. While by all accounts the food is wonderful, I'm not sure this particular format is for me.

          1. re: Miss Needle
            u
            uwsister Sep 20, 2010 11:25 AM

            Oh no! How dare you speak badly about EMP? ;)
            I think you wrote a great review - it still makes me want to go and try the new EMP soon.
            Anything has to be better than that carrot marshmallow.
            Reminder to myself to try their non-alcoholic cocktails.

            >What I really would like to see is an omakase in a non-Japanese restaurant, where you sit at a bar, converse with the chef, and he or she prepares small plates depending on your food preferences and what is really fresh that day. I'm not sure if this type of dining would work out logistically, but I think it would be a neat idea.

            I would totally go to that place. I love the idea.

            1. re: Miss Needle
              Spiritchaser Sep 20, 2010 11:51 AM

              Miss Needle wrote - "While the meal was fantastic, I do miss the old format. There, I said it! I'm probably the only one who has said it online at this point. I'm just now waiting for all the people to flame me. : )"
              --------------------------------
              I would never think of flaming you because you gave your opinion unless you are saying those of us that have tried it and liked it were not being genuine (and I don't think that is what you are saying).

            2. daffyduck Sep 13, 2010 11:51 AM

              i actually kind of like this new set up. reminds me of blue hill at stone barns mixed with craft. i dont think any restaurant has anything like it and with positive reviews so far i think it's worth checking out. and since the people at EMP are pretty much the nicest people ever assembled if something's a really big hit I'm sure if you let them know ahead of time they'll do it for you.

              1. e
                edible n Sep 13, 2010 11:44 AM

                A general question to anyone who has been to EMP since it re-opened, are they still offering wines by the glass selected by the sommelier to pair with your meal or are you limited to purchasing by the bottle? I imagine you can select wines by the glass on your own, but I'm more asking about pre-selected wines for a fixed price.

                1 Reply
                1. re: edible n
                  Spiritchaser Sep 13, 2010 11:53 AM

                  Yes, they are still doing the Sommelier suggested pairings, although we went with a bottle and some individual glasses. I believe I noted the cost of the parings were $95 for the 4 course menu, and $110 (I think) for the 5 course pairing.

                2. i
                  Im4Wine Sep 10, 2010 01:58 PM

                  Check out the link below to read an upcoming piece in the New York Times about the recent rennaisance of the EMP coffee program.

                  http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/20...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Im4Wine
                    Spiritchaser Sep 15, 2010 05:25 AM

                    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this, great way to have coffee and a lot of fun to boot, quite the spectacle.

                  2. k
                    KLD1967 Sep 10, 2010 07:48 AM

                    Okay - after reading all of the posts and reviews...I made my reservation at EMP this morning for Sept. 27th at 9:15. This is going to be my big dinner splurge on my trip the last week of this month.

                    1. ellenost Sep 10, 2010 06:18 AM

                      Someone posted a great and very detailed report of dinner on eGullet. The new format, based on that report, sounds great! I am even more eager to try the new format in two weeks.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: ellenost
                        g
                        gutsofsteel Sep 10, 2010 07:03 AM

                        Thanks for that, I just read it. Can't wait to go!

                        1. re: gutsofsteel
                          Spiritchaser Sep 10, 2010 07:18 AM

                          Yes, excellent report, glad ellenost pointed it out.

                        2. re: ellenost
                          r
                          Rex987 Sep 10, 2010 10:13 AM

                          That review is pretty accurate of my experience as well.

                          1. re: Rex987
                            Spiritchaser Sep 10, 2010 10:57 AM

                            I'm going tomorrow night so I'm pretty psyched to hear the reports from people that have already been, they all seem extremely positive.

                            1. re: Spiritchaser
                              ellenost Sep 10, 2010 05:26 PM

                              I eagerly await your review.

                              1. re: ellenost
                                Spiritchaser Sep 13, 2010 05:00 AM

                                Okay, had dinner Saturday night at the revamped EMP. I'm not going to mince words and I'll cut straight to the point...It's was SPECTACULAR! If you haven't made reservations yet (I know you have ellenost) stop what you are doing, find out when you can go, and then go.

                                By now probably everyone really interested in the subject of EMP has probably read the wonderful eGullet write up and I have to say it was very accurate so I don't want to re-state what has already been said AND I don't want to spoil it for anyone planning on going because there is an element of surprise to the evening.

                                Rest assured the food is still incredible, maybe even more so, it seemed to have a certain "lightness" to it and the flavors were really focused. And IMO the meal still had very much a tasting menu feel to it, yes, you "control" the main component but what is done with that component is where the surprise comes in, even after knowing (if you choose to pursue details from your Captain) where the dish may go more than likely you'll be wrong. The final result was some of the best food the kitchen has ever produced.

                                FYI - I had:

                                Langoustine, which I highly recommend, probably my favorite dish of the evening

                                Lobster, to juxtapose the two shell fish, wonderful dish

                                Squab, perfectly cooked, perfect portion size, even as "earthy" as this dish was it still retained that lightness I spoke of.

