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donbert

Eleven Madison Park

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p.s. By way of fact, and to assist in the discussion, LeB lists 8 courses for it's extended menu, Daniel lists 8, JG 7, EMP 11 and Per Se doesn't list anything, but from experience and reports, the extended menu starts around 14 and can go up from there.  I think it's generally fair to refer to these as VIP style menus, although I think that only Alinea comes out and says "here it is, you can buy yourself in as a VIP for $X", enjoy.

I don't think this is right. Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, Daniel, and Eleven Madison Park all offer their top tastings to anybody who is willing to pay the prices that are clearly marked on their menus.

per se is the exception.

Nah, per se is the same - anyone can ask for it.

I meant to stress VIP "style" - i.e. what they would drag out unrequested for VIP's, not to suggest that only VIP's can order them.

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p.s. By way of fact, and to assist in the discussion, LeB lists 8 courses for it's extended menu, Daniel lists 8, JG 7, EMP 11 and Per Se doesn't list anything, but from experience and reports, the extended menu starts around 14 and can go up from there.  I think it's generally fair to refer to these as VIP style menus, although I think that only Alinea comes out and says "here it is, you can buy yourself in as a VIP for $X", enjoy.

I don't think this is right. Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, Daniel, and Eleven Madison Park all offer their top tastings to anybody who is willing to pay the prices that are clearly marked on their menus.

per se is the exception.

Nah, per se is the same - anyone can ask for it.

I meant to stress VIP "style" - i.e. what they would drag out unrequested for VIP's, not to suggest that only VIP's can order them.

Not to get into a war of semantics, but anything in the "VIP style" does suggest that it is a format that no common restaurant diner can access. To me, all of those tasting menus, save the extended per se menu (which is neither listed nor priced publicly), is "regular fare." It's useless and contradictory to call something available to everyone as "VIP" anything, unless, of course, you assume that anyone who's able to afford a meal at any of those restaurants are, by nature, VIPs. I can afford a meal at any of those restaurants (with some irregularity), and I am certainly not a very important person in any sense.

* Edited for egregious crimes against grammar.


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)

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Not to get into a war of semantics, but anything in the "VIP style" does suggest that it is a format that no common restaurant diner can access.  To me, all of those tasting menus, save the extended per se menu (which is neither listed nor priced publicly), is "regular fare."  It's useless and contradictory to call something available to everyone as "VIP" anything, unless, of course, that you assume that anyone who's able to afford a meal at any of those restaurants are, by nature, VIPs.  I can afford a meal at any of those restaurants (with some irregularity), and I am certainly not a very important person in any sense.

* Edited for egregious crimes against grammar.

Well, here's Achatz's take on what I'm semantically referring to:

"So when I arrived at Trio in 2001, I suggested that we make that "VIP" experience available to everyone who was interested in it. The Tour menu was created. It was the entire repertoire of the kitchen. Twenty to 30 courses in length, it was the "kitchen sink".

By making it available to everyone we had covered our own butts. If a table noticed a neighboring table receiving a course they did not, it was for the simple reason the elected to not order the menu that the course was on. But more importantly, we now made our "best possible" experience available to everyone. This worked...most of the time."

This is generally how I perceived these extended menu's to work. And Per Se lists no menu's, but you can certainly call them and ask for the extended menu, and get it - anyone can, you just have to pay more - same as LeB, Daniel, EMP etc...

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Without throwing too much fuel on the fire, I find the listed menu at Per Se to fall under the extended/VIP-style that the Gourmand at EMP offers. I do not think the longer menus, as listed, at the other four-stars qualify. That's the point I was trying to make.

What these restaurants can do for VIPs/regulars/or those who arrange for a special meal from the chef beforehand isn't really my concern in this case.

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But of course in the same piece Achatz admits that even his original system has its flaws now that he's doing more and more cutting edge stuff (i.e., tabletop plating). Some people will inevitably get more for certain reasons. I'm talking about the experience that's offered/listed on the menu.

