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Eleven Madison Park


donbert
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Of course, congratulations to Chef Humm and Mr. Meyer. Eleven Madison Park is an excellent venue.

And, well, condolences to New York. If Eleven Madison Park (a restaurant I liked very much) is really worthy of four stars -- "extraordinary," in the words of the Times -- there's no point in the rest of the country coming to visit for the very best that the US has to offer in dining. Unless EMP has improved dramatically in the last 18 months (a case that Bruni doesn't make to my satisfaction), I can get the same level of food and service at more than one place right here in Atlanta.

Bruni also fails to explain how EMP is the equal of Jean-Georges or even the late Alain Ducasse (which, if I recall correctly, got only three stars), let alone Per Se. I've been to the former two, both of which exceeded EMP in every measure (including, of course, price, but that's not supposed to be the point).

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Of course, congratulations to Chef Humm and Mr. Meyer. Eleven Madison Park is an excellent venue.

And, well, condolences to New York. If Eleven Madison Park (a restaurant I liked very much) is really worthy of four stars -- "extraordinary," in the words of the Times -- there's no point in the rest of the country coming to visit for the very best that the US has to offer in dining. Unless EMP has improved dramatically in the last 18 months (a case that Bruni doesn't make to my satisfaction), I can get the same level of food and service at more than one place right here in Atlanta.

Bruni also fails to explain how EMP is the equal of Jean-Georges or even the late Alain Ducasse (which, if I recall correctly, got only three stars), let alone Per Se. I've been to the former two, both of which exceeded EMP in every measure (including, of course, price, but that's not supposed to be the point).

I agree completely. Why did Bruni feel the need to review EMP for the second time. What has changed over the last two years that merited a revisit. He demoted ADNY and didn't bother to return when Chef Esnault ran the kitchen. There is no doubt that ADNY under Esnault's direction was a four star establishment. There is no way that EMP is the equal of Per Se, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin.

Unfortunately, I also think that this review is the end of formal fine dining in this country. That is indeed a shame.

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There is no way that EMP is the equal of Per Se, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin.

That much I agree with (incredibly strongly with Per Se, less so with JG, much less so with LeB). I just don't understand why this would preclude them from also being a 4 star establishment. Daniel is certainly no way the equal of those three either.

edited to add: I also agree Bruni was incredibly unfair with ADNY, and overly generous re-reviewing EMP so much.

Edited by sickchangeup (log)
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I think part of the problem is the meal you go there for. At a regular 2 course lunch, the food is good but regular - 2 stars. The lunch tasting reminded me more of 3 star food. Regular dinner is around there too. The Gourmand was clearly a 4 star meal. Bruni probably eats the latter, and probably none of the former.

This doesn't happen at LeB, JG or Per Se.

Edited by sickchangeup (log)
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What is with this doom and gloom? I don't know what kind of ivory tower some of you have put per se and the rest of the four-stars in, but I don't think that Eleven Madison Park is any less worthy. I may not have eaten at the NY four-stars as frequently as some of you, but I have been to them all.

My two favorite NYT four-stars, up until this evening, have been Le Bernardin and Jean Georges. I return to them as frequently as possible. But I can name flaws in both restaurants that Eleven Madison Park, in my book, doesn't track.

For all of those who posit that Humm's food has stagnated, let's take a look at Jean Georges's menu, shall we? Nearly half of the dishes are the same ones the restaurant has been offering for nearly a decade. The same can be said of some of Ripert's dishes. Yes, that's a function of popular items becoming "signature" items and, therefore, they remain, year after year, season after season. And why shouldn't they? They're great. And yes, I get it - your argument would be that these dishes have been perfected and that Daniel Humm's dishes haven't been perfected. I disagree.

Humm's food may not be the most thrilling or exciting food in the city. But per se and Daniel have demonstrated that four-star cuisine doesn't have to be thrilling or exciting. It just has to be technically flawless. I think Humm's food is exactly that. And, for me, it's more than just technically flawless. It's delicious. It's beautiful. It's creative. And it's diverse.

So what, exactly, is this plateau that Humm supposedly can't overcome? What is that next level that everyone is demanding? I think he's achieved a pretty high vantage already. Perhaps he can climb higher; I hope he does. But I don't see his cooking as any less significant or less technically proficient as the other masters whose ranks he now joins.

And then there's service. Yes, some complain that the Meyer family is over-eager, too friendly, (if that can be a complaint). Some find it "oleaginous." Fair enough. Meyer breeds a rather happy crew. But I'd much rather have happy and friendly service than the chilly and gruff service I've received at Le Bernardin and Daniel. And, well, at masa, there's hardly any service at all.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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I think part of the problem is the meal you go there for.  At a regular 2 course lunch, the food is good but regular -  2 stars.  The lunch tasting reminded me more of 3 star food.  Regular dinner is around there too.  The Gourmand was clearly a 4 star meal.  Bruni probably eats the latter, and probably none of the former.

