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Any early feedback about EMP's new format??

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.

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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

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    1. 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

      1. 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.

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        Per Se
        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

          6 Replies
          1. re: brooklyndude

            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

              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

                The duck and beef are still available

                1. re: lrobitsc

                  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

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

              2. re: Miss Needle

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

            2. 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

                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

                  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.