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Without throwing too much fuel on the fire, I find the listed menu at Per Se to fall under the extended/VIP-style that the Gourmand at EMP offers.  I do not think the longer menus, as listed, at the other four-stars qualify.  That's the point I was trying to make.

We can easily enough agree to disagree on that. I found no difference in spirit or length of meal, or anything else appreciable for that matter between the 8 course menu at LeB and the 11 course at EMP. All things equal, I prefer to try 11 things vs. 8 things, sure. But they both seemed the same in style to me - "here is our best, enjoy!"

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Without throwing too much fuel on the fire, I find the listed menu at Per Se to fall under the extended/VIP-style that the Gourmand at EMP offers.  I do not think the longer menus, as listed, at the other four-stars qualify.  That's the point I was trying to make.

What's the difference? (I'm not arguing here, I'm just curious what you find the distinguishing point.) Is it the length, which you cite above as allowing for more creativity and variety?

Coming from another angle, have you had a 10+ course meal that didn't feel "extended/VIP" to you?


“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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Without throwing too much fuel on the fire, I find the listed menu at Per Se to fall under the extended/VIP-style that the Gourmand at EMP offers.  I do not think the longer menus, as listed, at the other four-stars qualify.  That's the point I was trying to make.

We can easily enough agree to disagree on that. I found no difference in spirit or length of meal, or anything else appreciable for that matter between the 8 course menu at LeB and the 11 course at EMP. All things equal, I prefer to try 11 things vs. 8 things, sure. But they both seemed the same in style to me - "here is our best, enjoy!"

Until you see the table next to yours getting 13 or more dishes, some of which are not on the menu...

But I do agree with you on the point of the 8 vs. 11 having no effect on the overall merit a restaurant is likely to garner from me. To answer my own question that I posed to Bryan above, I have had <10-course meals that were absolutely 4-star like. Conversely, I have had many >10-course meals that couldn't hold a candle to any one dish that I've had at Le Bernardin or Eleven Madison Park, for example.


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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Without throwing too much fuel on the fire, I find the listed menu at Per Se to fall under the extended/VIP-style that the Gourmand at EMP offers.  I do not think the longer menus, as listed, at the other four-stars qualify.  That's the point I was trying to make.

What's the difference? (I'm not arguing here, I'm just curious what you find the distinguishing point.) Is it the length, which you cite above as allowing for more creativity and variety?

Coming from another angle, have you had a 10+ course meal that didn't feel "extended/VIP" to you?

I guess it's largely an intangible thing. I hate to rely on that crutch, but I think a bit part of it is service style along with the number of courses.

Take, for instance, canapes at Daniel or the trio of amuses at JG. They're fine, but aren't as elegant as the canapes you get at Per Se, EMP, or any number of two- and three-star spots in Europe. I haven't been to LeB in several years, so I'm not sure what they're doing now, but in my mind a proper fine-dining experience should have a series of small bites, then perhaps an amuse, then a small opening course or two before finally getting to the bulk of the meal. Similarly, I like EMP's elegant presentation of its macaroons, the sturdy sleeve of pate de fruit with its understated silver printing and logo. I like seeing the champagne cart being wheeled around the room. I like the theater of it all.

I'm not even necessarily promoting a certain restaurant as much as I am a certain type of dining experience that feels special/VIP. I like but don't love or feel any emotional connection to Per Se, for instance, yet I still feel that it's the best overall restaurant in the city.


Edited by BryanZ (log)

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Without throwing too much fuel on the fire, I find the listed menu at Per Se to fall under the extended/VIP-style that the Gourmand at EMP offers.  I do not think the longer menus, as listed, at the other four-stars qualify.  That's the point I was trying to make.

We can easily enough agree to disagree on that. I found no difference in spirit or length of meal, or anything else appreciable for that matter between the 8 course menu at LeB and the 11 course at EMP. All things equal, I prefer to try 11 things vs. 8 things, sure. But they both seemed the same in style to me - "here is our best, enjoy!"

