Thoughts on EMP
Had dinner for my birthday last night at EMP. A few thoughts:
1 - The grid is no more. We both had the same menu (with a few adjustments for personal dislikes). I am not sure if this is permanent - there was the Governor fundraiser (really, a fundraiser for a restaurant? anyway that's another topic...) in the private room, so maybe they limited the menu.
2 - The food overall was excellent. Highlights were the parsnip course, the shellfish ragout with uni, and the lobster (much better than the lobster at per se). The gimmicks (picnic basket, card trick, smoked sturgeon, etc) were fun and kept it interesting without distracting from the food.
3 - Service, as you would expect, was excellent. Handwritten birthday card was a nice touch, if a little cheesy. We were in the table in the back corner where the carts are, and I actually enjoyed being there and seeing the choreographed dance of the staff.
4 - Wine list had some great values and the somm geared us to a great bottle. Lots of decent bottles with some age for not crazy prices (though sadly not as much as there used to be). From what I saw the table next to us getting, the paired tasting was all wines from the BTG list and did not seem to be a great value. Better to go for a few glasses and then do a bottle or half bottle.
5 - Kitchen tour and cocktail was a lot of fun.
1 - The ribeye was overcooked. The side dish with the steak was amazing (foie, oxtail, foam, etc), but the steak itself was overcooked and a tiny portion of end pieces (cue Woody Allen). Should have chosen the duck! It sounded like the duck was a large portion, so it was a bit confusing getting two little pieces of steak.
2 - Value - I realize that a large portion of the cost is service and a huge number of employees, but protein-wise the meal seemed a bit skimpy. The only substantial protein courses were the lobster and the steak. There were three root veggie courses (carrot tartare - excellent, salsify - ok, and parsnip - amazing). I'm sure they pay extra to get the best of the best, but root veggies are cheap. I understand what they are trying to communicate - look at how good these humble veggies can be! - and in that they succeeded, but something still felt a bit lacking. Would have been nice to have a piece of fish, or maybe some pork, or chicken.
So in the last 6 months I've been lucky enough to eat at three 2 and 3 star restaurants in NYC (EMP, per se, and ko). Overall - I thought EMP was the best experience - combination of comfort, service, fun, and food. Ko had the best food (lack of comfort was made up for by the lower price). Per Se was great, but almost too overwhelming and was a bit of a stiffer experience.
Regarding the benefit - it was for a restaurant that lost EVERYTHING to the storm, EMP was gracious enough to give them use of the upstairs dining room and kitchen, all food was prepared by the staff of Governor.
On your other point - You had no say in what you were served? They just brought you food?
At the beginning there was the usual "any allergies, specific dislikes." Also got to choose duck or steak. But that was it. They catered around the dislikes (my wife doesn't like "fishy" things so they subbed squash for sturgeon in the smoked course and apple foam for uni in the shellfish ragout) although it was still the same course just with subbed ingredients. From the looks of it everyone was getting the same courses.