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Eleven Madison Park


donbert
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I consider myself an experienced diner in this city and I am not the only one on this board who is less than enamored with EMP. In fact, my meal that evening was the WORST I have had in Manhattan in the last 8 years!! DutchMuse, I would indeed be stunned, shocked, and amazed if my next meal at EMP was indeed an improvement over my first. In baseball, if a player's statitistics improved so radically, so quickly, he would be called a "steroid cheat"

Edited by weinoo (log)
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sethd

I have had a similar experience at a different four star. Problem is when I went with someone who was known there, the experience was radically different (in a good way). That pissed me off even more. What is the point of being a four star if you walk off the street, pay just as much as the next guy and get half the experience?

Edited by vivin (log)
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In the restaurant business there is a very thin line between a successful service and a disaster. The goal is never let the customer's know when problems arise.

Most of the time it works. Yet because we are talking about the human element sometimes not, as all restaurants have a bad night which can't be avoided.

Personally I can't imagine having a bad experience once, and then writing it off as impossible of improving based upon that single visit.

I have yet to visit EMP and therefore can offer little on the subject of improvements between Bruni's reviews.

With that said it is my opinion that what separates's a 3 star from a 4 star lies in the attention to details. Regardless of how small they may seem.

Based only upon what I have read in the last six months there appears to have been improvements. For instance the macarons as linked below.

http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/04/sug...c-flatiron.html

Also the much praised butter. And how about the fairly new theme menus?

It may seem small within the big picture. Although apparently there is a desire to constantly improve. Can those small details be part of the reasoning Bruni gave it 4 stars now? I certainly would think so. With space limitations I doubt Bruni could touch on every aspect of improvements between his reviews.

Robert R

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I consider myself an experienced diner in this city and I am not the only one on this board who is less than enamored with EMP. In fact, my meal that evening was the WORST I have had in Manhattan in the last 8 years!!  DutchMuse, I would indeed be stunned, shocked, and amazed if my next meal at EMP was indeed an improvement over my first. In baseball,  if a player's statitistics improved so radically, so quickly, he would be called a "steroid cheat"

I would ask: are you open to being stunned?

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Although I find myself stuck in the middle here, and am not in the "anti-4-stars-EMP" camp by any means, I personally object to the fact that they serve PLENTY of meals that arguably aren't even 3 stars - specifically the 2 course lunches.

This NEVER happens at Per Se, JG, Le Bernardin.   Everything that leaves those kitchens are 4 star quality, they constantly strive for the very very top every single time you visit - even in the salon at Per Se for example.   They prove themselves from the second the door opens to the second the door closes.

If you go for the dinner tasting or Gourmand, EMP is - in my estimation - a 4 star restaurant.   Any other meal leaves some doubt.   Some meals leave little doubt that it's not a 4 star restaurant.

That's what bothers me.   They are capable.  But they don't hold themselves to it 100% of the time (and potentially, a very small % of the time)

As you know, I disagree with you that JG's prix fixe lunch is a 4-star meal. In my experience, it's a good 2 1/2 to 3-star meal and an excellent value and pleasant experience. On the other hand, when I had dinner at 11 Madison Park a few years ago, it was much more disappointing. That doesn't address whether the restaurant has improved drastically since then or whether I had the bad luck of being there on a fluky disastrous day, though (I say disastrous because the service was truly overly slow and probably too preoccupied with whatever exigency was happening in the kitchen to show sufficient care for us as patrons), and I've had lunch at JG only twice so far but am likely to return at some point.

I appreciate your views on 11 Madison Park. I previously entertained thoughts that if we had spent more than the over $500 for 4 people by instead getting tasting menus (impossible with our various dietary restrictions, as well as too expensive), we might have had a truly good dining experience. But then again, on that day, given the service problems, I think probably not.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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But then it couldn't be four-star.

I think at the four-star level, to factor in "value" is BULLSHIT.  Four stars should betoken sheer excellence.

I couldn't agree more. And not only for tasting menus, if there are other options.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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[...]I'm not talking necessarily about value.  I'm talking about the type of experience you're more likely to have with a "menu" with high prices.  That is to say, at per se and masa there is only one, multi-hour meal to be had at lunch.  So the experience is going to be totally different than an experience at Jean Georges or Le Bernardin or Eleven Madison Park for lunch.  Will it necessarily be better just because of that fact?  I don't know.  But what I'm saying is that I *think* some here would say yes. 

Again, I don't know whether Eleven Madison Park's lunch is "sheer excellence."  It seems that from many on this board, it's not.[...]