                                The service. We absolutely loved it. It is former EMP level with a couple tweaks. We already have a good rapport with the restaurant but looking around I saw the same at every table, people genuinely happy to be doing what they are doing. EMP already cracked the code on how to be professional but approachable and the new style just takes it to another level with the incorporation of the back of house. My advice, FWIW, engage the servers, engage anyone bringing you anything, they light up when they speak. Much much fun.

                                The kitchen is a sea of calm, a Porsche of a kitchen, quiet energy.

                                Will and Chef Humm were genuinely interested in opinions and they were smiling like proud parents. They, along with their entire team, have created something wonderful and we can't wait to get back in.

                                Personal opinion, I like that they removed the low ceiling seating area, now there is nothing but soaring ceilings.

                                1. re: Spiritchaser
                                  g
                                  gutsofsteel Sep 13, 2010 05:40 AM

                                  Thanks so much for that. I'm even more excited for my upcoming visit.

                                  1. re: Spiritchaser
                                    ellenost Sep 13, 2010 06:18 AM

                                    Great write-up Spiritchaser! Maybe between your glowing report and the great write-up on eGullet, the naysayers will make their reservations and become fans of EMP.

                                    1. re: ellenost
                                      Spiritchaser Sep 13, 2010 06:32 AM

                                      If people try it they will love it. And I can't wait to see your and G of S opinion, I'm pretty sure we will all be in complete agreement.

                                      1. re: Spiritchaser
                                        n
                                        Nancy S. Sep 13, 2010 07:20 AM

                                        Any chance you might comment on the specifics of the preparations that you had. Also, which category did you choose for dessert. I am returning on Friday, and I anticipate a lovely experience.

                                        1. re: Nancy S.
                                          Spiritchaser Sep 13, 2010 07:50 AM

                                          Well, I'm pretty sure it will change by then and I don't want to spoil anything but since you asked I'll give a little more, the Langoustine was done as a ceviche with very few components and it was wonderful, the lobster was tail meat and poached with some seasonal veggies, the squab was just breast meat, perfectly cooked with a reduction (and the Sommelier paired this dish with a Chianti Classico that was perfect). For dessert I chose choclate (very unusual for me), very light almost mousse-y, and GF had plum (don't remember details on hers but it was really really good).

                                          -----
                                          Classico
                                          166 William St, New York, NY 10038

                                          1. re: Spiritchaser
                                            n
                                            Nancy S. Sep 13, 2010 08:49 AM

                                            Many thanks!

                          2. r
                            Rex987 Sep 9, 2010 11:44 AM

                            I was @ EMP last night. I am still a bit confused by the menu and am interested in reading others' reviews. We reviewed the menu and figured we would order kind of blindly. However, the waitor kept asking if there were dishes we needed explained. In the end, it seemed more like a verbal menu. I would say "tell me about the beef" and he would tell me how it is prepared.

                            I can't offer much of a review as I am pretty new to this type of dining scene. I've never done a tasting menu so I can't say I like/dislike this set up more/less. It was just a 4 course meal. Some of the dishes were the same as what was on the last menu- the peeky toe crab with daikon radish & the bone marrow crusted sirloin.

                            Here is what we had:
                            me- crab, lobster, squab, hazelnut
                            DH- langostine, loup de mer, beef, chocolate

                            We visited the kitchen. It was cool. Chef Humm came to say hello which I loved. They made us a cocktail with liquid nitrogen and pop rocks.

                            Overall we had a great night. It was a special occaison for us and it was a very special experience.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Rex987
                              r
                              Rex987 Sep 9, 2010 11:55 AM

                              Forgot to add- The duck is still available, separately.

                              1. re: Rex987
                                Miss Needle Sep 9, 2010 12:32 PM

                                So I'm kind of confused. Are the choices already determined? For example, if you order "beef," do you get the bone marrow crusted sirloin unless you specify that you hate bone marrow where you may get sirloin topped with buttered bread crumbs? And how is the duck available? As an extra course? Do you still have to order it for two?

                                1. re: Miss Needle
                                  r
                                  Rex987 Sep 9, 2010 01:02 PM

                                  The dishes are predetermined as far as I can tell. The table next to us also had the same peeky toe crab dish. My husband was confused about the beef and the waitor explained it was made with the bone marrow crust, etc.

                                  We were told the duck is also available for 2 persons. We didn't ask anything else about it. It sounded like it was something extra on top of our 4 courses but I'm not positive.

                                  1. re: Rex987
                                    p
                                    peter j Sep 9, 2010 01:30 PM

                                    Hmmm, so it sounds like there's virtually no change after all, except for the fewer courses, the lack of written descriptions, and higher prices?

                                    Or is the whole concept still in flux?

                                    1. re: peter j
                                      r
                                      ricardo87 Sep 9, 2010 01:39 PM

                                      That really does sound like the old prix fixe menu, except they're more up front in their willingness to accept special requests. Looking at the review on Serious Eats, they are also bringing the hors d'oeuvres out separately instead of all at once, I guess to make it feel like more of a progression.

                                      Also, are there still macarons after dessert? That was one of my favorite parts! There weren't any on the Serious Eats lunch review. Rex987, did you get macarons afterward?

                                      1. re: ricardo87
                                        daffyduck Sep 9, 2010 01:41 PM

                                        http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2010/0...