This doesn't happen at LeB, JG or Per Se.

The duck, which he praises in the review, isn't served on the Gourmand, I don't believe. I suppose if you had a big enough party, it might be possible.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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While one could debate endlessly whether EMP is on the level of the other four-stars--I think it is--that also kind of misses the point of this review.

I'm not sure what he's going to write next week, but this review really summed things up nicely for him. The improvement of the restaurant spanned the entirety of his tenure as critic. EMP is Bruni's restaurant (that he seems to have a special attachment to it is clear) and, by extension, is an updated interpretation of the four-star NYC restaurant. Bruni praises the restaurant for its approachability and its value, both entirely valid points. More importantly, he notes that these facets are more reflective of the tastes of today's diners. If feeling at ease (be it because of the relatively lower price point, the friendliness of the staff, etc.) is an integral part of an "extraordinary" meal, EMP surely makes one feel welcome and deserves to be singled out because of this.

ETA: By no means is EMP my ideal NYC restaurant. It has faults, but it I'm of the opinion that the experience it offers is entirely on par with the other top tables in the city. My ideal restaurant, for those who care, would magically shrink the EMP dining room and somehow magically combine Humm and Liebrandt; it would be FOH-staffed with only EMP captains and management.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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There is no way that EMP is the equal of Per Se, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin.

That much I agree with (incredibly strongly with Per Se, less so with JG, much less so with LeB). I just don't understand why this would preclude them from also being a 4 star establishment. Daniel is certainly no way the equal of those three either.

edited to add: I also agree Bruni was incredibly unfair with ADNY, and overly generous re-reviewing EMP so much.

Because, my experience at EMP didn't even come close to the experiences I consistently have at Per Se, JG, and Le B. It failed on all levels that make for an enjoyable fine dining experience. I have had much better meals at Craft, Veritas, The Modern, and Atelier.

What makes for exciting and thrilling food? How often should a chef change the menu? Should we expect new york chefs to go to the lengths that Adria does to create new dishes and new menus? I want food to be properly executed and properly served, especially at a restaurant that has obtained a NY Times four star review. I don't think EMP came close to approaching those heights the one night I ate there.

Edited by sethd (log)
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While one could debate endlessly whether EMP is on the level of the other four-stars--I think it is--that also kind of misses the point of this review.

I'm not sure what he's going to write next week, but this review really summed things up nicely for him.  The improvement of the restaurant spanned the entirety of his tenure as critic.  EMP is Bruni's restaurant (that he seems to have a special attachment to it is clear) and, by extension, is an updated interpretation of the four-star NYC restaurant.  Bruni praises the restaurant for its approachability and its value, both entirely valid points.  More importantly, he notes that these facets are more reflective of the tastes of today's diners.  If feeling at ease (be it because of the relatively lower price point, the friendliness of the staff, etc.) is an integral part of an "extraordinary" meal, EMP surely makes one feel welcome and deserves to be singled out because of this.

ETA: By no means is EMP my ideal NYC restaurant.  It has faults, but it I'm of the opinion that the experience it offers is entirely on par with the other top tables in the city.  My ideal restaurant, for those who care, would magically shrink the EMP dining room and somehow magically combine Humm and Liebrandt; it would be FOH-staffed with only EMP captains and management.

Well said my friend. With the exception of shrinking the room - I happen to love it - I'll buy all of that.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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And, well, condolences to New York. If Eleven Madison Park (a restaurant I liked very much) is really worthy of four stars -- "extraordinary," in the words of the Times -- there's no point in the rest of the country coming to visit for the very best that the US has to offer in dining... I can get the same level of food and service at more than one place right here in Atlanta.

I'd be curious to hear about those extraordinary Atlanta restaurants no one has heard of. But in any case, whatever you may think of EMP, it is still just one of six four-star restaurants. One review, even an erroneous one, isn't the End of the World.
I agree completely. Why did Bruni feel the need to review EMP for the second time. What has changed over the last two years that merited a revisit. He demoted ADNY and didn't bother to return when Chef Esnault ran the kitchen. There is no doubt that ADNY under Esnault's direction was a four star establishment.  There is no way that EMP is the equal of Per Se, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin.
I thought the review explained pretty clearly what he thought had changed since the last time he reviewed it. If you've dined there recently and disagree with him, I can respect that. But he certainly did explain himself.
Unfortunately, I also think that this review is the end of formal fine dining in this country.  That is indeed a shame.