Don't you think it would be nice if the restaurants awarded four stars were less controversial? Many people object that Daniel doesn't merit four stars. It seems like there's a fair amount of dissent about 11 Madison Park, too. I think that four-star restaurants should be pretty unquestionable, and regardless of who the customer is, whether they're buying wine (let alone expensive wine), and whether they are ordering a prix fixe, a la carte, or a tasting menu.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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[...]It seems that perhaps I need to experience the Gourmand menu again in order to figure out what makes this restaurant so very special.  OTOH, I have been extraordinarily reluctant to do so, for fear of being disappointed at a significant financial cost.[...]

Thank you. And that, historically, has been my problem with the New York Times four stars I've been to. I haven't forgotten when I was in high school and went to Lutece with my family that there was sand in the bottom of my Soupe de Pistou. I'm sure the New York Times critic at the time had four-star meals there. I didn't.

And in connection with this, I'd again mention lunch at JG. Even if the lunch prix fixe isn't 4 stars (and clearly, some of us think it is), it's a good value in terms of both food and service and an experience that even those of relatively humble circumstances can make a bit of a splurge on without the kind of fear you so ably express.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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sethd

I have had a similar experience at a different four star. Problem is when I went with someone who was known there, the experience was radically different (in a good way). That pissed me off even more. What is the point of being a four star if you walk off the street, pay just as much as the next guy and get half the experience?

Yep.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Personally I can't imagine having a bad experience once, and then writing it off as impossible of improving based upon that single visit.

It would depend on what constituted a bad experience. I do realize that it is possible for a restaurant to have a bad day. Though, those days should be extremely, extremely rare (or nonexistant) at a restaurant of the supposed quality and reputation of EMP.

I would gladly have returned if the reason for my bad experiece was that I didn't enjoy one or two dishes from the gourmand menu or had mild service lapses. Unfortunately, that was not the case. My meal was a complete and total failure. That is why I have no interest in returning. Especially, when I can go to Per Se, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin and have a wonderful four star dining experience!

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Dutchmuse wrote....

"Hi Steve

As you know, I love EMP and usually go, on average, once a month or more. To answer your questions:

1. 18 months ago IMHO it was a high 3 star restaurant, now it is a four star restaurant.

2. The food has become more refined as well as the service. They did not have someone at the revolving door turning it for people and the training of the FOH staff it at a much higher level. Daniel Humm's food has become more focused, more refined...at a higher level. And 18 months ago, they didn't have the small caviar tins they give you as you leave. When you open them, an accordion style hand written menu of your dinner unfolds."

I am not a regular at EMP.

However, I was there last week for maybe the fifth time in my life. We had the gourmand.

When we left we never received the small caviar tins with the menu inside when we left.

Edited by Purple Pirate (log)
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Dutchmuse wrote....

"Hi Steve

As you know, I love EMP and usually go, on average, once a month or more. To answer your questions:

1. 18 months ago IMHO it was a high 3 star restaurant, now it is a four star restaurant.

2. The food has become more refined as well as the service. They did not have someone at the revolving door turning it for people and the training of the FOH staff it at a much higher level. Daniel Humm's food has become more focused, more refined...at a higher level. And 18 months ago, they didn't have the small caviar tins they give you as you leave. When you open them, an accordion style hand written menu of your dinner unfolds."

I am not a regular at EMP. 

However, I was there last week for maybe the fifth time in my life.  We had the gourmand.

When we left we never received the small caviar tins with the menu inside when we left.

I'm very surprised--it is my understanding they are doing it now regularly. If it was a slip up, that shouldn't be happening.... I was told they are doing it now regularly and assumed that to be the case. I think its only been recent but if it was last week, then I think you were supposed to have been given one.

Edited by DutchMuse (log)
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Dutchmuse wrote....

"Hi Steve

As you know, I love EMP and usually go, on average, once a month or more. To answer your questions:

1. 18 months ago IMHO it was a high 3 star restaurant, now it is a four star restaurant.

2. The food has become more refined as well as the service. They did not have someone at the revolving door turning it for people and the training of the FOH staff it at a much higher level. Daniel Humm's food has become more focused, more refined...at a higher level. And 18 months ago, they didn't have the small caviar tins they give you as you leave. When you open them, an accordion style hand written menu of your dinner unfolds."

I am not a regular at EMP. 

However, I was there last week for maybe the fifth time in my life.  We had the gourmand.

When we left we never received the small caviar tins with the menu inside when we left.