                                        looks like the pork dish is the couchon from before.

                                        1. re: ricardo87
                                          r
                                          Rex987 Sep 9, 2010 01:48 PM

                                          The hors d'oeuvres were brought out one by one. There were some interesting ones. A heirloom tomato tea with a parmesean crisp and the goat cheese lollipop with beet marshmallow were the most suprising in taste & texture for us.

                                          Sadly, there were no macarons. I was looking forward to them too. They brought the milk & honey, a chocolate pb truffle with a jelly candy (pb&j), a caramel apple lollipop and sesame brittle, and the cognac were brought at the end.

                                      2. re: Rex987
                                        Miss Needle Sep 9, 2010 02:59 PM

                                        I guess I still really don't understand the new format. I generally don't report on the CH faves (just because there are a ton of reports and don't feel like I am contributing anything useful), but will definitely do so after my visit next week. I'll try to ask a lot of questions.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle
                                          w
                                          wreckers00 Sep 9, 2010 08:34 PM

                                          This seems rather disappointing (mostly because dishes have not changed)...still waiting on more reports though

                                2. ellenost Sep 8, 2010 06:54 PM

                                  I’ve heard the following from someone who has actual knowledge about the changes at EMP:

                                  EMP is still offering an a la carte menu in the bar. At dinner they are offering a four course menu for $125, and a five course menu for $155- though with the several courses of hors d’oeuvres that are included, these are each much longer menus than that. Finally, if someone would just prefer that Chef Humm cooks for them, and asks for that- Chef Humm will of course be happy to do so.

                                  I have dinner reservations in two weeks, and you all know that I'll be posting. I'm looking forward to trying the new format.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: ellenost
                                    pizzajunkie Sep 8, 2010 08:18 PM

                                    I thought the NYT article said no bar eating/items? I hope you are right, though - please post after you eat there in 2 weeks, ellenost!

                                    1. re: pizzajunkie
                                      c
                                      cvmdsb Sep 8, 2010 09:57 PM

                                      They will offer an a la carte menu at the bar, serving appetizers and entrees and such from 12-2pm M-F and 5:30-10pm M-S.

                                      1. re: pizzajunkie
                                        d
                                        DGresh Sep 9, 2010 04:13 AM

                                        specifically, the NY Times said "The bar menu is gone. In fact, there’s no more à la carte dining. "

                                        1. re: DGresh
                                          k
                                          kathryn Sep 9, 2010 11:27 AM

                                          A friend went last night for dinner and said, the New York Times got it wrong:

                                          My friend writes: "There is indeed a bar menu, contrary to everything that is out there. What has changed with the bar menu, is the bar snacks have been removed. No more burgers, etc. They explained they are making the switch to move the bar menu to more of a fine dining experience, and the bar menu both in type of food and price reflects this. It is the only place to order food a la carte."

                                      2. re: ellenost
                                        m
                                        michaelstl Sep 9, 2010 07:39 AM

                                        re: ellenost-"Finally, if someone would just prefer that Chef Humm cooks for them, and asks for that- Chef Humm will of course be happy to do so. "

                                        Perfect. That solves my only issue with the change in menu format.

                                        1. re: michaelstl
                                          r
                                          ricardo87 Sep 9, 2010 08:17 AM

                                          Has anyone here done that? How does it work? That seems like a "money is not an object" kind of situation where you're giving the chef free rein to do anything. I'd love to know how that works, what one would expect to pay, and if it would need to be arranged in advance. It also seems like asking for that would make you seem like "that guy" who always needs something special.

                                          1. re: ricardo87
                                            Spiritchaser Sep 9, 2010 09:29 AM

                                            I don't want to change the subject on the discussion but ricardo87, if you are really interested in experiencing a "surprize" menu you should look into Blue Hill at Stone Barns, it's a truly wonderful restaurant and it's is one of the very few places I have actually said "I'll eat whatever you bring me" and it was fantastic, the only clues you have to what "might be" in the meal is the list of what is at peak flavor from the gardens/farms.

                                            1. re: Spiritchaser
                                              r
                                              ricardo87 Sep 9, 2010 01:10 PM

                                              Thanks for the suggestion. I've been able to dine there several times and have always enjoyed the experience. I've certainly gotten some surprises when I said I'm open to anything! An interesting idea in line with EMP's new concept would be to have a Gourmand option where all ingredients listed on the card were fair game.

                                            2. re: ricardo87
                                              Spiritchaser Sep 9, 2010 08:28 AM

                                              I may be wrong but I interpreted what ellenost wrote to mean: within the construct of the menu allow the Chef to choose what is presented rather than you doing the choosing from the rows, so still the 4 courses with 1 of each selection but no pre knowlege of what the Chef will send out.

                                              1. re: Spiritchaser
                                                m
                                                michaelstl Sep 9, 2010 12:23 PM

                                                Actually, the "letting the chef cook for you" typically means something more along the lines of the old Gourmand menu. Generally, it means letting the chef send out whatever he/she wants to within some rough guidelines of # of courses and overall cost. I agree that it sounds like the most pretentious thing ever and I understand some people don't want to be that guy asking for something special, but the few times I've done it, the chefs have seen it as a complement as the guest is putting total trust in the chef. At a place like EMP, I doubt this request is unusual or would be a surprise to Chef Humm.

