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Jul 27, 2012 12:23 PM

EMP--now what?

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  1. I have to say I'm shocked. I love EMP (both pre-grid and with the grid), but this all just seems strange to me... Maybe I just don't get it. It just seems like an odd thing to do. (Particularly quite soon after releasing a cookbook.)

    1. I can just see the black and white canapes served on smoking rocks set upon on lavender scented pillows and headphones with a soundtrack of chirping birds. The problem with such gimmickry is that it's so infantilizing, as if the chef is trying to entertain a five year old. There's no need to change anything afaic.

      3 Replies
      1. re: peter j

        While it's premature to judge EMP. hiring a magician to develop the dessert course does seem to be an idea copied from Alinea.

        1. re: Scott_C

          Who did Alinea hire?

          And, um, if we're really splitting hairs here then didn't Alinea copy Adria?

          1. re: Scott_C

            Must have been something that originated in the midwest, my husband remembers tableside magicians at Johnny Hartman's restaurant in Davenport, IA in the late 50's...this whole thing strikes me as way off the rails.

        2. Can't tell whether the menu will become set for the entire dining room or whether there will be still some choices. Also wonder what will happen to their lunch menu.

          6 Replies
          1. re: ellenost

            "The grid menu will remain, but it will now be blended with a tasting menu of about a dozen dishes. The $195 price will be the same as for the restaurant’s current tasting menu, but a $125 option will no longer be available."

            So I'm guessing they'll let you choose a few of the dishes on the tasting but everyone has to get the tasting? And it'll be the same menu for lunch & dinner.

            "The changes are daring for Eleven Madison Park, which has worked so long to reach its perch and where the new marathon meal will become the only option — even at lunch."

            1. re: kathryn

              So it sounds like I'll be more frequently dining at The NoMad and saving EMP for only very special occasions. What a shame--used to love going to EMP on a regular basis just for a nice dinner out. EMP has now moved into the Per Se stratosphere where I'll probably dine there once every few years. I'll miss them.

              1. re: ellenost

                I'm wondering if they'll keep the a la carte in the bar area for dinner. Kind of like Per Se's lounge.

                1. re: kathryn

                  I heard the physical bar area will not change and if I understood the conversation I believe the menu in the bar will still exist post format change.

                2. re: ellenost

                  Ellen, when I first read that, I thought that was the idea. I agree—it is a shame. Per Se was once in a blue moon, whereas EMP still felt approachable for a (very) nice dinner out. This current iteration doesn't seem that way.

                  1. re: loratliff

                    My guess is they feel they have the casual covered with Nomad so they want to use EMP as a place to experiment and push their craft. I wish them well.

            2. From the article:

              "Will the transformation delight customers, or alienate them by seeming gimmicky? "

              I wrote off EMP after my one experience with the "grid" (after many great meals in the original format), so it doesn't matter as far as I am concerned, but this new plan sounds truly ridiculous.

              14 Replies
              1. re: rrems

                I agree with you on this. I'm not a fan of the grid menu either. This new change sounds terrible to me.

                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  I don't see how the "Grid" menu is (was) any different than any other four-course prix fixe. The only difference was that at EMP, you could ask about different preparations. Seems a silly thing to be a fan / not a fan of, it was about as relevant to the meal itself as what font they used.

                  1. re: sgordon

                    I'm not a fan of that font. ;-) Overrated and overpriced.


                    1. re: sgordon

                      Honestly, I'm the type who does all the research about the menu beforehand and already knows what to order going in. EMP's grid menu throws all that out of the window. I don't appreciate not knowing what's on the menu and having to play the "coax more details out of the server" game.

                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                        Agreed, and our server was not at all helpful in explaining it or offering choices. She was really pushing us to just be surprised.

                        1. re: rrems

                          I never let Chef "surprise" me. I always asked for a detailed description of each dish that I was possibly interested in trying. The grid was wasted on me since I always requested detail. All of the servers that have taken care of me have always been extremely gracious in providing all of the requested detail.

                            1. re: uhockey

                              When I used "Chef" I was referring to Chef Humm. I've enjoyed the surprise of the menu at Ko for more than 4 years.

                              1. re: ellenost

                                Not trying to be difficult, but I find this perplexing - you're willing to "trust" whichever random chef Chang has on the line that night to "surprise" you, but not willing to allow a decidedly more celebrated and talented chef the same opportunity?


                        2. re: Cheeryvisage

                          ...then I guess the entire concept of a "Chef's tasting" that varies day to day is lost on you anyhow.


                          1. re: uhockey

                            What? I was talking about the prix fixe, not the tasting menu (which doesn't use the grid).

                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                              The tasting borrows directly from the grid.

                              What I meant was, if you like the concept of pre-choosing everything before you arrive then I have to imagine a Chef's Tasting Menu is probably never right for you, just like the concept at EMP where you choose an ingredient and Humm prepares it however he likes.


