After four months of renovations, EMP reopened last night with formidable changes.
If you had recently scored the title of World's Best Restaurant, you'd probably think it best to rest on your laurels, but apparently, that isn't chef Daniel Humm and restauranteur Will Guidara's style. Fresh off landing the top spot on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list, the pair shut down their acclaimed Eleven Madison Park in June for a complete retooling. Pretty much everything was changed, from the menu to the design of the space, for both visual and practical purposes. But on Sunday, almost exactly four months after it closed, Eleven Madison Park reopened. And even though reservations are already sold out through to the end of November, if you do happen to make it to EMP, here's what you can expect.
Eleven Madison Park is best known for its eight- to ten-course seasonal tasting menu, which will set each diner back $295. That price, actually, is not new. But as for the food, Daniel Humm walked Grub Street through the new dining experience, course by course. The meal starts with two savory black-and-white cookies, one of just two items returning from the previous menu. The first bites are "a series of hors d'oeuvre that are all based on fall traditions," including highly-advanced takes on roasted chestnuts, sweet-potato pie, "a caramel apple, with foie gras," and game pie. Next, guests get to choose one of three appetizers: clams with fennel; a "sort of … mushroom carpaccio;" or foie gras, two ways. The next course is a communal smoked-sturgeon cheesecake with caviar, followed by a choice of lobster with potato and chanterelle or tilefish with parsnip and crème fraîche. Then, another communal dish: whole-roasted kabocha squash. The main courses are a choice of Humm's famous duck (the menu's other holdover), dry-aged veal or celery root, along with seasonal sides of kale, Brussels sprouts and potatoes. The cheese course is, humorously enough, cheddar with pretzel and beer. And lastly, the desserts are an apple doughnut with cinnamon ice cream, cranberries, cookies and cream and chocolate pretzels. (Of course, keep in mind that none of the two-word names do the dishes justice.)
As for the space itself, Guidara told Architectural Digest that the restaurant's design team went in with "a strict rule": "Anything that was there before it was a restaurant needed to stay there," he said. But beyond that, it sounds like almost everything else that could be changed was. All the furniture, tableware and uniforms were reimagined. The color scheme was switched. The bar area was completely redesigned. Behind the scenes, the kitchen was completely rebuilt to flow more seamlessly, including a special area for dry-aging duck that is on display. Meanwhile, the kitchen's old stove was melted down by American artist Daniel Turner and repurposed as a step into the new dining room. Yes, this was a highly thought-out refurb.
If it all seems like a lot to take in, imagine how Humm must feel. The day before the opening, he proclaimed on his Instagram page, "I believe in dreams coming true. But, to be honest, I always thought something like this was just too big of a dream to even think about becoming a reality. I walked around and around this new, shiny, beautiful kitchen and realized how much I felt completely and confidently at home. Funny how after over 25 years working in kitchens around the world and at this address for 11 of those 25... it truly feels like the beginning; as if I pushed rewind but into the future." And then the action started. "Been hard not having @elevenmadisonpark for the past 4 months," he wrote yesterday. "Feeling so blessed and happy that we're back at work within these magical walls."