Until you see the table next to yours getting 13 or more dishes, some of which are not on the menu...

But I do agree with you on the point of the 8 vs. 11 having no effect on the overall merit a restaurant is likely to garner from me. To answer my own question that I posed to Bryan above, I have had <10-course meals that were absolutely 4-star like. Conversely, I have had many >10-course meals that couldn't hold a candle to any one dish that I've had at Le Bernardin or Eleven Madison Park, for example.

Surely a four-star meal can have fewer courses. And I've surely had long meals that either fell flat and sucked or simply weren't trying to be four-star. But in my ideal world, I like at least 12 courses, all of them awesome, with the brand of service Per Se and EMP have seemingly nailed: young, friendly, fluid, discrete, knowledgeable.

To quote Helene Cousins (for those who know her): "Exact-lay!"   :wink:

Now there is a woman who knows how to run a restaurant. A restaurant that unlike EMP fully merits all the accolades, stars, and stellar reviews it has achieved over the last 20 years. Mlle Helene Cousins is the best front of the house personality  I have ever met.

One of my many problems with my one meal at EMP was the lack of formality, specifically the lack of any dresscode.  I can't take a restaurant seriously as a fine-dining destination if  jeans (whether Kiton or Lee's) are accepted as appropriate attire in the dining room.

And we'll have to agree to disagree on this point, my friend. l'Arpege is not exactly the formal fare that I come to expect from a Michelin 3-star in Paris. I don't need stiff - in fact, I find Ms. Cousin's brand of service quite refreshing in its frankness. Very much like the easy-going, laid back feeling I get from the staff at Eleven Madison Park, actually.

And, if you are to cite attire as a contributing factor to qualifying a "fine dining" experience, then I fail to see how you can possibly classify l'Arpege (or any of the three-stars in Paris these days, for that matter) as fine dining. The clients there are no more dressed up than those I've seen at Eleven Madison Park, if not more casually so.

Edited to add: Perhaps Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee is an exception to the rest of the Parisian three-stars. From my understanding, it remains quite formal.

Yeah, if anything people in Europe, especially in those countryside temples to gastronomy, ought to dress up more. Granted, Spain and Italy are more casual than France, but shorts at lunch at Mugaritz were not uncommon. I didn't take the meal any less seriously even if I was in a jacket, the gentleman next to me was in shorts and a t-shirt, and the table next to that was filled with men in full suits.

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As far as I can tell, EMP's Gourmand menu is intended to occupy the same culinary niche as the top menus offered at the other four-star places. Whether it's as good as the others is a matter of opinion, but I feel confident that it's meant to be comparable.

Per Se has a whole other level that isn't advertised, but it is served often enough that it's been pretty widely written about. I have never read comparable reports at JG, Daniel or LeB. I am reasonably confident that they do exist, but the people getting them aren't the sort who post to food boards.

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Per Se has a whole other level that isn't advertised, but it is served often enough that it's been pretty widely written about. I have never read comparable reports at JG, Daniel or LeB. I am reasonably confident that they do exist, but the people getting them aren't the sort who post to food boards.

Curious though the case, I think this is true.

FWIW, I also think that how much of the meal one is asked to pay for also factors in largely to whether the meal is a true "VIP" situation. I think we've all acknowledged that one can ask for, and will often receive, a "VIP-like" meal, even if it's not printed on the menu.


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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To quote Helene Cousins (for those who know her): "Exact-lay!"   :wink:

Now there is a woman who knows how to run a restaurant. A restaurant that unlike EMP fully merits all the accolades, stars, and stellar reviews it has achieved over the last 20 years. Mlle Helene Cousins is the best front of the house personality  I have ever met.

One of my many problems with my one meal at EMP was the lack of formality, specifically the lack of any dresscode.  I can't take a restaurant seriously as a fine-dining destination if  jeans (whether Kiton or Lee's) are accepted as appropriate attire in the dining room.