                                                1. re: michaelstl
                                                  Spiritchaser Sep 9, 2010 02:15 PM

                                                  I'm aware of what it means but if you read my post I was referring to what I believed the context of ellenost reply was

                                        2. r
                                          ryansm Sep 8, 2010 12:42 PM

                                          <long post ahead>

                                          What we're finally realizing is that it comes down to personal preference. Some people order the largest tasting menu every time they can. They enjoy the variety and the surprise. They get bored with just a few big plates and appreciate trying as many different flavors as they can. Others stick to ordering just a few courses. They enjoy the composition and the interplay of the components. They feel overloaded with too many courses and feel like they start bleeding together at some point.

                                          It's not fair for either side to criticize the other. Neither approach is wrong, so you can't say someone shouldn't be upset because the Gourmand is gone just because you don't like it. People are pretty set in which dining approach they have, so remember that it's a personal preference and understand where people are coming from.

                                          I think there's so much controversy and disagreement between posters because this new format inherently alienates and exclude some people. It really depends on your personal preference for fine dining. If you're the person who prefers fewer courses, this change is exciting and interesting; if you're the person who likes the massive tasting menu, you feel left out.

                                          Most people at the old EMP didn't get the Gourmand menu, but a significant minority did. Imagine that you got the 11-course tasting menu every time you went to EMP, and that's why you always returned, and that's what you loved about the restaurant. Now that's gone and you only have one option. That's where a lot of the frustration is coming from. It will be a fundamentally different experience for those people.

                                          I also don't think it's at all fair to criticize those who are worried about the changes. It's completely valid for a person to lower their opinion of EMP based on removing the tasting menu .If that's why a person eats there, getting rid of it obviously is a negative change for that person.

                                          And gutsofsteel, I think it's incredibly rude for you to say that predicting one won't enjoy the new EMP as much as the old is "smallminded and shortsighted." First off, restaurant opinions are completely subjective, and if someone doesn't like 4 star restaurants unless there's a tasting menu, that's completely valid for that person. Second, if it's "smallminded and shortsighted" for someone to be worried about major changes affecting their experience, that applies at least as much to you for saying it'll be wonderful without having been! This isn't an attack on you, just a disagreement with your argument.

                                          I think we all need to keep in mind that we know nothing about the new experience. You can't say it must be good because it's Humm et al. They're not infallible and you have no idea how it'll turn out. We also need to recognize that for some people, this change eliminates what they love about fine dining. They go to restaurants for a certain experience, and when that experience is not an option, they know they won't like it as much. They may come to enjoy it as much for different reasons, but that's not what the debate is about.

                                          I think this is a great discussion, and I'd love to keep it going. It's really interesting to see why people feel the way they do. And for people who automatically assume it'll be great, why? Sure it's a great team, but it's not fair to assume it'll be just as good and that there are no risks or down sides.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: ryansm
                                            e
                                            ESNY Sep 8, 2010 01:07 PM

                                            Define a significant minority, you and two other posters?

                                            1. re: ESNY
                                              r
                                              ryansm Sep 8, 2010 01:32 PM

                                              I was told by a manager at EMP on my last visit that about 15% of customers order the Gourmand menu on any given night. Though I appreciate your sarcasm, it makes you look foolish when you turn out to be incorrect.

                                            2. re: ryansm
                                              MVNYC Sep 11, 2010 09:51 PM

                                              Very open minded and rational post

                                            3. dcole Sep 8, 2010 12:26 PM

                                              Everyone has different preferences on how they chose to dine, so it is totally one opinion vs the other...however, more straightforwardness and less courses does seem to be the current trend, led by of all places believe it or not: Paris.
                                              I have not been to EMP, so I won't try to comment on their old format, but of the finer places I've been that have offered a 4/5 course tasting (take Vetri in PA or Degustation in NYC example) I have preferred the smaller format, not necessarily the food, to a larger format than say Le Bernardin.
                                              All a matter of preference, but I would expect to see more of this happening...

                                              1. sgordon Sep 8, 2010 12:25 PM

                                                But all questions aside, I'll hold off pre-judging the format until we hear more. I'm sure RGR will be weighing in on the new format within the week...

                                                1. m
                                                  michaelstl Sep 8, 2010 11:07 AM

                                                  From the perspective of a tourist who hasn't dined at EMP, but who has always had on my list for my next trip to NYC, the change in menu format has drastically reduced the chance of me choosing to dine there.

                                                  13 Replies
                                                  1. re: michaelstl
                                                    g
                                                    gutsofsteel Sep 8, 2010 11:32 AM

                                                    Wouldn't it make more sense to hear actual reviews since the change before making decisions like this? I mean they've only served ONE DINNER so far.

