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The "new" menu at Eleven Madison Park

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I think it is wrong of me to call it a new menu but I didn't want to call it a new format either. Have there been changes made? Yes. Is it so drastic to be able to call it new? I don't think so, it's no more new than I am because I'm not the exact same person I was a few years ago.

It will be very hard for me to give any kind of substantial review because I would hate to be the one to ruin the impact of the changes/additions for future diners. There are some elements of surprise and whimsy that shouldn't be anticipated but rather just enjoyed as it happens. I think the most will be gotten from the experieince by just having an open mind.

So, anyway, we went for the first night on Friday. At first blush, the space looks as it always has until you look a little closer and maybe see some softened lines, some softer fabrics, some changes to lighting, but in essence it's the restaurant you've known.

We did a quick visit to the bar area where there are a few changes that make the interaction with the bar staff a bit more continuous, less obstructed, we liked the change because we enjoy the conversations we have while are drinks are being made.

We were seated in the dining room and shortly after presented with the very familiar grid menu (yes, presented the menu, it's no longer where you've come to expect it). We were also asked if we would be interested in a cocktail and made aware of the new Manhattan cart, we of course went with this option because we love our Bourbon cocktails. The list of Manhattans all riff on different areas of the five boroughs of New York and use variations of recipes to pay tribute. Leo himself rolled the cart up and told us some history about the drinks and origins of the Manhattan etc, it was fun, the drinks were made tableside and were excellent. Strongly encourage any lovers of bourbon based cocktails to go this route.

After we had some time alone with our cocktails our Captain asked if we had any questions about the menu, we liked being surprised but wanted to make sure we didn't select anything we may have had recently, as it turned out, I believe he said every preparation was new so it was an open book. I was deligthed to see sweetbreads as a main, I love sweetbreads and was dying to see what the kitchen could do with them. My other courses were, Langostine, Potato (if it's on the menu and the same prep as Friday, GET IT!), for dessert I went the pistachio route because I'm a bit of a pistachio junkie, it did not disappoint. My GF had the beets (loved them), the parsnip (such a beautiful plate), the mushroom, which she liked but it was a lot of food at this point, and for dessert she had the fig (which she raved about). So as you can see not that big of a change from the grid, the changes lie in the other course, the surprises, the tributes, the homages, none of which could even be SLIGHTLY construed as gimmicky, they were subtle and wonderful and had a story behind them. And they are what I wish I could explain on this review but I feel it would be a disservice to anyone planning on going to EMP. I will say this, it was some of the best dishes the kitchen has ever turned out.

The service is still seemless, still that incredible balance of professional but approachable, and IMO, very genuine, start asking questions and I swear the staff lights up, and it's not just the Captain and Sommelier, it's anyone, the server filling your water glass, the runner bringing food, the kitchen staff presenting an amuse.

Chef and Will made rounds checking to make sure everything was just right and they seemed absolutely giddy with their newest creation. Obviously the other guests were happy as well because sounds of their enjoyment were evident, everyone we saw seemed to be truly enjoying the experience.

I was actually jealous of people that would be dining Saturday night because I wanted to do it all over again right away. Go with an open mind and you will be greatly rewarded.

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  1. Great report!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ellenost

      Thanks ellenost.

    2. Cool… Wait. I thought it was tasting-only, at $195? What's this grid you speak of?

      3 Replies
      1. re: calf

        The grid is incorporated into the tasting menu.

        1. re: Sneakeater

          Right, as sneakeater pointed out, the grid is still in affect for the four courses that anchor the meal. If you go to the website you can see an example of the grid.

          1. re: Spiritchaser

            The sample menu still says this, confusingly:

            Four Courses: 125
            Tasting Menu: 195

            Wine Pairings: 95 / 145

            http://elevenmadisonpark.com/pdfs/sam...

            The cocktail menu is still the old one, too.
            http://elevenmadisonpark.com/pdfs/bar...

      2. Fascinating article in last week's, September 10, 'New Yorker" about EMP (and NoMad); required reading, I'd think, for those not 'in the business' -if not for those who are.

        "Check Please" by John Colapinto
        http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/20...

        4 Replies
        1. re: Phil Ogelos

          NB: you must be a subscriber to access this article, it's not free.