So do you tell Passard to go back to the kitchen when he comes out in denim overalls and boots?

The last time I was at Le Bernardin (in March of this year), Eric Ripert was sporting some nice denim threads and boots. It didn't bother me a bit. Rather, I was simply glad to see that he cared enough to show up.

I totally agree. It just seems contradictory to me on one hand criticize the lack of formality of one restaurant (which I have no problems with) while at the same time heaping accolades on Arpege. I think the only 2 or 3* that I've been to that is more casual is Can Roca.

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I really don't think that either EMP or Le B encourages their patrons to have loud conversations that disrupt the dining experiences around them. I'm sure that a simple heads up to your servers could have easily ended that problem. Or a quiet word with the disruptive patron. I think it's a bit absurd to suggest that there's a difference in "how people feel they can act" at EMP versus Le Bernardin. There's clearly a difference in how people feel they can dress, though it seems clear that the level of formality does not dictate appropriateness or attractiveness in all cases.

I never said that either EMP or Le B encourage people to have loud conversations, what I was saying is what you mentioned in the last sentence of your post. The level of formality in a restaurant does not directly dictate the behavior of the patrons.

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I went to EMP for my hey-I-got-engaged dinner recently, and the service was clearly the best I have ever received. Spectacular in every way, they made my fiancee and me feel like VIPs without being stuffy or uptight. Nice of Chef Humm to come say hello as well.

I've only been to JG once, and that was for lunch, but I thought our summer tasting menu was on the same level. We had many more courses at EMP, and maybe it's not the ideal way to compare, but I certainly considered EMP to be in the same class as JG foodwise. I thought it was creative as well as technically excellent. If people think JG is an obvious four-star, it seems EMP should be too. I also think all the hype over four-versus-three is kind of ridiculous, but whatever.

Smart move on their part to leave us the bottle of cognac at the END of the meal. I could have hurt them pretty bad if they had given it to us sooner. :)

Oh, and as for this dress code stuff, I wore a suit, because (1) I am baller like that, and (2) I thought it would add to the experience for everyone involved to dress well.

I am excited to be returning soon! Hoping they will still be doing the pig tasting a few weeks from now.


Edited by mcsping (log)

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When else would you conceivably drink cognac, other than at the end of a meal?

Um, I don't know. I was just sort of joking around. I like cognac in general, so the unlimited cognac they offered was actually pretty nice. Not that I drank an astronomical amount.

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Recently we split some of the posts in this topic discussing customer attire at Eleven Madison Park into a new discussion topic, "Restaurant Dress Codes and Attire Is it appropriate in the age of "casual?" which you can find here.

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Went there a couple of days ago for the suckling pig tasting menu. Inaccuracy here is guaranteed, as I am surely leaving out certain components of the dishes, but I think I have all the basics correct.

--hors d'ouveres of veal sweetbread cornets, beet "marshmallow," raw tuna and fennel, vanilla clam, foie and...strawberry?

--amuse of ham sabayon

--tete de cochon with pickled vegetables (includes radishes, carrots, and little gelatinous pickle brine cubes!) and crunchy flatbread

--pork belly with sweet potato, brussels sprouts, and plum

--confit with potato puree and leeks

--rack of pork with summer beans and very little bacon

--"strawberries and champagne" (frozen strawberries with some type of champagne foam)

--raspberry ice cream with actual raspberries and balsamic vinegar

--macaroons

The amuse was as creamily luxurious as the sea urchin cappuccino, which was our amuse on my prior visit. Both times, I have wished I could have the amuse in a main course size. I guess that means they were successful in getting me excited.

Of the "main" pork dishes, I probably enjoyed the confit the most. The meat was moist and flavorful and the crispiness of the top added satisfying texture. This was probably the dish where the pork was the most "unadorned," and the quality of the meat and its preparation really shone. I also enjoyed the pork belly and sweet potato combination. Pork belly is usually delicious, and sweet potato is a great complement. The plum was unexpected but worked very well. The bruseels sprouts were fine, and I suppose the idea was to introduce bitterness, which was achieved, but I didn't think they made the dish notably stronger than it would have been without them.

