I think it is wrong of me to call it a new menu but I didn't want to call it a new format either. Have there been changes made? Yes. Is it so drastic to be able to call it new? I don't think so, it's no more new than I am because I'm not the exact same person I was a few years ago.
It will be very hard for me to give any kind of substantial review because I would hate to be the one to ruin the impact of the changes/additions for future diners. There are some elements of surprise and whimsy that shouldn't be anticipated but rather just enjoyed as it happens. I think the most will be gotten from the experieince by just having an open mind.
So, anyway, we went for the first night on Friday. At first blush, the space looks as it always has until you look a little closer and maybe see some softened lines, some softer fabrics, some changes to lighting, but in essence it's the restaurant you've known.
We did a quick visit to the bar area where there are a few changes that make the interaction with the bar staff a bit more continuous, less obstructed, we liked the change because we enjoy the conversations we have while are drinks are being made.
We were seated in the dining room and shortly after presented with the very familiar grid menu (yes, presented the menu, it's no longer where you've come to expect it). We were also asked if we would be interested in a cocktail and made aware of the new Manhattan cart, we of course went with this option because we love our Bourbon cocktails. The list of Manhattans all riff on different areas of the five boroughs of New York and use variations of recipes to pay tribute. Leo himself rolled the cart up and told us some history about the drinks and origins of the Manhattan etc, it was fun, the drinks were made tableside and were excellent. Strongly encourage any lovers of bourbon based cocktails to go this route.
After we had some time alone with our cocktails our Captain asked if we had any questions about the menu, we liked being surprised but wanted to make sure we didn't select anything we may have had recently, as it turned out, I believe he said every preparation was new so it was an open book. I was deligthed to see sweetbreads as a main, I love sweetbreads and was dying to see what the kitchen could do with them. My other courses were, Langostine, Potato (if it's on the menu and the same prep as Friday, GET IT!), for dessert I went the pistachio route because I'm a bit of a pistachio junkie, it did not disappoint. My GF had the beets (loved them), the parsnip (such a beautiful plate), the mushroom, which she liked but it was a lot of food at this point, and for dessert she had the fig (which she raved about). So as you can see not that big of a change from the grid, the changes lie in the other course, the surprises, the tributes, the homages, none of which could even be SLIGHTLY construed as gimmicky, they were subtle and wonderful and had a story behind them. And they are what I wish I could explain on this review but I feel it would be a disservice to anyone planning on going to EMP. I will say this, it was some of the best dishes the kitchen has ever turned out.
The service is still seemless, still that incredible balance of professional but approachable, and IMO, very genuine, start asking questions and I swear the staff lights up, and it's not just the Captain and Sommelier, it's anyone, the server filling your water glass, the runner bringing food, the kitchen staff presenting an amuse.
Chef and Will made rounds checking to make sure everything was just right and they seemed absolutely giddy with their newest creation. Obviously the other guests were happy as well because sounds of their enjoyment were evident, everyone we saw seemed to be truly enjoying the experience.
I was actually jealous of people that would be dining Saturday night because I wanted to do it all over again right away. Go with an open mind and you will be greatly rewarded.