          1. re: kathryn

            I know, but I thought signalling that the article exists, and that one can read the abstract using the link, would be of interest to motivated 'hounds (and NYorker subscribers who have still to plow through back issues.)

          2. re: Phil Ogelos

            Just read the article. Really a fascinating look not only into EMP, but also into the workings and economics of fine dining in general.

            1. re: Blumie

              It was a good article, wasn't it, Blumie -really revelatory, especially for 'hounds.
              I'm glad you read it; I hope many others do, too.

              EDIT: It also puts in perspective the sort of client who nicks things on any given night -I remember reading about guests who tried to steal the bathroom light fixtures at Gramercy Tavern. Now I see how injurious that kind of theft, even napkin- or flatware-stealing, really is.

          3. Not sure if this was clarified in an earlier discussion, but is it still possible to dine à la carte at the bar?

            I'm extremely curious about the 'three-card monte' dessert course now, but I understand why no one will be spoiling it...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Winterpool

              Yes, menu still available at the bar!

            2. Thanks for the report!

              Now, to get a reservation...

              1. Nicely state summary...I was also there on Friday..I was going to put something together today but a backed up pipe in the basement last night has put me a little off kilter...:( It will be great to utilize your review as a bouncing off point now though!

                We had a 7:30 ressie...and what turned out to be a nearly 5 hour meal as we waited a bit at the end for a tour of the kitchen (which was very much appreciated). Service and staff were great...and we were celebrating our 15th anniversary and had a two top next to the wine station by ourselves...what appeared to be the only two empty seats next to us on the other side. Not sure if it was coincidence or a planned bit of privacy but it was much appreciated.

                As someone who has been to EMP before...was the delivery of the non-savory cookies at the end a new twist as part of the NY homage? If so...cute touch.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Lawshark

                  Yes, the cookie delivery was new : ), and I agree, it was a cute and clever idea.

                  1. re: Spiritchaser

                    Is the duck carved tableside still an option?

                    1. re: DaisyM

                      Yes it is, and a lot of people were going that route.

                      1. re: Spiritchaser

                        Do you know whether the duck has a supplemental charge, and how much it is? The duck is one of my favorite dishes at EMP.

                        1. re: ellenost

                          That I can't answer. It is a very rare occassion : ( when I can get the duck since GF is a vegetarian.

                        2. re: Spiritchaser

                          Thank you! I was afraid that with the menu change it wasn't going to be offered.

                      2. re: Spiritchaser

                        The black and white cookies in a box? If so, that's not new.

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          The cookies are not new, the means of delivery are.

                    2. So excited for this review. I've been to EMP once a year every year since 2007 and have enjoyed its various transformations. I'm visiting NYC in Oct/Nov and hoping to snag a spot for either lunch or dinner. I've never tried to split a wine pairing there before - surely they allow this, right?

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: pizzajunkie

                        Yes, they absolutely will split a pairing or if you prefer give them your price point and get a couple bottles, remember, a restaurant of EMP caliber isn't going to have plonk on the wine list OR if you like beer have your meal paired with it, lots of fun.

                        1. re: Spiritchaser

                          Cool! Thanks for the info, Spiritchaser!

                          1. re: pizzajunkie

                            And you probably already know this but lunch and dinner are now identical so whatever rez you can get you won't be disappointed.

                            1. re: Spiritchaser

                              I think it would be great if EMP added lunch on Saturday.

                              1. re: ellenost

                                I agree, lunch on Saturday would be a welcome option.

                              2. re: Spiritchaser

                                Yes indeed! :)

                                1. re: pizzajunkie

                                  Hi everyone, any idea whether the four course lunch menu is still available? Is there only one menu now- ie both lunch n dinner tasting menu priced similarly? Thanks

                                  1. re: Japfan

                                    There is only the one menu available for both lunch and dinner at $195 per person.

                                    1. re: ellenost

                                      The only other option would be dining in the bar area where an ala carte menu is offered.

                                      1. re: Spiritchaser

                                        Thanks for info! I am going to opentable to reserve soon.

                        2. Pete Wells is not best pleased with the culinary tour guide's narration.

                          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/din...