                                                    1. re: gutsofsteel
                                                      m
                                                      michaelstl Sep 8, 2010 11:44 AM

                                                      No, it isn't that I think the food won't be as good as before or that the quality is somehow different, I think the new format is contrived and not what I seek out from a restaurant. For me, if I'm traveling to eat at a restaurant, I want to try as much as I can and get as good of a sense as possible of a chef's cooking. The long tasting menus are perfect for this. I appreciated the gourmand approach where the menu is a surprise and changes frequently. I can't imagine that the four course menu is long enough to get a full sense of Chef Humm's style. As a result, when in NY, I'll immediately be more likely to try places where I get to sample as many dishes as possible (assuming that they are still on a similar level of quality and skill as EMP). If I have only so many meals to have in NY, I want to make the most of them. If I lived in NY, then I'd have a different impression, but as one who travels to eat, the new format is less appealing than the prior one.

                                                    2. re: michaelstl
                                                      Spiritchaser Sep 8, 2010 11:39 AM

                                                      Why? Do you normally restrict your dining choices to only places with tasting menus? Do you feel a Chef's skill can only be demonstrated via multiple courses? I hope this doesn't sound like an attack, I really am just curious. I've loved EMP for a long time and I think this change is just a great new chapter, evolve or die.

                                                      1. re: Spiritchaser
                                                        r
                                                        ricardo87 Sep 8, 2010 12:02 PM

                                                        I think it really depends on who you are and why you eat at EMP. Like several others, I don't live in or near NYC, but I do travel to the city many times a year. Many of those trips are little getaways where the main focus is food and dining.

                                                        For those trips, dining at a top restaurant is an experience, not just a meal. And for me, a tasting menu like the old 11-course Gourmand brings the best experience. I love the surprises and the variety, and yes, the excess! If you live nearby and have the opportunity to dine at these restaurants whenever you want, you're looking at this from an entirely different perspective.

                                                        So when I'm planning a trip, I'm looking for a place that provides that kind of experience. This new format doesn't seem like it can do that as well as the old menu. If you could only eat at EMP one or two times a year, you want to make the most of it and go all out.

                                                        I earlier brought up Keller's philosophy of small courses, and I think that's a really relevant point for this discussion. Eating larger portions (especially at fine dining restaurants) can easily cause overload and even boredom after a while. Babbo is a great example of this concept. Last time I was there I got the black spaghetti with shrimp, sausage, and chiles, and it was incredible!! For the first 10 or so bites. After a while, I was looking down at this massive bowl that started out incredible and was now boring. Of course EMP's portions won't be as massive as Babbo, but the same principle can be applied.

                                                        -----
                                                        Babbo
                                                        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                                                        1. re: ricardo87
                                                          m
                                                          michaelstl Sep 8, 2010 12:05 PM

                                                          Well said.

                                                          1. re: ricardo87
                                                            sgordon Sep 8, 2010 12:21 PM

                                                            I'm diametrically opposed to Keller's small course concept, personally. (I'm opposed to a lot of things about Keller, but that's another matter...)

                                                            I find that making a one or two bite dish is far less interesting than a "full" dish. For me, the loss of interest comes after tasting too many different things. It's just overload. They may all be delicious, but after awhile it gets tiresome, and I just want to dig into something, to revel in the sheer gustatory pleasure of it. I don't want to keep eating quaint little bites that just leave me wishing for more. To me, most long tasting menus are a gaudy parade of unsatisfaction.

                                                            Also, if you were to go with a date to 11MP, and each order different things - that'd be eight different dishes right there. Still quite a lot to taste. Add the fact that some of those tasting menu "courses" were really amuses, pre-desserts, etc - things that were also included in the prix fixe, unlisted, and will still most surely be coming with the new four-course version - and you've got your 11 dishes, easily.

                                                            I also don't think that small plates are as much of a test of a chef's skill. There's something to be said for a plate with multiple elements that interplay together, that you can root around in and make combinations out of, rather than a plate that's just a few identical bites. I think it's much easier to make a delicious amuse than it is a fully composed plate.

                                                            ----

                                                            That said, I have no problem eating a four course meal at Babbo, and enjoying every bite of it, right down to that eleventh bite of pasta.

                                                            -----
                                                            Babbo
                                                            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                                                            1. re: sgordon
                                                              r
                                                              ryansm Sep 8, 2010 12:54 PM

                                                              Exactly, so based on what you like in a restaurant, this change affects you much less than someone who prefers larger tasting menus.

                                                              You're opposed to Keller's small course concept and I happen to love eating that way. Everything you say to criticize it is subjective and everything I could say (and what Ricardo said above) to support it is subjective. The point is that you're differentially affected based on how you like to eat.

                                                              I think it's completely fair to pre-judge that aspect of the format because it eliminates how I prefer to eat. I don't like that it's gone, and I don't have to eat at the new EMP to know that. I can't evaluate the experience they provide until I go next weekend, and I'm open to the new experience. But I know what I like and I know it'll take a LOT for me to like this as much as the Gourmand.

                                                            2. re: ricardo87
                                                              k
                                                              kathryn Sep 8, 2010 01:10 PM

                                                              I enjoy tasting menus for the surprise, variety of courses, progression of courses (I have to believe a lot of thought goes into sequencing), and putting myself into the chef's hands and saying, "show me the best of what you've got!"

                                                              I guess I could still do that with the four or five course prix fixe, but it doesn't feel the same.

