We had a 9pm reservation and arrived perfectly on time... we waited in the bar for a couple of minutes for our table to be ready, and then we ordered the tasting menu. It was a Thursday night and the dining room was quite full (and loud!), so we didn't think ordering the tasting menu would be a problem, even with a semi-late reservation. The courses were timed well and service was fine, if a bit distant (we felt kind of ignored a little) until we got to the end of the meal. We weren't offered a kitchen tour - and I'd been so looking forward to getting to watch them make us a nitro cocktail - and at the end of the meal, we were never left the complimentary bottle of brandy/port/digestif. We just had the check put in front of us, and as soon as my husband added the tip and signed the check, the waiter swooped it to grab it almost as soon as it hit the table, before we'd even left. It just kind of seemed like he wanted to hurry up and get us out of there. Only after the fact did my husband say that he *should* have said "Oh, wait a sec, we weren't quite done with that" when the waiter went to take the signed check... and then he should have reduced the tip. And finally, as we got up to leave, no one wished us a good night or thanked us for coming, and no one offered to help us get a cab. So yeah. Not such a fan of the service we received, especially after reading all the raves on here for EMP *AND* having read Danny Meyer's book "Setting the Table" about the hospitality his restaurants aim to provide. We dined at Alinea last month, and despite its more modernist, "cold" approach, the service was much warmer.
On the bright side, the food was good to great, and there were maybe one or two truly outstanding dishes. Most of it was not blow-me-away-amazing, though, and unfortunately I didn't leave there on the same kind of "food high" I've gotten from 40 euro dinners in Paris. But still, it was quite good, and I wouldn't have complained about the food. The room was beautiful and had a great energy (if a bit too loud at times). But the service kind of killed it for us. And it was made worse by the fact that we saw other tables around us being offered tours of the kitchen and being given the bottles of digestif. So my question is: Is this normal at EMP - that a kitchen tour and nitro cocktail and digestif isn't something that is proffered? You have to be a regular, or know someone, or just specifically ask? Or is it unusual that we didn't get to experience those things? Regardless, if it turns out that most diners don't get the special treatment, I still think it was rude for the server to take our check before we'd left. We spent $800 on dinner for 2, and you hate to leave the restaurant feeling a little deflated.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010