Based on one review????
I also agree Bruni was incredibly unfair with ADNY, and overly generous re-reviewing EMP so much.

What he did to ADNY was a crime. But having demoted it, there simply wasn't enough time for a re-review under Chef Esnault before the place announced it was closing.

Bruni reviewed EMP three times. The first one was pointless, as there had been no chef change, and he awarded the same two stars the restaurant had before. The second review made perfect sense, as Chef Humm had taken over, and he believed the restaurant took a quantum leap forward. As for the third review...well, if you're Frank Bruni and you believe EMP is worthy of four stars, isn't it your job to say so? Obviously, when he wrote the second review he didn't know that was going to happen.

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Congratulations to Chef Humm and the staff. They deserve it.

My experience is that it is ENTIRELY possible to have a less than inspiring meal at a four star restaurant. Jean Georges and LeB have almost always delighted while others have been less than consistent. I do not know, similar to the naysayers in the above discussion - why people rave about Daniel. Unless you are a celebrity or a critic or drop thousands on wine - Daniel is just - ok. or the old Bouley (not been to the new one yet). Consistency tends to fall with age too I think in most cases. Why would you question EMP's fourth star but hold Daniel or Per Se as sacrosanct. Is it more probable to get a divine meal at EMP or Daniel? EMP more likely in my experience.

Edited by vivin (log)
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And then there's service.  Yes, some complain that the Meyer family is over-eager, too friendly, (if that can be a complaint).  Some find it "oleaginous."  Fair enough.  Meyer breeds a rather happy crew.  But I'd much rather have happy and friendly service than the chilly and gruff service I've received at Le Bernardin and Daniel.  And, well, at masa, there's hardly any service at all.

Well said!

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edited to add: This is in reference to the follow-up entry I link to at the bottom of this post

This is a bit awkward, Bruni expounds so long on why he gave 4 stars to EMP that it almost reads like an apology. It seems Bryan hit the nail in the head FWIW.

"If Eleven Madison wasn’t exactly as steady as Le Bernardin or exactly as dazzling as Per Se, wasn’t the greater ease with which it could be navigated a compensatory virtue all its own?"

Wasn't it just 2 months ago that people (myself excluded) were yelling because Daniel got it's 4 stars re-affirmed on the strength of the new room and service standards - but not food? This seems awfully similar to that after reading Bruni's latest - that something other than the food gave it 4 stars. Of course eG loves EMP, and hates Daniel, so I'll probably get yelled at for comparing the two.

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Edited by sickchangeup (log)
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This is a bit awkward, Bruni expounds so long on why he gave 4 stars to EMP that it almost reads like an apology.  It seems Bryan hit the nail in the head FWIW.

"If Eleven Madison wasn’t exactly as steady as Le Bernardin or exactly as dazzling as Per Se, wasn’t the greater ease with which it could be navigated a compensatory virtue all its own?"

...

I fail to see how this is apologetic.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I fail to see how this is apologetic.

That quote was me backing up my "seems Bryan got it right" statement.

The apologetic part was the way the article read to me, he goes on and on explaining different things, even saying "They're still young and will improve even more!" at the end.

I probably should have started a new paragraph in between the first two sentences of my post.

Edited by sickchangeup (log)
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I fail to see how this is apologetic.

That quote was me backing up my "seems Bryan got it right" statement.

The apologetic part was the way the article read to me, he goes on and on explaining different things, even saying "They're still young and will improve even more!" at the end.

I probably should have started a new paragraph in between the first two sentences of my post.

Are we speaking about the review, or the subsequent Diner's Journal "supplement" that you linked to just a few posts upthread?

If the latter, I assume you must be referring to this:

About Eleven Madison, I’d like to add a few particular observations that weren’t accommodated by today’s review. Its main players are young, so we can expect a lot more from them in years to come, and they’ll be exciting to watch. I mentioned in the review that Mr. Humm is 32. John Ragan, the wine director, is 35. And Will Guidara, the general manager, is 29.

Even if you read that to mean that Humm and his crew "will improve even more," what is wrong with that? Does that preclude them for achieving four stars today?