                                                              1. re: kathryn
                                                                r
                                                                ryansm Sep 8, 2010 01:34 PM

                                                                My thoughts as well. In the NYT article, the GM spoke of pleasing the diner who comes to EMP on a "gustatory pilgrimage," but then they remove the menu option such a person would likely order.

                                                          2. re: michaelstl
                                                            w
                                                            wpfoodie Sep 8, 2010 11:59 AM

                                                            Just to play devil's advocate, as somebody who also hasn't dined at EMP, but has always wanted to, this format actually excites me even more. I find it intriguing

                                                            1. re: wpfoodie
                                                              jon Sep 8, 2010 12:46 PM

                                                              agreed. this is the same concept that they have at blue hill at stone barns. there, you have the option of 5 courses or 8 courses and the menu does not have courses listed but just a number of ingredients. our meal there a few weeks ago was transcendent and i can't imagine that it would be any different at EMP. and it was a dialogue. the waitress asked if there was anything we liked in particular and if there was anything we did not like. it made for a great dining experience.

                                                              1. re: jon
                                                                r
                                                                ryansm Sep 8, 2010 12:58 PM

                                                                The difference is that at BHSB you have the option of 5 or 8 courses, and at EMP, you only have the option of 4 courses. That's a noticeable difference, and I think that's a bigger problem for people than the ingredient listing menu format.

                                                                1. re: ryansm
                                                                  w
                                                                  wreckers00 Sep 9, 2010 05:29 AM

                                                                  at BHSB you don't actually choose the ingredients you want. They just prepare you a tasting menu and they ask if you don't like something or are allergic to something.

                                                                  They don't actually individually prepare dishes at BHSB. They "tweak" an existing tasting menu....as did EMP when they had theirs and as does per se and many other tasting menu restos in NYC

                                                          3. sgordon Sep 8, 2010 07:56 AM

                                                            It seems a bit odd that adding a course is the same price - $30 - regardless which course it is. $30 would be perfectly reasonable for an extra entree - but an app, not so much. I'm curious if the four courses will now be the same size, blurring the line between apps and entrees?

                                                            Curious, too - if every course is technically the same price, would they skip the dessert and make you four savory courses for the normal price? I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and I'd much rather an extra $30 entree than a comes-with $30 dessert. Or maybe I'm feeling carnivorous, could I just go across Row 3 and have the four "meat" options and forget the apps?

                                                            As to the whole "one ingredient" menu gimmick, I think it's stupid. Very few people, other than the "got to have my steak" types, pick a course by the main ingredient alone. Maybe you're thinking, "I want red meat tonight" - but then you'll look over the options, and usually it's the sides / sauce / etc that make the decision. You might be able to pick between "Lamb" and "Beef" - but your choices might very well reverse if you were presented with, say, "Lamb Chops with Preserved Lemons and Yogurt" and "Stout-Braised Short Ribs".

                                                            Perhaps they're trying to "force" interaction with the waitstaff. You have no choice but to ask for a description of every single dish if you actually want to make an informed choice - so the staff have to rattle off sixteen different dishes to every table, every time. At that point, why even bother having a printed menu? As a memento?

                                                            While I'm personally not a fan of long-format tastng menus (five courses is where I hit overload, maybe six) it would not surprise me if a one appeared down the road for those who don't want to do the interactive thing. After all, they're all about catering to the customers. If enough people want it...

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: sgordon
                                                              p
                                                              peter j Sep 8, 2010 09:31 AM

                                                              De-lurking here....

                                                              I for one am looking forward to the new menu format. My main issue with EMP (in its previous incarnation) was that, compared to places like Corton, Jean Georges, The Modern Dining Room, and Le Bernardin, the flavors were too predictable and adhered too much to the haute-comfort-food formula.

                                                              Daniel Humm's skills are above reproach, but maybe this new "make it work" ingredient challenge will bring some freshness to his offerings.

                                                              -----
                                                              Jean Georges
                                                              1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

                                                              Corton
                                                              239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                              1. re: sgordon
                                                                r
                                                                ryansm Sep 8, 2010 10:22 AM

                                                                Agreed, it seems a bit silly and forced. "Pork" is a key ingredient? Seriously? How many dozens of different things could that be? Then I'll have to ask the waitstaff what the pork is (I may want pork belly but not pork loin), who will tell me that it's, for example, pork belly with mustard and spinach. There's already a set dish for that ingredient, so why couldn't I just read it on the menu? And then I'm supposed to engage in a dialogue with the waitstaff if I want it more to my liking?

                                                                Three things bother me about this approach.

                                                                1) This seems just like the old menu, except they're explicitly offering to modify the dishes instead of accommodating requests as they happen. EMP would always take off an ingredient or component if you don't like it. I think this is why some people are calling it a gimmick, because the new concepts revolves around this option that already existed. And it revolves around doing something I thought was taboo: asking the chef to modify a dish because x isn't your favorite thing. What?

                                                                2) Why would you encourage people to mess with what is already (I'm assuming) a balanced, composed dish? I'm sure the kitchen will try to make up for it by adding something to restore balance, but I want the dish that's been worked on and refined over time. You could be asking that the one ingredient that makes the dish pop or shine be left out.