                              1. re: uhockey

                                No, I in fact enjoy chef's tasting menus when I'm in the mood for it. But I'm not in the mood for tasting menus all the time, therefore I order prix fixe or a la carte instead. And this is why I don't appreciate getting something tasting menu-ish (unknown ingredients/dishes) when I order prix fixe.

                                1. re: uhockey

                                  But Chef Humm DOESN'T prepare the dish "however he likes", if by "however he likes" you mean to imply improvisation based on momentary whim.

                                  It is clear that, for each dish on the grid, there is a default preparation. Which everybody who orders the dish gets. Just like at restaurants with normal menus. It's just that at EMP, they don't tell you what that preparation is (unless you ask).

                                  (To be sure, details might change based on daily availability of ingredients. Again, just like at restaurants with normal menus.)

                    2. I'll speak up from the alternative view point - these guys haven't failed yet, and $195 hardly matches Per Se's $295 price tag.

                      EMP has been an ambitious project from the day Humm started there - they're taking a gamble and shooting for the stars. I wish them well and will certainly put it on my agenda for visit #4 the next time I'm in town.


                      14 Replies
                      1. re: uhockey

                        Per Se is service included but not tax, right?

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Correct. Plus the Foie supplement of $40.

                          I'm not saying EMP is on the level of Per Se - I love EMP but find Per Se to be a superior restaurant - but what I'm saying is that Michelin, the Times, and (slowly but surely) S.Peligrino consider them both to be superior restaurants. In addition, as good as Per Se is, EMP has truly become "NEW YORK" - a slow progression of Will and Daniel truly embracing the culture and heritage of New York.

                          If a friend with unlimited funds was going to New York and asked me what the BEST meal in New York was, I'd say Per Se for the $550 Extended Tasting. If someone asked me what the most memorable New York 'experience' meal was, I'd likely say Eleven Madison Park.......and if they didn't have unlimited funds, I'd be hard pressed to choose between EMP's tasting or Per Se's tasting.


                            1. re: tpigeon

                              I remain stunned at the backlash they continue to get.

                              Back when they were essentially giving away Michelin 3* food and service (my first visit in 2008) all people did was complain that the restaurant was underrated.

                              Then the restaurant got 'rated' and continued to have a substantially underpriced lunch deal and people still said they needed more stars.

                              Next they really change things up - go to the 'grid' - which really wasn't all that different from prior (and a bit gimmicky, imo, since the dishes did not vary from table to table,) they up the ante in amuses, mignardises, and Humm's food evolves to an even greater degree - plus they get 4 stars from the Times and 3* from Michelin - and all people do is complain about the grid.

                              Now they come up with this new concept and without even trying it people want to hate it, critique the price point, etc.

                              It is a special restaurant. It is a great restaurant. It is cheaper than Per Se, Masa, Brooklyn Fare, Meadowood, French Laundry, Robuchon, and Alinea.......all 3*s, as well, and it continues to evolve.


                              1. re: uhockey

                                <they up the ante in amuses, mignardises>

                                No they did not. Back in the old days before the "grid" I got more amuses and mignardises than after. The trick is that instead of serving one plate of canapes they divided it up and served several plates in succession, but overall there was less than there used to be.

                                1. re: uhockey

                                  What you just outlined is confusion for many casual visitors. Unless you go yearly, it depicts a lack of consistency - not in food quality, or service - but approach.

                                  They've gone from affordable bargain sleeper to highly rated big splurge. They've gone from finessed classic, with some inventiveness to puns, and gastronomy.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    They aren't a "causal restaurant" anymore. They are a destination restaurant. El Bulli didn't start out as it ended, either.


                                    1. re: uhockey

                                      They were always a destination restaurant, now they want to become an event. A backlash is natural.

                                      There are still people talking about their signature duck dishes from the old incarnation. Who can keep up?

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        They were not a "destination" until they got the 3* from Michelin. Whether people like it or not, the pull of those stars to the European/Asian tourist is HUGE.

                                        People who want "EMP-lite" now have Nomad which is certainly closer to EMP than Bouchon is to Per Se.

                                        Besides - at ~$200 pp after beverages, tax, and tip (Even before this change) I WANT my meal to be the 'event' of the day/night.


                                        1. re: uhockey

                                          "They were not a "destination" until they got the 3* from Michelin. "

                                          Nonsense. They've been the a Chow favorite since Humm arrived, and at least since their 4 stars from the New York Times.

                                          Chowhounders have been recommending it as the standard destination for special occasions, proposals, business meetings, splurges, bargain lunches, and everything in between since it was a Danny Meyer, ala carte affair.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            Yeah. "Destination" doesn't mean that people from Hong Kong go there.

                                            "Destination" means that people from, say, the Upper West Side go there.

                                            1. re: Sneakeater

                                              Right..or both, as was the case of EMP since it opened.

                                    2. re: uhockey

                                      Thank you for writing this, uhockey, I couldn't agree more.