Ericandblueboy

Eleven Madison Park - 2012 National James Beard Award Winning Chef-Owner Daniel Humm on 11 Madison Avenue in Flatiron

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I have a couple of questions. What's the difference between lunch and dinner other than the price? What's the difference between the 4 course and tasting menu (how many courses are served with the tasting menu)?

I can't speak to the difference between lunch and dinner, as I've not had lunch there. We did have dinner there last September and we chose the tasting menu. We were served 12 courses, although some were more properly called 'amuses'. We still talk about it with reverence. It was possibly the most incredible dining experience of my life.

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I have not been since election night 2008. We did the 4 course menu for dinner. It was one of the single most perfect dining experiences of my life. (Citrus in LA 1996, Provence in DC 1996, Citronelle 2004, the Church in Straford, ON 2001-2008 are the others.) The service was wonderful. The food was great. I think there were drinks though we went out for more drinks later and then champagne at the hotel bar once the results were clear.

I haven't been back, It is partially because I don't get to NY much anymore and I can't afford to drop that much money on dinner again. But I'm afraid it won't be as wonderful and I don't want to diminish the memory of a perfect evening.

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There are so many things going on each dish that I can't focus my attention. We added a duck, which I ordered in advance, and it costs $100 just by itself. Luckily the 4 course lunch was only $75, so it was about $100 per person for lunch. I have photos which I'll post later. I had foie gras, lobster, and lamb. We never got dessert because my cousin had to catch a flight, my brother had a call, and I had dinner reservation at Amada in Revel in Atlantic City. Not saying they are better, but I enjoyed Elisir and Eola more. It's easier to appreciate simple foods for me.

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I can't really tell you what else is on those plates - some are obvious while others are not. I liked the duck breast, the rest of the duck was was under that foie cream sauce.

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It's a nice position to be in but I've been able to go to a lot of high end (high priced) Michelin starred restaurants in many countries.  As a result, in comparing apples to apples and looking at cost, I'm often very critical and destination restaurants, while often excellent, frequently leave me a bit underwhelmed.

Friday night's dinner at Eleven Madison Park still has me in awe.  With no real choices other than one of two for the main protein and whether you will or won't eat foie gras, you put yourself in the hands of the chef but what hands they are.  A couple of days later numerous courses still have me saying wow.  The only disappointment was a squash course that was not bad but simply oversold.  With two bottles of really nice wine picked from an intense list, the total for two brushed up against $1000 (it would have gone over had the recent price increase kicked in), but even at that price I would dine there again in a second.

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Has anyone ever been VIP'd at EMP? Did it involve a key?

If so, can you detail your experience here?An acquaintance of mine recently had dinner at EMP, and was treated to something very special after his meal.  I have asked him to join here and detail the night, and if he does not, I will try and summarize it second-hand.

I work in hospitality and have worked in luxury dining and lodging segments. The story he told me was MAGIC.

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Here is a description of the typical "VIP" experience (at the end), which is similar to what I remember from a few years ago.  What you actually get isn't really any different than the usual dessert service, so I assumed it was a clever way to clear a table.  The key thing, which is described here, sounds like something different entirely.

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Here is a description of the typical "VIP" experience (at the end), which is similar to what I remember from a few years ago.  What you actually get isn't really any different than the usual dessert service, so I assumed it was a clever way to clear a table.  The key thing, which is described here, sounds like something different entirely.

That is so over the top. That must be what "American 3 stars" is all about. You don't find that stuff in Paris.  Magic tricks!

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Sounds like EMP jumped the shark after Danny Meyer sold the restaurant.

This could be, but I went when Meyer *did* own it (this was in 2002 or 2003), and it wasn't anything even resembling a Michelin 3-Star restaurant then.

Quite honestly, I think Danny Meyer has jumped the shark (actually, "selling out" and becoming wildly rich and famous is very different than "jumping the shark" and throwing a Hail Mary pass to try and save an institution past its prime, so my terminology is flawed).

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Here is a description of the typical "VIP" experience (at the end), which is similar to what I remember from a few years ago.  What you actually get isn't really any different than the usual dessert service, so I assumed it was a clever way to clear a table.  The key thing, which is described here, sounds like something different entirely.

The "key thing" on the Trip Advisor review is correct. My friend provided far more detail than is mentioned in the brief review. If I wasn't on vacaton I would write it for him...and I am still hoping he joins.

It all sounds a bit precious.

It does, and it was. I believe EMP stopped the "tricks" and the grid menu, and the hyper-effusive description of the "providence" of everything on the menu and in the building a few years ago

This could be, but I went when Meyer *did* own it (this was in 2002 or 2003), and it wasn't anything even resembling a Michelin 3-Star restaurant then.

My friend ate at Per Se the night before, and found that meal to be more purely delicious than EMP, but he was splitting hairs. He said the overall experience of EMP was far better than Per Se, Alinea, etc.

