Eh, I had to distinguish myself from the myriad of EMP posts in some way ;)
Seriously, though, there is really nothing comparable in Toronto at least, and my entire weekend in NYC, EMP and otherwise, justified my rants against the food and service in my hometown. Some friends and I went to EMP for lunch with a New Yorker friend of ours, and I found the whole experience to be delightful; the 3 hours flew by. I've read the [controversial] posts about being underwhelmed by the place, and if the menu is a 'scam,' but IMO neither of these was my experience. In a way it reminded me of a one-star Michelin in Bidart I visited in terms of ethos, service, and food. The space is beautiful and calming, and the service excellent. We were served by many different people, but all of it was effortless [i.e. how did that spoon get there without me noticing? how can he use that crumb comb so deftly?] and distinctly non-pretentious/snooty, given the venue [strike one against some 'shall stay nameless' Toronto restos]. It was pricy for lunch, but entirely worth it.
#1: We were started with a warm tomato tea infused with lemon thyme, and parmesan crisps [Sorry, i never took photos]
This was incredible; the clear warm 'tea' tasted like the purest, cleanest essence of fresh tomato. It was like drinking nectar.
#2: Smoked sturgeon sabayon with chive oil, served in a hollowed-out egg
This was also amazing; the gloriously fatty, smoky fishy bits with the grassy oil at the bottom of the egg really worked together. Points for cuteness of presentation and the surgical precision of the cut-off eggshell :)
#3: Warm buns with goat & cow milk butter, presented in a cloth bag
I liked the cow's butter better, but it was nice to have the contrast.
#4: Prawn with grapes and fennel [course #1 of the 4 lunch courses]
I chose "prawn," and because I wasn't wanting ceviche that day [its preparation], it came cooked for me. This was a light, fresh first course.
#5: Lobster poached with summer squash, with lobster oil and lemon verbena lobster bisque and a pasta sheet [course #2]
The flavours all worked together nicely, and who doesn't like lobster?
#6: Beets poached and pickled in bone marrow consomme and fried bone marrow [course #3]
This was eyes-rolling-back-in-my-head resplendently awesome. Considering I hated beets and marrow up until a few years ago, I feel this dish would convert anyone. The sweet yet earthy beets [pickled and poached offered nice contrast] and the killer consomme with the explosion of deep-fried marrow... yep, this was a winner.
#7: Malted egg cream with extra virgin olive oil and vanilla bean
I was so, so excited to have this! I love egg creams and they are unheard of in Canada. They were made tableside with an old-timey seltzer bottle, so it was a bit of an event. I liked the reimagining of the traditional egg cream, and it tasted unbelievable. I was, however, the only person at the table who liked it, which meant more for me!
#8: Chocolate [Course #4], including grenache, salted caramel ice cream, cocoa nibs
This was good, having different small bites of different variations on the theme. Didn't blow me away, but still solid. We ordered coffee with this course, and the warm milk was a nice touch.
#9: Earl grey macaron, peach gelee, camomile shortbread
This extra dessert was the only disappointment for me. I didn't love any of them, but it was nice to get something else, and they weren't overwhelming at the end of the meal.
So: Presentation of all dishes was lovely without being over the top, the flavours and freshness of the food were at their zenith, and we felt truly welcomed by staff. When we mentioned we were there celebrating a special event, they gave us all boxed EMP chocolate bars to take home with us as a gift, which I felt was a lovely gesture [i.e. we didn't mention the event because we wanted something free, so it was a nice surprise. Of course brilliant 'marketing,' but that would never happen in Toronto. And it capped off the whole experience and ensured that I would definitely recommend EMP to anyone going to NYC, which I have already].
PS- the next day we went to Shake Shack, so we got the whole gamut. I love New York!
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010