                                                                I'm sure anything coming out of the kitchen will be very good, but I'm worried that people will be too safe and stick only to what they know not try new things. For example, I had a dish with black garlic at EMP a few months ago, and I bet a lot of people, after hearing that their dish will have fermented black garlic in it, may elect to remove it rather than try it and see if they like it. Chowhound types wouldn't do this, of course, but we don't make up all of EMP's business!

                                                                3) No tasting menu? What? That's really mind boggling. I can't think of any restaurants of this caliber that don't have this option. All the 3 Michelin star restaurants in the country have a long tasting menu, as do all the other 4 NYT star restaurants. I'm really, really confused by that.

                                                              2. k
                                                                kathryn Sep 7, 2010 07:22 PM

                                                                The New York Times has some more details on what they've changed and why:
                                                                http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/din...

                                                                There's no more Gourmand or tasting menus, and they have also eliminated the host stand, bar menu and 34 seats but added an alcove where you can see the kitchen.

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: kathryn
                                                                  hcbk0702 Sep 7, 2010 07:57 PM

                                                                  Some interesting ideas, though not including this quote from Humm:

                                                                  “Why have four kinds of fish? I believe that if you feel like eating fish, it doesn’t really matter what fish you’re eating."

                                                                  Laughable.

                                                                  1. re: hcbk0702
                                                                    j
                                                                    Jane A. Sep 9, 2010 04:41 PM

                                                                    Call me crazy, but I care a lot what fish I'm going to be served. You'd have to pay me to eat bluefish, or herring, or eel. I'm bored with salmon in the summer (it's about the only thing available) and rarely order it in the winter. I read the NYTimes article twice and have the feeling that EMP is sliding off my go-to list. I will rely on the reports of the volunteer guinea pigs on this board though.

                                                                  2. re: kathryn
                                                                    r
                                                                    ricardo87 Sep 7, 2010 08:47 PM

                                                                    Nice find! Interesting to learn about their motivations, but a lot of it just doesn't make sense to me.

                                                                    For example, the GM said, “The natural thing would be for us to become a tasting-menu restaurant. We wanted to do more than that. [...] Tasting menus are like monologues. This is a dialogue.” He also said that having lunch and dinner be different experiences was a disservice to people who make a gastronomic pilgrimage there. Chef Humm said, “We realize that people come here for more than to be fed or have a business meeting. When they walk into the door they basically say, ‘Take me for a ride.’”

                                                                    How exactly does this format meet those goals and solve those problems? How does a four course menu in which a diner picks the main ingredient do more than a tasting menu? How does it please those making gastronomic pilgrimages? And how does it take you for a ride?

                                                                    The GM brings up those making "gastronomic pilgrimages," and EMP's desire to cater to them. I agree with what he says about the lunch experience, but what else are they going to do for culinary travelers? I make a number of "gastronomic pilgrimages," mostly to NYC, and a tasting menu is usually the best option when doing that.

                                                                    If you're traveling for the sole purpose of eating in fine restaurants, would you rather have four courses or go all the way and try all the chef has to offer. To me, that's what makes it special, what makes it a destination restaurant.This also makes it stand out (in a negative way) compared to the other NYT 4 star restaurants, where the shortest available menu is 7 courses. I think many people would agree that the 11 course Gourmand menu takes you for more of a ride than this four course concept.

                                                                    And finally, I want a monologue! I don't want no stinkin' dialogue! When I go to a world class restaurant, I want the chef to take care of me and make what he or she thinks is best. I want to try new things! I'm going there to experience the chef's creations, not to tell the chef what to create for me using the ingredients I choose (exaggeration, but still). This just seems like such a modern American concept where the "customer knows best," not the renowned experts/artists who know more about food and flavor than I could ever hope to learn.

                                                                    I realize I'm very passionate about this (maybe too much!), but EMP is in my top two restaurants, competing only with per se, and this is a dramatic move that affects what I love about the restaurant. I'm very eager to try out the new concept, and I'm sure I'll love the food. Chef Humm is a master, and I love experiencing what he has to offer. But why limit the experience? Why not allow the customer to choose two from each row for an eight course menu? Why not three for 12?

                                                                    Why not just let the chef decide and really take me for a ride?

                                                                    1. re: ricardo87
                                                                      w
                                                                      wreckers00 Sep 8, 2010 06:35 AM

                                                                      I really don't know what they are going to do, but maybe the four course will include side dishes or maybe it's 3 dishes involving that one ingredient.

                                                                      I hope it works out...

                                                                      1. re: ricardo87
                                                                        b
                                                                        brooklyndude Sep 8, 2010 11:21 AM

                                                                        I am very surprised that they won't let you add more courses without increasing the volume of food you eat.

                                                                        1. re: ricardo87
                                                                          uhockey Sep 11, 2010 12:14 PM

                                                                          Try the dialogue method at the world's best - you'll be pleasantly surprised. As a small example, I did an extended tasting at Per Se - I told the server I didn't really fancy mustard. He asked if I "hated or was allergic" - I said "no, just don't like it." He said - I bet Chef Benno can change your mind. For that one course, Per Se definitely changed my mind. :-)

                                                                          Talking with your servers, being an interested diner almost ALWAYS benefits you with more unique food.

