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Jun 22, 2011 08:18 AM

Eleven Madison Park Dinner: Prix Fixe or Tasting Menu??

Hi everyone. With the huge amount of reviews and suggestions on this board, I've never really needed to post anything before. But next Thursday is kind of a big deal so I wanted some advice. Accompanying me will be male friends and the girlfriend. None have dined at a place like EMP before. I wanted to ease them in to "fine dining" and picked EMP because I've heard how casual they are relative to other similar establishments. Which menu do you think would be best to break em in?

Btw, is the only difference between the prix fixe and tasting menu the main courses?


Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

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  1. If money isn't an issue, then certainly go for the tasting.

    The quality of the food is just as good on either menu, obviously, but you get a better chance to experience a variety of techniques and ingredients on the tasting menu. The tasting often seems to include courses that aren't options on the prix fixe.

    But... on the flip side, are they adventurous diners? The prix fixe allows you to have some control, whereas with the tasting, everything is big surprise. I personally love the idea of not knowing what's coming next, but I know not everyone does.

    Someone else can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you might get one more amuse with the tasting?

    2 Replies
    1. re: loratliff

      I'd say they are adventurous eaters and money isn't an issue. I personally love the idea of not knowing what the next dish is and I'm sure my friends would too. However, one of my friends seem to be more carnivorous minded than the rest of us. I'm not sure how he'd react to the two veggie dishes you mentioned in your review.

      Btw, great review and blog you have going there.

      1. re: ClosetFatty

        Glad you enjoyed the blog. :)

        Your friend may be carnivorous, but I doubt he's ever eaten multiple courses of it before! After all of that protein, the veggie dishes were a relief. (I happen to love vegetables, but I think that even the most die-hard carnivore would love the current veggie dishes on the tasting. The eggplant was seriously sublime.)

    2. I think your friends might like to see a wide variety of different dishes so the prix fixe might be a better idea. With the tasting menu everyone gets the same thing, although, as loratliff points out, it is fun to be surprised. When I dine solo I tend to get the tasting, but if I'm with someone else or a group I like prix fixe (unless there are choices on the tasting menu; Daniel was the last restaurant I went to that had two choices for each course on the tasting menu). You should talk to the personnel at EMP once you are there and make the decision as a group. Don't hesitate to point out that this is the first fine dining experience for some of you and ask their advice. With the new menu format the staff must be used to a lot of questions. I think you have made a good choice and you really can't go wrong with either prix fixe or tasting.

      1. Having done both menu options I would recommend the prix fixe. Although you indicated that money is not an issue, I feel that, overall, it is the better value. Correct me if I'm wrong, but our captain confirmed that the tasting menu (6-courses) was composed of dishes from the prix fixe menu, so there's no off-menu items you'd be missing if you go the prix fixe route. Also, I believe the duck no longer requires advanced notice and can be ordered upon request during dinner service.

        I also don't believe the menu changes the type or number of amuses and/or pre-dessert. The only difference I've noticed with regard to these is that there are more amuses offered during dinner than lunch.

        I agree with loraliff, and I think the decision ultimately depends on you and your guests' preferences. You'll have more control with the prix fixe than with the tasting. However, EMP is known for their stellar service and would be more than happy to accomodate any request you have. But considering you mentioned that neither of your guests have dined at a restaurant like EMP then I'd consider how big their appetites are, as you'll have a generous amount of food between the amuses and excellent house-made bread alone!

        Enjoy, like many others on this board EMP remains one of my favorite restaurants and you really can't go wrong with whatever menu you choose.

        7 Replies
        1. re: TheDegustationAsian

          I totally forgot about the fabled duck! Hm.. maybe a prix fixe with an added duck course?
          I've heard the duck is meant to be served to pairs but it's going to be a party of 5, do you think we'll be able to get the duck?

          I'm probably just going to let the rest of my party in on everything I've researched about EMP and leave it up to a vote. Thanks everyone for all your input! I'll report back on how things went.

          1. re: ClosetFatty

            Their ducks come in different sizes, meant for 2 or 3. I would assume that with 5 they would just give you one duck for 2 and one duck for 3.

            I'm not certain that the prix-fixe has the same number of amuses.

            While there would be a greater variety if everyone chose different dishes off the prix fixe, I find that the dishes aren't big enough to share (or even if they were, noone would want to), so it might be a better group experience if everyone can join in the same enjoyment.

            1. re: fooder

              The prix-fixe and the tasting menu have exactly the same number of amuses and mignardises. However, at lunch, there are fewer amuses and mignardises than at dinner.

              As far as the duck goes, when there were six of us and we added it to the tasting menu, they used only one duck in order to keep the portions tasting menu size. If it's ordered by five people as the main protein of the 4-course menu, you're probably right that they'll use two ducks. However, if it's an add-on to the 4 courses, I'm guessing they'd just use one.

              Note that there is a $35 per person surcharge for the duck.