                          'Talking All Around the Food'

                          'Stilted and earnest, these little homilies recur throughout meal. While people come to Eleven Madison from all over the world, those who live in the city may have to fight back the impatience and urge to interrupt that come with the keys to every New Yorker’s first apartment. The narrative tone isn’t sharp, it isn’t quick, it isn’t wised up, and it assumes the listener knows nothing: in other words, it’s not a New York voice. By the end of the four hours, I felt as if I’d gone to a Seder hosted by Presbyterians.'

                          27 Replies
                          1. re: Winterpool

                            Oops just to check, possible to book through open table?

                            1. re: Japfan

                              Yes, you can reserve via opentable, although not as easy as it used to be since EMP changed to the '(longer) tasting menu only' policy, which resulted in slow turnover rate hence less number of tables available per day.

                            2. re: Winterpool

                              Interesting article. Thanks for posting Winterpool.

                              1. re: Winterpool

                                I have a lunch booked for early October. It is a reach for us financially, one I was willing to make, but that Wells article is giving me cold feet....

                                What to do...?

                                1. re: amysrq

                                  That Wells article only made clear what was obvious from EMP's own publicity regarding the new format. If you were interested before, I can't see why you wouldn't still be interested.

                                  1. re: Sneakeater

                                    My wife and I had lunch there last week on Thursday September 13th. I read the article, and can understand Pete's points, but as a first timer to the restaurant, and this menu, I found the explanations added to, rather than detracted from the experience. The service, atmosphere, food and experience were outstanding, and far exceeds any meal the two of us have ever had. I would get tired of it if I went every month though (and broke as well), but I am sure if requested the dialogue can be cut back and the food enjoyed for itself.

                                    Our experience was very positive...our "captain" was Natasha, she was friendly, knowledgeable, professional and flexible. We did the kitchen tour as well, and met Daniel, and several other of the chefs. The cocktail was great, as was the presentation. We could not believe how quiet the kitchen was...extremely clean and organized. Overall we loved it!

                                    1. re: golfer1

                                      I was waiting for someone unfamiliar with EMP to jump into the conversation and you said exactly what I had anticipated (I mean that in a very positive way).

                                      Regarding your assumption about the conversation being cut back, based upon our experience, you are correct, we are fairly regular visitors and I think that influenced the length of the discussions we had about the courses, they seemed a little less involved than other tables BUT we were glad they were given and in no way did it distract from the experieince. Obviously some people around us were really enjoying the explanations because they pushed the Captain for more information.

                                      And I agree, Natasha is a fantastic Captain. Glad you enjoyed it.

                                      1. re: golfer1

                                        This is great to hear, golfer1. Thanks for your input.

                                      2. re: Sneakeater

                                        Excellent point, there was nothing in the Wells article that EMP wasn't up front about. And just curious amysrq, are you from NYC?

                                        1. re: Spiritchaser

                                          Nope, not from NYC. Not sure why that matters....except that maybe as one who lives in the hinterlands, I will not be so jaded... :-)

                                          I guess I was motivated by great food and now I am concerned that the whole thing may feel too contrived. I want it to be about the cooking, and the presentation as well. I am not so attracted to the narrative.

                                          I love poetry, but I want it on my plate!

                                          1. re: amysrq

                                            It doesn't matter where you are from as far as I'm concerned but some people seem to think it impacts the level of acceptence for the homage to NYC.

                                            Regarding the food; I don't think anyone here would doubt the fact that EMP most certainly hasn't "lost the plot" and first and foremost the food reigns.

                                            If you have found Wells reviews to coincide with what you like then maybe EMP isn't for you but IMO you'll be missing something wonderful (and I'll save someone the trouble of saying it; yes, I am a huge fan of EMP because they have never once let us down).

                                            1. re: Spiritchaser

                                              I don't really have a strong connection to Wells....I take notice, but don't consider his word gospel. Bruni, maybe. But that could be a function of familiarity, and even some sense of affection, over the years.

                                              Maybe the bottom line here is this.... I was already questioning (ever so slightly) our decision to dine at EMP, given that it's so far out of our normal price range. I want it to be "perfect." I nudged my husband into the idea and don't want to be left on the hook for an expensive experiment! Spending this money will not force us to eat ramen for a week. And we would probably pay as much in France without more than a cursory wince at l'addition. It is just my nature to have some self-doubt. I am glad I came here to toss it around and get your feedback.