I'm very surprised--it is my understanding they are doing it now regularly. If it was a slip up, that shouldn't be happening.... I was told they are doing it now regularly and assumed that to be the case. I think its only been recent but if it was last week, then I think you were supposed to have been given one.

I had the Gourmand dinner 3 weeks ago, and both my sister and I were given the little caviar tin with the menu. Apparently, it was a slip up. To be honest, I would trade the menu in the caviar tin for the wonderful brioche they used to give out at the end of the dinner. It was probably too expensive.

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And 18 months ago, they didn't have the small caviar tins they give you as you leave.  When you open them, an accordion style hand written menu of your dinner unfolds.

I went there a month ago, and only got an empty caviar tin with no menu inside.
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Dutchmuse wrote....

"Hi Steve

As you know, I love EMP and usually go, on average, once a month or more. To answer your questions:

1. 18 months ago IMHO it was a high 3 star restaurant, now it is a four star restaurant.

2. The food has become more refined as well as the service. They did not have someone at the revolving door turning it for people and the training of the FOH staff it at a much higher level. Daniel Humm's food has become more focused, more refined...at a higher level. And 18 months ago, they didn't have the small caviar tins they give you as you leave. When you open them, an accordion style hand written menu of your dinner unfolds."

I am not a regular at EMP. 

However, I was there last week for maybe the fifth time in my life.  We had the gourmand.

When we left we never received the small caviar tins with the menu inside when we left.

I'm very surprised--it is my understanding they are doing it now regularly. If it was a slip up, that shouldn't be happening.... I was told they are doing it now regularly and assumed that to be the case. I think its only been recent but if it was last week, then I think you were supposed to have been given one.

I got one. I was actually a bit dissapointed in some ways, cause I was hoping the Gourmand was a bit more freestyle, i.e. I could return relatively soon and eat something different. With this 'there's a menu, but there's no menu', I'm not sure when to return for another go.

edited to add: Also got a sleeve of pates de fruits, with 4 flavors. Was very nice.

Edited by sickchangeup (log)
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I got one.   I was actually a bit dissapointed in some ways, cause I was hoping the Gourmand was a bit more freestyle, i.e. I could return relatively soon and eat something different.   With this 'there's a menu, but there's no menu', I'm not sure when to return for another go.

edited to add: Also got a sleeve of pates de fruits, with 4 flavors.  Was very nice.

And this is where, I think, per se (and to a lesser degree, masa) steps away from and beyond the other four-stars. Keller's/Beno's kitchen has an amazing ability to turn out a staggering variety of dishes at a moment's notice. No diner, unless they want to, would experience the same dish meal after meal after meal, regardless of their proximity of those meals to one another.

I DO wish Eleven Madison Park and some of the other four-starred restaurants would make their top tasting a wholly unique experience. From my limited experience, the top tasting menus at Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Eleven Madison Park, and Daniel are largely, if not entirely, composed of dishes from the prix fixe menu. Other than per se and - to some extent - BH@SB, I can't think of any other New York restaurant where you can have a tasting menu experience totally different from the the table next to you.

Of course, this is largely a non-issue for me, as I rarely eat at these restaurants. Every time I visit, I'm almost guaranteed a different experience from my last one. Yet, as I type that, I realize that I've had quite a few repeats at Jean Georges and Le Bernardin, despite the fact that I usually visit them annually. I should also add that I've never had the prix fixe at any of the four-starred restaurants (the ones that offer them), always having gone with the tasting menu.

Two of my friends just had dinner at Eleven Madison Park last night. They are regulars and clearly friends of the house. Their menu last night - with the exception of two dishes (which they, admittedly, signaled that they might want to repeat) - was comprised of dishes they had never had before. Now, that's not such a hard feat to accomplish, since their last meal - just under a month ago, if I'm not mistaken - was a three-course prix fixe dinner, which included the guinea fowl. Carved table-side, that bird is probably not served (to two diners anyway) as a part of the Gourmand. At any rate, I'm fairly certain that their Gourmand last night was culled from the prixe fixe.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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

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And this is where, I think, per se (and to a lesser degree, masa) steps away from and beyond the other four-stars.  Keller's/Beno's kitchen has an amazing ability to turn out a staggering variety of dishes at a moment's notice.  No diner, unless they want to, would experience the same dish meal after meal after meal, regardless of their proximity of those meals to one another.

Since Per Se started serving food in the Salon, I have eaten there about 3 times a month. I have had very few repeats, except for the coffee and donuts which I ask for every meal. In fact, I can remember at least 5 variations of a cavier based canape.

