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Our inaugural EMP birthday trip - review/comments

As some of you may have seen, I took my girlfriend to EMP for her 25th birthday this past weekend. It was both of our first times in the dining room (we'd come to the bar to try Brooklyn Brewery's Local 11), and our first Michelin 3-star outing. While some of my coworkers may call me a foodie, I may only be a burgeoning one by CH standards. As such, I have no pictures, took no notes, and am only writing this based on what I remember. I hope that it is enjoyable anyway!

We arrived right at 9:45PM for our reservation, and the host greeted me by name, greeted my girlfriend by name (remarking on the spelling of her name) and wished her a happy birthday. Within a couple of minutes we were heading towards our table in the dining room. 5 minutes later, we were introduced to our waiter and the sommelier, both of whom were very friendly. We order the tasting menu with the wine pairing. Our waiter is sure to ask about anything we are allergic to and anything we don't care for and don't want to see as part of the tasting menu, and when I mention olives, he's sure to ask if it's just olives or also olive oil and related products. The sommelier comes by shortly after to ask about any wine preferences. We are both very into beer, so we say that any course he feels would be suited to a beer pairing instead of a wine pairing, we'd be open to that. Unfortunately, the duck was not offered as part of the tasting menu.

The gougeres arrive soon after. These are simply delicious. I remarked that it was "the most elite Cheez-It I've ever tasted." I could eat these all night. Alas, that was not to be.

From here, I'll post the courses and wine/beer pairings as they read on our printed out menu and my remarks.

First Pairing: Claude Genet, Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, Chouilly, Cote des Blancs

MUSHROOM

Tea with Brioche and Truffle

This was a teacup full of 'mushroom tea' and a tiny brioche with black truffles on top of it. The 'tea' was great - an interesting mixture between tea and soup. The mushroom flavor was pronounced but not overwhelming. The brioche was perfectly crispy and the truffles popped with flavor, complimenting the tea perfectly. The champagne was a great compliment here too - light, crisp, a bit fruity.

TUNA AND SCALLOP

Basil and Meyer Lemon, Ceviche with Tangerine

I ate the scallop first as I typically prefer tuna to scallop, wanting to save the best for last. A colossal mistake. The scallop's flavor contrasted and complimented by the tangerine combined in a way that would make it a contender for best dish of the night. I only wish there were more. The tuna was served with basil and lemon atop a light crisp. It was also delicious, albeit not as wow-inducing as the scallop.

Second Pairing: Schloss Schoenborn, Winkel Hasensprung, Spaetlese Trocken, Rheingau, Germany 2009

YOGURT AND CHICK PEAS

Lollipops with Curry; Panisse with Yogurt

The panisse was great - very lightly crispy and the chick peas and yogurt all worked well together. The lollipops were made with curry and Greek yogurt. Unfortunately, the Greek yogurt overpowered the curry flavor. There was a very slight hint of curry, but if I didn't know it was there, I'm not sure I could pinpoint it. I enjoy Greek yogurt well enough, but it's a bit too strong for this dish. The wine was an exceptional dry Riesling.

APPLE

Gelee with Sea Urchin, Caviar, and Foie Gras

Another 'wow' inducer. This was just delicious. An array of flavors and textures that compliment each other nicely. There were small pieces of apple in the gelee as well. The foie was the delicious buttery goodness I expected. The caviar was not overpowering as it sometimes can be. The sea urchin was nicely balanced with the tart-yet-sweet gelee as well. Definitely an all-star dish. I feel like this would be an easy thing to get wrong - something is overpowering or the flavors are dissonant instead of harmonious. The wine complimented it all very well, to top it off.

I believe bread started here - served with cow's milk butter, goat's milk butter, and fleur de sel. The bread was quite good, and delivered hot. The butters were good but almost superfluous due to the richness of the bread. The goat's milk butter was quite intense, nearly tasting like cheese.

Third Pairing: Southampton Publick House, Saison

CLAM

Clambake with Chorizo, Apple, and Potato

This one I wish I had taken a picture of. Two different clams are served in seashells (two each) - one apple, one chorizo. In the center is a stone pot, which they kindle a miniature fire under with some sort of hot rock contraption to heat some New England clam chowder. The presentation is spot-on and impressive. The clam chowder is then poured into what look like coffee mugs and consumed like a hot drink. The clams were both phenomenal, and the chowder was even better. I really, really, really want more of it. Again, the seafood/fruit combination is a clear winner with the clam/apple playing off each other. The farmhouse funky flavors of the saison go quite well with the clams and the saltiness of the chowder.