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This could be, but I went when Meyer *did* own it (this was in 2002 or 2003), and it wasn't anything even resembling a Michelin 3-Star restaurant then.

Quite honestly, I think Danny Meyer has jumped the shark (actually, "selling out" and becoming wildly rich and famous is very different than "jumping the shark" and throwing a Hail Mary pass to try and save an institution past its prime, so my terminology is flawed).

That was when Kerry Heffernan was chef. EMP rebooted completely when Daniel Humm took over the kitchen in 2006 focusing on a more Michelin-star like experience.

Not touching the Danny Meyer comment other than to say that accusing him of "selling out" (whatever that means) is a gross simplification.

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Not touching the Danny Meyer comment other than to say that accusing him of "selling out" (whatever that means) is a gross simplification.

Keith, not only did you "touch" the comment, you slammed it to the ground, starting with the rhetorical word, "accusing." I understand you may not want to argue (and quite honestly, neither do I), but let's at least be forthright.

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So here is the story told by my acquaintance about his dinner at EMP. Although I have seen this couple socially on numerous occasions, I had no idea about their passion for food and beverage until the other day, when it was suggested to them to ask me for some help in procuring a bottle of wine. Mark asked if I might be able to help, and he showed me a picture of Bracchetto from Giovanni Almondo "“ an odd bottle for sure. I asked him where he had it and he said that he and his wife just celebrated their anniversary at EMP.

I asked him how the dinner was and he said the dinner was "flawless." His wife chimed in that their dinner at Per Se the night before was arguably more delicious, but the meal at EMP was the best experience "by far". And so launched the story.

They tend to make reservations at excellent restaurants "as early as possible"¦because we love food and want to be surprised by what comes out. Had we eaten at Alinea at 8pm instead of 5:30pm, much of the magic and "˜wow' factory may have been lost".

They show up early for their reservation and are not seated, and can't go to the bar to have a cocktail. They have made their reservation on bartender Jim Betz's last night, and the pre-shift honors have delayed proceedings. Nonetheless, they are seated on-time and get the wine pairing. Mark and his wife are really gregarious people, and were by no means pissed off that they could not get a drink prior to dinner. Their waiter explained why the bar was closed and they made chit chat about Mr. Betz and his "All Betz are Off" signature drink. The meal progressed, with  "spectacular course after spectacular course."

About 30 minutes into their meal, the AGM came over and inquired as to their plans after dinner. They were heading to a cocktail bar afterwards, and she wondered "if they might trust her to have a little fun". They quickly said sure, and the AGM returned with a solitary skeleton key, placed it on the table, and told them it was for later. The next 2 hours were filled with anticipation"¦.."What is this key for?"

At the end of the meal"¦.the key still sat there. They paid their check. The AGM came back and asked them to come with her"¦.and bring the key.

They left the building and walked through Madison Park, with the AGM providing a walking tour of the area and a history of the restaurant, her experiences there, etc. She brought them to the Nomad Hotel, a few blocks away, and explained that EMP runs the food service here. She gives them a tour of the restaurant and various bars and leads them to the Library, a bar reserved for guests of the hotel and members. They are seated at a table, asked to place the key on the table, and bid adieu.

A few minutes later, Jim Betz appears at the table with his signature cocktails. He apologizes for the bar being closed early and hands them a deck of cards. From here on out, they are to pick three cards from the deck, and a cocktail would be made based upon their selection. The cards had pictures of herbs, vacation destination, muscle cars, super heroes, and all sorts of random things meant to evoke flavors and emotions. He says the rest of their evening is complements of EMP, and leaves.

The key still sits there. They drink their cocktails and select cards for their next drink. They say the selection process is "a blast". Soon thereafter, a large chest is placed on their table. It is locked. They finally get to use their key and open the chest to find it laden with snacks and confections and cheeses and meats and pretty much more than they could possibly eat the rest of the evening. They looked around The Library and no one had any of the food that they were having, much less and entire chestful. This was just for them.

They asked the server where they could purchase the deck of cards, as they would like to replicate the drink experience at a party in their home. "they are made specifically for EMP. Please take them with you."

They ate and drank and ate and drank and several hours later, after "about 6 drinks each and 5 pounds of food" they asked for their check. No check was presented, as everything was "on" EMP. They wouldn't even run their card for $.01 so they could leave a tip. They emptied out their wallets  of all the cash they had for the server, and walked out into the NYC darkness "“ positively delighted.

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They ate and drank and ate and drank and several hours later, after "about 6 drinks each and 5 pounds of food" they asked for their check. No check was presented, as everything was "on" EMP. They wouldn't even run their card for $.01 so they could leave a tip. They emptied out their wallets  of all the cash they had for the server, and walked out into the NYC darkness "“ positively delighted.

Amazing story!

I don't understand the bit about not having to pay. Were they a friend of someone?

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I don't understand the bit about not having to pay. Were they a friend of someone?