                                              1. re: amysrq

                                                When spending that kind of money some doubt and questioning can be a good thing : ). If you do go I'd love to see your review of it after the fact.

                                                1. re: Spiritchaser

                                                  Thank you...you are most kind. I will make every effort to come back with a review.

                                                  1. re: amysrq

                                                    Oh, one more thing, if you want to try the food but forego the length of the tasting menu you could do ala carte in the bar area.

                                    2. re: Winterpool

                                      No more narration?

                                      http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/09/...

                                      1. re: Riverman500

                                        I saw that too! I was kind of looking forward to the narration....oh well!

                                        1. re: pizzajunkie

                                          Perhaps you can put in a request for the narration? They would probably do it....

                                          1. re: Riverman500

                                            I certainly hope they don't do away with it but if they have had more negative than positve comments from diners they'll have to do what they deem best for the restaurant. On demand might be a good option as long as the process would be unobtrusive.

                                            1. re: Spiritchaser

                                              If the Times critic writes a piece that essentially announces he's going to take away at least one star if they don't do away with the narration, I don't think it much matters whether other customers have also complained.

                                              1. re: Sneakeater

                                                or approved...

                                                1. re: Sneakeater

                                                  I wonder if they'll nix the carrot tartare as well. Wells was a bit snide about it.

                                                  >> About midway through my lunch, a server clamped a meat grinder to the table. He began talking about New York’s steakhouses, famous around the world. By this time, the smoke of seared dry-aged beef was in my nostrils. “One of the most iconic dishes in steakhouses is steak tartare,” he went on.

                                                  Something about that seemed not quite right, factually, but I quickly forgot about it because his next move was to feed a cooked carrot into the meat grinder. This was Eleven Madison Park’s tribute to Manhattan’s temples of beef: bright orange mush that you might feed a baby.

                                                  There was more to it than that, of course. Mr. Humm is a wizard with vegetables; I don’t think there’s another New York chef cooking at his level who can tease as much flavor and beauty from them. So by the time I’d mixed the carrots with the garnishes that stood in for the traditional steak tartare extras, then applied a few drops of mustard oil and carrot emulsion presented in plastic squeeze bottles, I had one of the most surprising, inventive carrot dishes I’ve tasted in a long while. But my appetite was primed for porterhouse. No carrot should face that kind of competition. <<

                                                  1. re: Riverman500

                                                    I would hope at the very least they would keep it as a course, even without the pomp, because it was one of the highlights, tastewise, of the meal.

                                                    1. re: Spiritchaser

                                                      Right. Even as to the carrot dish, Wells's objection was only that the narration/presentation ruined it (by raising expectations of a different dish). He expressly said that the carrot dish was really good in and of itself.

                                              2. re: Riverman500

                                                I wondered that too, Riverman - coming from New Orleans, I would love to hear that sort of narrative because all that information is completely new to me!

                                                1. re: pizzajunkie

                                                  I'm sure they would be happy to oblige with the narrative if you mention it the reservationist beforehand.

                                                  1. re: Riverman500

                                                    I will try it (if I actually secure a reservation, lol), thanks Riverman!

                                        2. We're back home, after lunch at EMP yesterday and I have to say it was a marvelous experience. I am so glad, as is my husband. Yes, it was an "investment" and perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, but really a thrill of the highest order. I can't quite imagine I considered not keeping my reservation!

                                          As I look back at the "narration factor" it is difficult for me to know whether i would have gotten the NY theme quite so clearly if I had not read up in advance and known what to expect. The explanations were subtle -- it's hard to tell how much they had scaled back after Wells' comments. The charm of almost all the staff was a major contribution to the meal. Some of them seemed quite joyous to be bringing us surprises throughout the afternoon. It was lovely. (We had one slightly snotty guy pour us a glass of wine and happily we never saw him at our table again. When everyone is so nice, the not-so-nice ones stand out like a sore thumb!)