Fourth Pairing: Patrick Piuze, Vaucoupin, Premier Cru, Chablis, Burgundy, France 2008

FENNEL

Salad with Meyer Lemon, Bottarga, and Couscous

Fennel isn't something that I'm normally excited about, so the amount I enjoyed this dish was surprising. The fennel was just present enough to make itself known without making everything taste exclusively of fennel. The presentation here was fun - a straight line of salad and couscous with some colorful accents.

Fifth Pairing: Georg Mosbacher, Forster Ungehauer, Auslese, Pfalz, Germany 2007

FOIE GRAS

Terrine with Plum, Bitter Almond, and Umeboshi

Fabulous. The foie gras was a long rectangle surrounded by thin almond cookies and topped with a bitter almond crumble. Surrounding it were plum and umeboshi. As before, the foie texture was heavenly. The almond made for an intense foie dish, but not in a bad way. The plum/umeboshi calmed it down a bit, with a very sweet Riesling to help along the way. I was really, really sad to see the end of this one.

Sixth Pairing: Brasserie des Franches Montagne, Cuvee du 7eme, Biere de Garde, Jura, Switzerland 2009

Right around here, our waiter brought a small blueberry mignardise tart over with a candle in it, telling my girlfriend that it was officially after 12AM and wishing her a happy birthday. A very nice touch!

ENDIVE

Roasted with Truffle, Egg Yolk, and Pear

I was pretty concerned upon hearing "endive, roasted." Visions of my grandmother's slimy cooked vegetables danced in my head. Thankfully, it wasn't the case here. The truffle, egg yolk, and pear proved to be three excellent and varying compliments to the already-good roasted endive. The egg yolk was in the form of a sabayon. The sour and vinegar-y biere de garde was a perfect compliment here, as well.

Seventh Pairing: Chateau Margaux, Pavilion Blanc, Bordeaux, En Magnum France 1999

LOBSTER

Poached with Autumn Mushrooms and Spinach

A good-sized amount of lobster with three different types of mushrooms and cooked spinach lay before me. The lobster was delicious, perfectly cooked, and slightly buttered. The mushrooms were amazing- leading my girlfriend to realize her once-ambivalent attitude towards mushrooms may in fact now lean in the solidly pro-mushroom direction. The cooked spinach, however, really did remind me of grandmother's slimy cooked vegetables. That aside, the dish was quite good. Lobster's one of my favorite foods and it was certainly an excellent example of why.

Eighth Pairing: Patrick Jasmin, Cote-Rotie, Rhone Valley, France 2004

LAMB

Roasted with Eggplant, Sheep's Milk Yogurt, and Sweetbreads

One of the highlights of the night. The lamb was so tender and cooked perfectly. The yogurt on the side was a delicious compliment. The sweetbreads were perfect - crunchy and extremely savory for the tiny package they came in. The eggplant was very mild - it actually shocked me that it was eggplant (I only learned after viewing the printed menu) - as it's usually not something I care for. My only regret is the lamb was gone too soon.

Ninth Pairing: Huet, Clos du Bourg, Moelleux Premier Trie, Vouvray, Loire Valley, France 2002

BLUE CHEESE

With Pear, Chestnut Honey, and Bitter Greens

Two different cheeses in two corners of the plate, one corner surrounded by pears, one corner surrounded by bitter greens, and a line of chestnut honey as a dividing line. Blue cheese is something I can only eat a small amount of, and this was about the limit. It was great cheese, and the pear, honey, and greens helped to offset the strong flavor (especially the pears, which were particularly delicious.)

EGG CREAM

Orange, Cocoa Nib, and Seltzer

The much-vaunted EMP egg cream, but this time, orange syrup and orange oil rather than olive oil. I could have drank a thermos of this. Nearly dreamsicle-esque in taste, a perfect egg cream texture… absolutely divine.

Tenth Pairing: Vinhos Barbeito (Rare Wine Co.), Malmsey, New York Special Reserve, Madeira

CHOCOLATE

Gianduja with Hazelnut, Espresso, and Caramel

Wow. This came in the form of a gianduja chocolate bar in the center, hazelnut ice cream on the right, and espresso sponge on the left, with caramel to accent. The Madeira was potent, bordering on port-like intensity. When I heard 'hazelnut ice cream' and 'espresso sponge', I was expecting a sweet overload, especially paired with a bar of gianduja. I'm not normally a big chocolate fan (though I do love gianduja.) I was wrong. The hazelnut ice cream was intensely bitter, as was the espresso sponge. They both balanced the sweetness of the caramel and gianduja well, with the Madeira in the middle as the mediator. A phenomenal dessert. (My girlfriend's came with a candle in the sponge as a further birthday wish.)