As for J.G and Le Bernardin, many of the dishes are so superb that I can easily have them multiple times and not get bored with them.

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Since Per Se started serving food in the Salon, I have eaten there about 3 times a month.  I have had very few repeats, except for the coffee and donuts which I ask for every meal.  In fact, I can remember at least 5 variations of a cavier based canape.

As for J.G and Le Bernardin,  many  of the dishes are so superb that I can easily have them multiple times and not get bored with them.

But isn't the Salon a la carte? So you get to choose what you have, right? Or, are you saying that the Salon menu has changed every time you've been in? That makes sense since the dining room menu changes every day.

re: superb repeats. I would agree with you about Jean Georges and Le Bernardin's mainstays. And that is why I happily revisit, knowing well that I may encounter them again. From my two meals at Eleven Madison Park, I've had no repeats (they were a year a part). But I would walk back to New York right now for that lavender-glazed duck. I wouldn't mind repeating most of the other dishes I've had as well.

I haven't been to Eleven Madison Park in just over a year now. The other thing I think Eleven Madison Park could improve (though it's certainly not lacking or deficient in any way), is their cheese cart. I've only seen it once, and it was rather limited selection. I know I can't expect the panoply I'd get in a European restaurant of like status (or Picholine, which really out-does any other cheese selection I've seen in the States), but it could take on a bit more muscle.

I've never had the cheese cart at Jean Georges or Daniel (the latter, I hear has a particularly impressive one). I'm not sure that Le Bernardin has a cheese cart, though I know the tasting (the longer one, anyway) always includes cheese course just before the desserts are introduced. Like per se's "composed" cheese course, I don't really care for it. For me, the cheese course is supposed to be slather-and-lick type of event. The frilly, tinkered, and garnished types miss the point.

ETA: I should clarify my statement above: I haven't been to Eleven Madison Park for a full meal in over a year. I was there at the top of May this year just for desserts with some friends. We cleared through a good third of them (tarts included).

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Dutchmuse wrote....

"Hi Steve

As you know, I love EMP and usually go, on average, once a month or more. To answer your questions:

1. 18 months ago IMHO it was a high 3 star restaurant, now it is a four star restaurant.

2. The food has become more refined as well as the service. They did not have someone at the revolving door turning it for people and the training of the FOH staff it at a much higher level. Daniel Humm's food has become more focused, more refined...at a higher level. And 18 months ago, they didn't have the small caviar tins they give you as you leave. When you open them, an accordion style hand written menu of your dinner unfolds."

I am not a regular at EMP. 

However, I was there last week for maybe the fifth time in my life.  We had the gourmand.

When we left we never received the small caviar tins with the menu inside when we left.

I'm very surprised--it is my understanding they are doing it now regularly. If it was a slip up, that shouldn't be happening.... I was told they are doing it now regularly and assumed that to be the case. I think its only been recent but if it was last week, then I think you were supposed to have been given one.

I got one. I was actually a bit dissapointed in some ways, cause I was hoping the Gourmand was a bit more freestyle, i.e. I could return relatively soon and eat something different. With this 'there's a menu, but there's no menu', I'm not sure when to return for another go.

edited to add: Also got a sleeve of pates de fruits, with 4 flavors. Was very nice.

We did get the sleeve of pates de fruits.

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Since Per Se started serving food in the Salon, I have eaten there about 3 times a month.  I have had very few repeats, except for the coffee and donuts which I ask for every meal.  In fact, I can remember at least 5 variations of a cavier based canape.

As for J.G and Le Bernardin,  many  of the dishes are so superb that I can easily have them multiple times and not get bored with them.

But isn't the Salon a la carte? So you get to choose what you have, right? Or, are you saying that the Salon menu has changed every time you've been in? That makes sense since the dining room menu changes every day.

I think Seth is referring to his experience as a regular diner - the house brings out a selection of canapes and little extras each time, and they are different every single time (even something as signature as the caviar canape, you stop getting O+P). But yes - as a person living in NY, the reason I make Per Se my go to restaurant is that I get to eat new things every single time I go. In fact, it was the previous GM's mission to ensure that if you visited 100 times, you would experience something new that 100th visit (one assumes the new GM carries the same mission), a theory I am in the midst of testing out. It's also why I like Degustation FWIW.