                                          As is often the case, I found myself less excited about the entrees than the openers. Often, when dining in France, the first course is far and away my favorite, things going ever so slightly downhill from there. I had this experience yesterday, but it only lasted for a brief while and at the time I was thinking it was perhaps sensory overload or gustatory exhaustion. Others have mentioned just not liking the food item, rather than having it be sub-par. This could be the case.

                                          The two items that left me non-plussed were the langoustine (mine) and the pork (his). We were passing plates back and forth, so I only needed one bite of the pork before the sweetbreads came back to me. I happily swapped fois gras for langoustine. One of the most outstanding dishes was the parsnip, if for no other reason than the fact that a parsnip is so terribly humble. The collision of peasant ingredient and royal treatment was in and of itself a delight. Visually, it was stunning to me.

                                          The kitchen visit was also huge fun for us. The little treat they whip up was memorable and I got to see someone get a bit of a tongue-lashing for not doing something just so. But, overall, it is a positive, if fiercely intense, environment. We also met a sous chef from our area who cooked a local dinner here not too long ago. It was a treat to have him visit our table and then to chat with him again in the kitchen. He was holding two winter squashes, planning to work on some new dishes I believe, and again, I was taken with the thought that two very ordinary vegetables, things I cook with all the time, could end up a part of this extraordinary dining experience. Indeed, so many of the ingredients are things we use every day. A few exotics, yes....but mostly "normal" foodstuffs combined with out-of-the-park creativity and perfect execution.

                                          We shared the wine pairings and, as with any well thought out wine dinner, the selections made all the difference. We really wanted to be on auto-pilot and not have to wrestle with the winelist. I think we had a total of eight pours, all most excellent.

                                          After the pork/langoustine moment, things got better, though the number of sweets that make up the dessert courses were...well....a lot. Too much? I don't know -- can one ever have too much dessert? All I can say is that I am glad some of it came home in a little bag with me.

                                          Once back on the streets, both of us felt like were walking a little on air. The "high" from 4+ hours of sensory pleasure had really taken hold! In fact, we are still buzzing a little today.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: amysrq

                                            thanks for your review! Did lunch really take longer than four hours? What time was your reservation? So you had no trouble sharing the wine pairings?

                                            1. re: pizzajunkie

                                              We booked for 12:30. We were seated at the bar for maybe 10 minutes and then taken to our table. We left at around 5pm...last people out of the place. I had a sense that others were moving faster than we were.

                                              No trouble at all sharing the wine pairings. They pour into one glass and you share.

                                              1. re: amysrq

                                                Ah, good to know. Appreciate the info, thanks!

                                              2. re: pizzajunkie

                                                A year or so ago, when my husband and I shared the wine pairings, we were each given a "half glass" of each selection.

                                                1. re: Nancy S.

                                                  That's what I would have expected I guess.... but I can deal with one glass! :)

                                              3. re: amysrq

                                                I'm sorry I failed to acknowledge your review sooner because I meant to keep an eye out for it.

                                                Great write up and I am so happy to hear you enjoyed it so much, I almost felt as if I had a vested interest in your visit.

                                                1. re: Spiritchaser

                                                  Thank you -- very kind. Even a month later, I still get a little buzz when I think about EMP. The ROI is holding strong. :-)

                                              4. Thanks for the report. I was wondering if you agreed with Pete Wells's assessment:

                                                "If a meal goes on for hours, even radical costume changes from course to course may not be enough. Daniel Humm has rounded up an amazing variety of ideas for his new $195 tastings at Eleven Madison Park. But I wasn’t sure why he was presenting so many at once. Some of the menu was based on classic New York dishes, but a lot wasn’t, and I struggled to find a single point of view."

                                                http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/din...

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: fm1963

                                                  I would disagree with that. The single point of view IMO was excellence and innovation. Nothing felt out of place to me.

                                                  One thing I failed to mention earlier was that I felt the timing was a little off in the back half. A few courses felt ever so slightly rushed and the second dessert course seemed to lag, especially since we were just about alone in the room with the staff, who were preparing tables for dinner.

                                                  1. re: amysrq

                                                    Thanks for the additional info! My res is for noon, so I'm hoping to wrap up at 4:00. I wonder why such a lag for your second dessert course? That does seem weird.

                                                2. PSA - 2 tops available for tonight. Never seen that before...probably out of towners who had to cancel. (same at JG btw)