Nope. This was just an EMP way of doing something special for a guest. They told me the story a solid week afterwards and were still just giddy and beaming

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On the one hand, you have EMP rising to the number 3 overall spot on the SP top worldwide list this year.  On the other hand, you have Tom Sietsema saying he was 'bored'.  Having dined here this weekend, I'm going to side with Pellegrino.

To be fair to Mr. Sietsema, EMP changed their format - reportedly in January after his visit.  It used to be 20+ courses lasting more than four hours.  Our experience on Saturday was eleven courses, and clocked in a few minutes shy of the three hour mark.  

Booking the reservation is like many of the other top restaurants - 28 days in advance, phone lines open at 9am sharp.  Call at 9:30 and get offered a 5:30 table.  5:45?  Lunch.  Well, it just so happens that my four month old decided to throw an epic tantrum at 8:55, so lunch it is!  I was hesitant - after all, it is the same price, supposedly the same menu, but having this meal be a lunch felt like it may lessen the experience.  But it also seemed like it may lessen the wine bill, so lunch it was.  Side note- the restaurant does offer a limited number of reservations from Open Table - released also at 9am each day and snapped up immediately.

Courses (some of these weren't full courses, but for the sake of simplicity...):

1. Black and White - savory cookie with Apple and Cheddar.  

2. Cucumber with cream cheese and rye, melon variations with tomato and goat cheese, cucumber with honeydew and mint, cantaloupe with smoked watermelon

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3. Foie Gras marinated with strawberry and black pepper.  This course had several options, my wife chose crab covered with tiny zucchini.  The foie also had an option of a sauteed lobe or the terrine, as you can see below, I chose the terrine.

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4. Caviar picnic with pickled mackerel and ratatouille.  So a server drops off a picnic basket at your table and asks you to unpack it, then stops by a few minutes later to explain.  Within the basket were small jars of ratatouille topped with caviar, the pickled mackerel, two jars of osteria over creme fraiche toasts, and a jar of tomato water champagne.  It was a relatively straightforward caviar course made a little more fun with the picnic theme.  And I want to know where to buy that tomato champagne.

5. Sunflower with green tomato and sunflower crumble.  This was also a choice course - my wife chose the creamed sweet corn with clams.  This course, for both options, was as close as a miss as there was for me.  The braised sunflower was fine, but was served over the green tomato coulis and a dollop of what tasted similar to mayonnaise.  Too many tart flavor profiles which the crumble couldn't offset.  My wife's creamed corn was much more delicious, but the presentation was sloppy and the clams weren't needed.  I'm splitting hairs, but probably our least favorite course.

6. Lobster Boil.  Another choice between the lobster boil and a smoked fish.  The lobster boil was exactly what you would expect - lobster, clams, shrimp, sausage, beans etc cooked in a minestrone sauce, the drained out over paper on the table.  Completely unexpected for the type of restaurant, and delicious.  Saw a few other tables get the smoked fish and were very glad with our choice (which had to be agreed upon)

7. Duck - honey and lavender glazed with cherry and onion.  Other choices were steak and something vegetarian.  Just a wonderful piece of duck.  

8. Corn custard with garlic and lime and roasted tomato with compressed bread.

9. Hudson Valley Camembert with plum and basil.  Basically small muffins with a camembert filling.  At first I was disappointed in this as the cheese course, but these were very well done - it was almost more of a crusted cheese than a cheese muffin.  Inhaled.

10. Apricot that was grilled at the table, served with lemon thyme ice cream and honey

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11. Chocolate 'Name that milk' game and pretzel with sea salt.  Four chocolate bars were set on the table with a small game card - challenge was to guess which was made with cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milk.  

The wine pairings here felt a little ridiculous.  Full pairing for $245 comes in as being more expensive than the cost of the food if you remove the inclusive service charge (225 -> 295) with the 'esoteric pairing' I believe at 170.  We split a bottle of sparkling rose to start the meal, then my wife had two glasses of chardonnay and I had a pilsner and a manhattan from the manhattan cart (which I got far more entertainment out of than I maybe should have), along with the gratis brandy at the end.  Total booze bill was still less than one wine pairing would have been, and we were pleasantly day drunk on the way out.

There was very little gastronomy.  There wasn't a lot of flash.  But there certainly was not boredom.  It never felt like the lag between courses was excessive, and I'm a guy who likes to keep things moving.  The little interactive touches like the picnic basket, grilling the apricot at the table, the lobster boil, the chocolate game kept things interesting.  Sure, if I went every week they might become trite, but I doubt that frequency is a problem for many diners.  This was also a menu that had heavily seasonal accents - lots of fresh corn and late summer tomatoes.  The one curiosity I did have was the difference between lunch and dinner.  They say its the same menu, the same price, etc.  But did the evening meal have the asparagus cooked in pig's bladder that I'd heard so much about?  Or the caviar benedict instead of the picnic?  Who knows - but I volunteer to go back to investigate next time someone else is paying!

For those wondering, the total bill was $818.  295 base price including tip, plus $70ish worth of tax and the alcohol.

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