For the strawberries-and-champagne dessert, the champagne foam was fizzy and strong, almost on the edge of "harsh," but not quite there, and I enjoyed it very much. That dish was served on a plate that looked like a pillow. At first I thought it might be like the aromatic pillow at Alinea, and then I thought it was somehow a cooling mechanism, but in the end I think it was just porcelain. While I don't think it was filled with dry ice or anything, maybe it was intended to help keep the temperature low somehow via insulation? I enjoy fruit-and-acid desserts, so I love any dessert with balsamic involved.

I also really enjoy the two types of butter, as small a thing as that may seem. They taste more distinct than I would have expected, and it was fun to have one bite with the salted California, one with unsalted New Hampshire, now one more unsalted but let's add the fleur de sel this time!, now one salted again but using the olive loaf, etc.

Service was again outstanding, with one error. We were asked a couple of times if we would like more bread, and the second time, we said "yes," but it was never brought. I am sure one word to any of our servers would have fixed this quickly, but we basically just decided we didn't want more bread after all. EMP continues to have the best service of any restaurant I have ever visited. It's ultra-professional, but generally warm as well.

This was an excellent meal, though I think I liked it slightly less than my prior meal at EMP, which was the summer tasting menu. The prior meal was possibly enhanced by the fact that it was an engagement celebration, so we may have had a couple of extra courses, plus the fact that we were giddy and drank more. :) I enjoyed having the variety of meats on the summer menu, though the more I reflect on the pig tasting meal, the more I like it. If nothing else, I was dying to try a pig tasting, because I love pork.

A lot of the specifics of this post might now be outdated, because as of today, they are starting a game tasting menu featuring boar, squab, and hare. But I imagine that menu is just as good as everything else we have tried.

EMP makes me wish I were rich.


Edited by mcsping (log)

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As of today, they are starting a game tasting menu featuring boar, squab, and hare.

Come again?? Sounds interesting - 5 courses?

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I noticed that they took the game tasting menu off. Does anyone know of any other places currently serving game like Grouse of Woodcock?

Thanks.

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My wife and I have eaten at EMP perhaps a dozen or so times throughout Chef Humm's tenure, but mostly during the winter months when we habitually make the trek to the city from DC for an assortment of reasons. For a change, to celebrate our anniversary we have a reservation for mid-April and are looking forward to enjoying the restaurant during a different season. Throughout our history of visits, we have yet to experience the 11-course gourmand menu and would like to give it a go - just to sit back and completely entrust our entire evening to the chef. I'd appreciate any comments or recommendations from anyone who's experienced the "Eleven" menu on the topic of wine accompaniment. On one hand, it would be nice to simply go along with the $125 wine paring program in analogy to what we typically do with the more modest tasting menu. Our concern, though, is too much volume. We want to enjoy the food from end to end and not become so overwhelmed with alcohol that we fail to appreciate the last few courses. I would say that a total wine volume on the order of a 750ml bottle shared between the two of us pretty well defines our comfort zone.

On a visit to Tom Tuesday Dinner last December, we faced a well-paced 10-course menu and voiced our interest in the accompanying wine paring program. When I casually expressed our desire for "pouring with a light hand" so as not to push us over the top with alcohol, our server cleverly suggested that we purchase a single wine paring program and effectively divide the typical volume per course in two. We did that and it worked out very well; we left the table full but comfortable, and met the goal of enjoying the taste of a broad variety of wines matched to each course without getting overwhelmed with alcohol. I have to admit that I would have felt "cheap" to have been the one to suggest splitting a wine menu had not our server made that very suggestion - as my primary motivation is not really a cost issue. I'd like to hear what others do?

Jim


Edited by jtb (log)

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