We also had cappuccino at this point, which was pretty good (and presented with white and brown sugar cubes.)

We're then poured a snifter of cognac each as a digestif, with the bottle left on the table and the invitation to drink as much as we'd like. I was particularly impressed with this because we were one of the last two tables (it was around 1:15AM or 1:30AM at this point), and absolutely no pressure whatsoever to leave so they could close.

As we're preparing to leave, my girlfriend is given an Eleven Madison Park chocolate bar in a box, and a bag with four EMP-branded 'guides' for lack of a better word, showcasing chicken, beer, wine, and cocktails, as well as a large guidebook to elite restaurants around the world.

THE TAKEAWAY: It was undoubtedly the best meal of our lives. (My second is the beer-filled wonderland of De Heeren van Liederkerke in Liederkerke, Belgium.) The service was what it's been lauded to be - absolutely perfect without a hint of snooty or stuffy. The servers and sommelier were professional and on top of everything - from water refills to course timing to folding napkins when my girlfriend left for the restroom to any questions about the dishes or wine we had. The only 'disappointment' was the lack of a kitchen tour (which I realize is not something that is part of every meal, and I only know about from CH.) I did notice that no one seemed to be going back to the kitchen - I kept my eye open and didn't see an entire table get up through the nearly 4 hours we were there. When I am deciding where to go for a high-end dinner in the future, it'll be hard to decline a return visit to EMP, even though I definitely want to hit other destinations in New York like Per Se, Daniel, and Jean-Georges. All praise (and all stars) is warranted.

Edit: I'll certainly be back in the next week or so to try some Nine Pin (the other EMP-exclusive Pappy van Winkle-aged beer.)

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

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  1. Thanks for the very thorough review! The clambake and egg cream sound divine, as does the rest of your meal. I'm glad you had such a great time.

    1. Loved your review almost as much as a cold Cherry Lemon Sundrop!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: nyctripper

        what....is.....CHERRY LEMON....sun drop?! I MUST HAVE.

        1. re: sundropforever

          At my favorite BBQ joint in my NC hometown, they mix Cheerwine and Sundrop and top it off with a lemon slice. A real treat!! And Sundrop has both bottled it and sold it as a slushy. The joys of small town NC!

        1. Many thanks for the review... It's lovely that you had such a wonderful dinner there (and of course a relief to us EMP-boosters). It's also fascinating that you had both wine and beer with your dinner.

          I also mixed up the pairings and wondered how well a moelleux Vouvray went with roast lamb!

          Interesting that they've kept the egg cream but added orange and chocolate. If I recall correctly, their original 'egg cream' had no chocolate but relied on the olive oil and malt to suggest the flavour.

          Does anyone know when/if truffles will be appearing in earnest at EMP this autumn?

          5 Replies
          1. re: Winterpool

            OP mentions an aversion to olives in the beginning so perhaps that is why they changed it for this meal.

            1. re: kathryn

              Mmm, I wonder if the rest of us will be able to request it...

            2. re: Winterpool

              GF had the pasta with a generous portion of white truffles a couple weeks ago (but maybe you are reffering to a full blown menu).

              1. re: Winterpool

                We also went to EMP on Friday for the first time and received the egg cream with orange oil and cocoa nib bitters (so did the table next to us), so maybe they changed it for the new season?

                The white truffles were on the menu for a $95 supplement, but since we didn't get them (and I don't know much about how EMP usually does their white truffle menu) I'm not sure if this is the same pasta dish that Spiritchaser mentioned or something different.

                1. re: jessbnjess

                  I went there yesterday for my (early) birthday lunch with a friend. (I'm working on my photos/video and review in a few days.)

                  The white truffle course is either the pasta version that Spiritchaser mentioned or the traditional way with risotto. I saw other tables near me ordering both versions and there was a generous pile of Alba truffle shavings on their plates. (I opted out since I wanted the Duck for Two.)

                  Tina
                  http://thewanderingeater.com

              2. thanks for such a detailed review! I can hardly wait to (hopefully) get a reservation there in December!