Back to EMP, I was really hoping the Gournmand menu was that. I check their online menu's every few weeks, and go back in for the lunch tasting once it changes, which isn't a ton more frequently than the seasons change. I was a bit dissapointed to learn that the Gourmand may not be new each time, but I'll have to chat with the folks there to know for sure. When a menu is online, it's easy to know when to return. When it's not, it's much harder, which is a shame cause the Gournmand is the one I want to return for.

p.s. and yes, JG is for me the exception to the rule, I'll eat there every chance I get and gladly repeat many dishes over and over.

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Since Per Se started serving food in the Salon, I have eaten there about 3 times a month.  I have had very few repeats, except for the coffee and donuts which I ask for every meal.  In fact, I can remember at least 5 variations of a cavier based canape.

As for J.G and Le Bernardin,  many  of the dishes are so superb that I can easily have them multiple times and not get bored with them.

But isn't the Salon a la carte? So you get to choose what you have, right? Or, are you saying that the Salon menu has changed every time you've been in? That makes sense since the dining room menu changes every day.

I think Seth is referring to his experience as a regular diner - the house brings out a selection of canapes and little extras each time, and they are different every single time (even something as signature as the caviar canape, you stop getting O+P). But yes - as a person living in NY, the reason I make Per Se my go to restaurant is that I get to eat new things every single time I go. In fact, it was the previous GM's mission to ensure that if you visited 100 times, you would experience something new that 100th visit (one assumes the new GM carries the same mission), a theory I am in the midst of testing out. It's also why I like Degustation FWIW.

Back to EMP, I was really hoping the Gournmand menu was that. I check their online menu's every few weeks, and go back in for the lunch tasting once it changes, which isn't a ton more frequently than the seasons change. I was a bit dissapointed to learn that the Gourmand may not be new each time, but I'll have to chat with the folks there to know for sure. When a menu is online, it's easy to know when to return. When it's not, it's much harder, which is a shame cause the Gournmand is the one I want to return for.

p.s. and yes, JG is for me the exception to the rule, I'll eat there every chance I get and gladly repeat many dishes over and over.

Just as an update, my friends (from my above post) notified me that their Gourmand last night was a mix of prix fixe and completely off-menu items, with one dish from the Seasonal Tasting. Again, they are regulars. And, so, I assume, as with all other four-starred restaurants, if you are a regular and good friend of the house, the restaurant can and will jump through extra hoops. No surprise there.

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

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I have always thoroughly enjoyed my meals at 11Mad and look forward to each return visit. Service has certainly improved although I don't feel it is near the Per Se level. That said there are many factors which make up the ratings.

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And this is where, I think, per se (and to a lesser degree, masa) steps away from and beyond the other four-stars.  Keller's/Beno's kitchen has an amazing ability to turn out a staggering variety of dishes at a moment's notice.  No diner, unless they want to, would experience the same dish meal after meal after meal, regardless of their proximity of those meals to one another.

I DO wish Eleven Madison Park and some of the other four-starred restaurants would make their top tasting a wholly unique experience.  From my limited experience, the top tasting menus at Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Eleven Madison Park, and Daniel are largely, if not entirely, composed of dishes from the prix fixe menu.  Other than per se and - to some extent - BH@SB, I can't think of any other New York restaurant where you can have a tasting menu experience totally different from the the table next to you.

True but Keller eventually (not in the beginning) designed PerSe to be this kind of restaurant. I think it would be difficult for another restaurant to create a melange without knowing ahead of time that returning customers/friends were coming and wanted different things, in their defense.

You go into PerSe (or rather should) expecting that what you have today won't be completely the same as you had last month or even yesterday.

PS When I went to EMP I did get my menu in a caviar tin along with the pates de fruits. And I admit I did go this time anticipating Bruni's review coming up.

I have nothing else to add since you all have said what I would say with more eloquence. It is interesting to consider that EMP is 4 star when ordering the Gourmand menu and not when not. This is a great discussion to read where there's no name calling.

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I think of the ability to produce a four-star meal experience as a necessary but not sufficient condition for a legitimate four-star rating. It's not something to be dismissed lightly. Most restaurants simply don't have the chops to produce a four-star meal, even if every cook on staff and every server works on that one meal.

I recently had a full-on four-star meal experience at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It was second only to a Per Se experience. Just fantastic. For me, it's a four-star restaurant because 100% of my meals there have been four-star meals. On that topic, several other credible people noted that they had been and not had experiences on that level. Okay. I don't know. I only had the meal I had.

Likewise, I've only had the meals I've had at Eleven Madison Park. I haven't had anything approaching a four-star experience. It felt to me like, if everything I experienced reached its logical apex, it would constitute a very strong three-star experience. Then again I haven't been in a while. I'll certainly have to make a point of returning.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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