              1. re: RGR

                How would you compare the lavender duck at EMP vs the rotisserie duck at momofuku SSam (I saw on your blog you've had both - they looked great). i have a dinner res for 4 @EMP in a few weeks and was thinking of ordering the duck as a supplement to the prix-fixe, which at $35pp means its the same as the $140 charge @momofuku

                1. re: yosh1

                  I prefer the duck at EMP, though it is relatively close. I think that the duck at EMP is, for lack of a better description, more delicate and nuanced. The duck flavor shines though, where the ssam bar duck is more heavily (and wonderfuly!) seasoned. Both are certainly worth the cost, though you get plenty of food at EMP and you might not need the extra course (though need and want are two totally different things).

                  1. re: nmprisons

                    I've added the duck as an extra course a couple times (shared it with one other diner in our party once and two others another time), sharing between two was a big addition, three much more manageable, so I think sharing it between four of you as an added course would work out really well.

          2. re: TheDegustationAsian

            A slight correction. The tasting menu is *7* courses + amuses, the egg cream, and mignardises.

            As far as the duck goes, while it is usually available at dinner without an advance request, it can very occasionally not be available. So, if you knows you definintely want it, it's best to make that clear when booking so that the kitchen will be sure to have one ready for you.


          3. Ok, I had my long awaited dinner at Eleven Madison Park last night. Since most of my party doesn’t make enough money to dine like this frequently, we all decided to go all out with the tasting menu. Conan O’brien described how being in a car crash, one would feel confused, angry and elated. That’s kinda how I felt after leaving EMP. But I’m happy to say that I was more elated than the other two (feeling angry only for a few moments after the hefty bill arrived.)

            Having read countless reviews of EMP, I tried to use that knowledge more as insight rather than an expectation. Although a bit awkward at times, the service was friendly and easy going. With the only exception being the Philip Seymour Hoffman looking Sommelier; he was more serious and “proper” than the rest of the staff. Our server did a great job of being both fun and professional. He joked about how my Girlfriend’s orange nail polish matched the hair color of one of the other servers (though he failed to realize his hair was just as auburn.)
            The food surprised me in both good ways and bad. Who would have thought a dish titled “Lettuce” to be so complex and satisfying? I went all in with the tasting menu after reading someone explaining it as being put through the chef’s stream of thought. There clearly was a lot of thought put in to each dish and I was happy to pick up on the juxtaposition of the two veggie dishes. The lettuce dish let the veggies all the crunch and leaving the silkiness to the prosciutto. While the Swiss Chard dish let the crispy bacon wrap stand out while the sautéed Chard did all the smooth talking. I was served the same Scallop dish that Loratliff had been, and I can say that it was the best entrée that night. The dish was simultaneously bright, dense, smoky and light. The beef and pork dishes were the bad surprises. I was expecting just as much punch from those dishes, but it was a lot more subtle in flavor. The pork confit had a lot of porkiness, but I felt that it was a bit under seasoned. Even with the accompanying pork jus.

            One thing that didn’t really make sense to me was the bread service. They served croissant type rolls with the two kinds of butter. The croissants were obviously fresh out of the oven and were offensively buttery in all the right ways. I mean it smelled of butter, and upon touching it, you felt the butter on your finger tips. Unfortunately the accompanying butters on the croissant kind of became white noise.

            Another surprise was how good the egg cream was. The ostensibly scant drops of olive oil really added a nice note to the vanilla and milk. I’m not the one with a huge sweet tooth so I was happy that the chocolate cannelloni tasted more of chocolate than it did of sugar. I only regret not saving the egg cream to wash it all down. After the dessert course, we were presented with the petit fours. The baguette chip with a corner dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with salt was a bit too salty for me. I think chef Humm was trying to go for a contrast similar to a chocolate covered pretzel (which I love.) But for me, that small corner of chocolate didn’t really do it for me. The lemon thyme macaroon was the best of the bunch. And the Meyer lemon shortbread was no slouch either. Danny Meyer could easily open a bakery that revolved around those two items. They were that good.
            At the end of the meal I asked my party if they were full. Everyone agreed they were content. This is not a bad thing at all. Imagine going to Disney World and not having to wait on any lines. Like leaving the theme park with all the experience and fun but without the sore feet. My party also agreed that we all wanted to come back. My girlfriend shies away from “fine dining” establishments because she doesn’t like complicated food and feels out of place at fancy restaurants had said how we have to come back even before we were through with our amuses.

            All in all it was a great experience. I tried many new flavors and my mind has opened up to the power of “Lettuce” (The veggies used were actually variations of lettuce ie. endive.) I can’t wait to come back.

            Eleven Madison Park
            11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

            2 Replies
            1. re: ClosetFatty

              Thanks for the great report! I'm heading back to EMP at the end of next week for the Tasting Menu. Sounds wonderful!

              1. re: ClosetFatty

                Great report. :) Thanks for letting us know how it went.

                I'm glad that even the fine dining-averse if your party had an enjoyable time.