                                                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Per Se
                                                                          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                                                                      2. d
                                                                        DutchOenophile Sep 7, 2010 03:44 PM

                                                                        I'm pretty sure there's a lengthier tasting course on the menu as another option. I think the early reports may be incorrect (I participated in a 'try out' for this a few weeks ago and there was a tasting course option then in addition to the 4 course at that point). I'm quite certain there is no attempt to remove a tasting menu from the options available.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: DutchOenophile
                                                                          r
                                                                          ricardo87 Sep 7, 2010 05:55 PM

                                                                          I spoke to someone at the restaurant today who confirmed that there is no option other than the four course dinner. I explained that I always get the Gourmand menu when I eat at EMP and asked if there was anything like that on the current menu. She explicitly told me that there is no longer tasting menu option; she also explicitly said that there are no plans to add this option in the future.

                                                                          Others, such as Miss Needle, have confirmed this. Unless the people working at EMP don't know what's on the menu or are being told to withhold info, they've removed that option since your try out.

                                                                          The person I spoke to also gave me the exact same information about adding courses. She suggested that if I was interested in a larger tasting menu, I could add courses to the the four course menu, but they would be full size portions, not scaled down to tasting menu proportions.

                                                                          1. re: ricardo87
                                                                            d
                                                                            DutchOenophile Sep 7, 2010 06:11 PM

                                                                            Interesting, Ricardo. Seems they have made a change since the try out. Maybe they want to get the four course option under their belt and nailed down before resuming a tasting menu.

                                                                        2. b
                                                                          brooklyndude Sep 7, 2010 02:37 PM

                                                                          I'm sure you can request a longer menu if you want one.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: brooklyndude
                                                                            Miss Needle Sep 7, 2010 03:15 PM

                                                                            As I have a reservation next week and was interested in ordering the Gourmand menu, I just called them up to see what the deal is. They said each additional course you order is $30. They won't be adjusting the sizes so one can order more courses without feeling like he or she is going to bust. Personally, I find this a bit disappointing as I like large tasting menus as long as portion size is kept small. But I'll keep an open mind about it.

                                                                            1. re: Miss Needle
                                                                              f
                                                                              fm1963 Sep 7, 2010 03:32 PM

                                                                              Does this mean that certain dishes I've read about and haven't tried, like duck for two and bone marrow crusted beef, are gone forever?

                                                                              1. re: fm1963
                                                                                l
                                                                                lrobitsc Sep 9, 2010 10:10 AM

                                                                                The duck and beef are still available

                                                                                1. re: lrobitsc
                                                                                  Miss Needle Sep 9, 2010 10:58 AM

                                                                                  May I ask how you know that? "Beef" is on the new sample menu but not the "duck." Did you speak with them or did you eat there? If so, please report back.

                                                                                  btw, seriouseats has done a lunch review in case any of you is interested.

                                                                                  http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2010/0...

                                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle
                                                                                    f
                                                                                    fm1963 Sep 9, 2010 11:35 AM

                                                                                    Thanks for the report. Pretty much confirmed my suspicions...

                                                                              2. re: Miss Needle
                                                                                k
                                                                                kathryn Sep 7, 2010 05:51 PM

                                                                                No Gourmand, no tasting menu at all? I'm disappointed.

                                                                            2. r
                                                                              ricardo87 Sep 7, 2010 01:43 PM

                                                                              Just to clarify: I AM NOT doubting anything about the quality of the food. I have no doubt it will still be exceptional. My biggest concern is the removal of the Gourmand tasting menu. Obviously the quality of the food is unrelated to the number of courses, but the experience itself can be.

                                                                              I don't think the format change is as jarring to someone who usually ordered the prix fixe, for example. But for me, when I travel to NYC, I'm there for the experiences (read: eat at great restaurants). And for me, part of this great experience is being able to sample as many of the chef's offerings as possible. This is why I love restaurants with longer tasting menus. If I lived in the city and could go to EMP for dinner whenever I wanted, it wouldn't be as big a deal. But when I'm there, I want it all! I very much follow Thomas Keller's philosophy of courses being small enough that you don't lose interest and are left wanting just one more bite. And that's what I loved about the Gourmand menu.

                                                                              So if you look at it from the perspective of someone who is going to a restaurant just for that grand tasting menu experience, this is a let down. I have no doubt that I'll enjoy the food and my visit, but it may not be the same type of destination it once was. Per Se would still be incredible if they only did 4 courses, but you can't deny that it would be a different experience than it is now.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Per Se
                                                                              10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                                                                              1. ChefJune Sep 7, 2010 01:25 PM

                                                                                The quality of food at a restaurant -- especially a top tier one -- is not measured by the number of courses they offer. I would imagine the economy has something to do with the change in menu format.

                                                                                OTOH, I'm also guessing -- knowing the players at EMP -- that you could go in (or call ahead and speak to the manager) and let them know you would like a longer format meal, and I'll bet they'll accommodate you. Likewise, a fun way to experience a restaurant like EMP is to tell the chef you would 'just like him to feed you." That usually gets all sorts of creative juices flowing.

                                                                                I think you're still going to love EMP. ;D

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