This is stating the obvious, but the four-star system is imperfect. It is but one man/woman's opinion. You disagree with Bruni. I agree. Regardless, I certainly don't think you can fault Bruni for failing to justify why he finds Eleven Madison Park deserving of four stars. If that isn't clear from his review, this - from his Diner's Journal "supplement - makes it so:

And then, even after I upgraded the restaurant to three stars in January 2007, I kept hearing that he and the restaurant were getting better still. I circled back a few months ago, and my experience dovetailed with that assessment. Then I went again: another wonderful, wonderful meal. What I was eating at Eleven Madison Park and what I was feeling in that grand, glorious room added up to a magnitude of enchantment much greater than that at other three-star restaurants, and I felt Eleven Madison Park deserved separation from them. In the end the star system is a relative one, with restaurants being measured against one another as much as they’re being measured against some scientific paradigm.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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And, well, condolences to New York. If Eleven Madison Park (a restaurant I liked very much) is really worthy of four stars -- "extraordinary," in the words of the Times -- there's no point in the rest of the country coming to visit for the very best that the US has to offer in dining... I can get the same level of food and service at more than one place right here in Atlanta.

I'd be curious to hear about those extraordinary Atlanta restaurants no one has heard of. But in any case, whatever you may think of EMP, it is still just one of six four-star restaurants. One review, even an erroneous one, isn't the End of the World.

This isn't the place to discuss Atlanta restaurants, and you missed my point, anyway. My experience at EMP was very good. It wasn't extraordinary. So either EMP has improved vastly (a possibility I'll grant, but one that's not supported by Bruni's review) or the bar has been lowered quite a bit.

Dave Scantland
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This isn't the place to discuss Atlanta restaurants, and you missed my point, anyway. My experience at EMP was very good. It wasn't extraordinary. So either EMP has improved vastly (a possibility I'll grant, but one that's not supported by Bruni's review) or the bar has been lowered quite a bit.

Are we reading the same review here? The entire narrative seemed to me to be that EMP has improved dramatically.
Then I watched an improved, excellent restaurant, which I elevated to three stars from two in early 2007, make yet another unnecessary advance.
If you’d told me five years ago that I’d come to feel so strongly about Eleven Madison Park, I wouldn’t have believed it. But this is a restaurant that kept improving—that insisted on improving.
And then, even after I upgraded the restaurant to three stars in January 2007, I kept hearing that he and the restaurant were getting better still. I circled back a few months ago, and my experience dovetailed with that assessment. Then I went again: another wonderful, wonderful meal.
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Are we reading the same review here? The entire narrative seemed to me to be that EMP has improved dramatically.
Then I watched an improved, excellent restaurant, which I elevated to three stars from two in early 2007, make yet another unnecessary advance.
If you’d told me five years ago that I’d come to feel so strongly about Eleven Madison Park, I wouldn’t have believed it. But this is a restaurant that kept improving—that insisted on improving.
And then, even after I upgraded the restaurant to three stars in January 2007, I kept hearing that he and the restaurant were getting better still. I circled back a few months ago, and my experience dovetailed with that assessment. Then I went again: another wonderful, wonderful meal.

Saying so (which is all those quotes do) doesn't make it so. I just re-read the review. It's 1200+ words, only half of which Bruni uses to actually talk about the food.

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
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Eat more chicken skin.

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Are we reading the same review here? The entire narrative seemed to me to be that EMP has improved dramatically.
Then I watched an improved, excellent restaurant, which I elevated to three stars from two in early 2007, make yet another unnecessary advance.
If you’d told me five years ago that I’d come to feel so strongly about Eleven Madison Park, I wouldn’t have believed it. But this is a restaurant that kept improving—that insisted on improving.
And then, even after I upgraded the restaurant to three stars in January 2007, I kept hearing that he and the restaurant were getting better still. I circled back a few months ago, and my experience dovetailed with that assessment. Then I went again: another wonderful, wonderful meal.

Saying so (which is all those quotes do) doesn't make it so. I just re-read the review. It's 1200+ words, only half of which Bruni uses to actually talk about the food.

And? Seems to me what he *does* say about the food sounds like he really, really liked it. Why, you might even think it's four-star food the way he goes on about it, even if it doesn't appear to meet your threshold for number of words.

I gather from your initial post today that it's been 18 months since you were there. Bruni very plainly said that it's only in the last several months that he's been reevaluating EMP, and he seems surprised himself at the improvement since his last review (which was not all that much more than 18 months ago).

Christopher

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Those who have been several times over the past couple of years:

1. Do you agree that, 18 months ago, Eleven Madison Park was not a four-star restaurant?

2. If so, and if you believe it is one today, what has changed to make it a four-star restaurant?

(I don't think Bruni answers that second question effectively.)

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Why would you put less stock in multiple recent visits than a single visit made 18 months ago?

My own visit is not the only data point I'm using. There are posts on this topic (here, here, here and here) that support my view, as well as conversations I've had with people who have eaten at Eleven Madison Park.

As I've said more than once, I think EMP is an excellent restaurant, regardless of how many stars it has. But I also think that Bruni didn't make the case for four.

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
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Eat more chicken skin.

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