I haven't eaten in the main dining room at Eleven Madison Park since it got its third Michelin Star. Reservations have been harder to come by since the prestigious announcement, and it's hard to plan an expensive dinner with people so far in advance. However, I have eaten at the bar a couple of times, and the food is still wonderful.
The bar is busy all the time, but they do a good job of finding seats for diners among the people just grabbing a drink or waiting for their table in the dining room. Both times they told me it was going to be about 15 minutes and I didn't have to wait more than that, unlike many places in NYC. It's louder and more lively than the main dining room, but still very comfortable.
There are four appetizer choices ranging from $22-28, and four entrees in the $36-38 range, not including white truffle options. These prices are about right for high end restaurants in NYC, although the portion sizes are smaller here than at some other places.
There's no selection of canapes, but there is bread service, with a delicious goat's milk butter, a creamy salted cow's milk butter, and salt.
The bread is terrific. The inside is flaky, fluffy, and buttery, while the outside has a delicate, soft crust. It's quite rich by itself, and doesn't even really need butter.
SMOKED FOIE GRAS TERRINE WITH BLACK TRUFFLE AND POTATO
The terrine was rich and smooth, with a wonderful smell of truffle and a hint of smokiness. The flavors were concentrated and earthy, including the vegetables and potato nubbins. While foie is often served with some sweet or sour component to cut the richness, it wasn't evident here and I don't think it's necessary. That being said, the dish is a bit "busier" as a whole than I'm used to eating here.
While wine pairings are normal and EMP even does beer pairings, I decided to step up the difficulty by asking for a cocktail to go with the dish. While more flavors can be combined in a cocktail, skill is also needed to temper the higher alcohol content with the food. This one I had was called the "Repossession" (I think, I could be wrong), and while I forget the ingredients, it worked beautifully with the foie dish. It had nuances of umami and smokiness that enhanced those essences from the dish itself, while the citrus base was complementary and helped to cut the richness as mentioned above.
TAGLIOLINI WITH ALASKAN KING CRAB, BLACK PEPPER, AND LEMON
♫ "Reunited, and it feels so good." ♫
I used to eat this dish a lot back when they were doing their two course lunch. It is a comforting, delicious combination of sweetness from the crab with the brightness of the lemon and the sharpness of the black pepper. The texture of the tagliolini leans more toward the texture I associate with noodles rather than pasta, and appeals to me greatly.
LOBSTER WITH MUSHROOM SABAYON AND SPINACH
I had this entree a while back and don't recall the exact description. Everything was cooked perfectly and the flavors settled into a warm, comforting harmony with earthy, autumnal overtones.
In fact, I hadn't been to EMP in a while and the moment I started eating this dish, the flavors started to come back like memories and I could easily say, "Yes, this is Daniel Humm's food at EMP. These are the flavors, essences, and combinations that epitomize his cooking."
The bar at EMP allows customers to enjoy some of the restaurant's characteristic dishes in a slightly livelier atmosphere and without having to make a reservation well in advance. However, considering the lack of canapes and the (expensive, but reasonable) $60 price for an appetizer and an entree, it makes me appreciate even more the value of the $125 prix fixe in the main dining room.