For the past several years, I've made a habit of taking myself out to lunch at Eleven Madison Park for restaurant week. It's how I pat myself on the back, remind myself how sweet life can be.
Those of you not NYC-centered may not know anything about Danny Meyer. In short, he's the city's, neigh the country's, best restaurateur. For a foodie, going to a DM restaurant is akin to great sex. Sex you pay for, though, as more than a few trips his way could possibly leave you bankrupt. (Mr. Meyer is also the man I have to thank for giving me the only decent Chicago dog to be found in this city.)
Of his restaurants, all of which are great, EMP is the one that holds a place in my heart. I've often thought that if I ever get married (to somebody rich) that I'd eschew the traditional wedding and rent the place out so I could have this gem all to myself for 4 or 5 hours. The room is tall and sun-drenched. The colors soft and welcoming. The service? If it weren't so pleasant, it might be downright creepy the way every smile that's directed your way is genuine (or at least faked tremendously well). Walking in means being treated like royalty for the next couple hours. Try not to get used to it though lest the trip out through the revolving door prove too jarring for you as everyone you pass on the sidewalk will not smile and greet you and move out of your way in deference.
I always go alone and I'm never treated like I'm a leper for dining solo. I prefer to go alone, actually, in order to fully enjoy the experience. I'd think dining there with a guest would be like having a masseuse who chats constantly with you during your 1 hour rub-down. It would be distracting. I'm weird, I think. However, I've never dined there for dinner. It's a combination of it being fairly pricey (and so I doubt I'd find someone to eat with me) and the fact that having a some 10 course meal while alone might be overdoing it. 1 hour lunches are cake to handle alone. Plenty of light to read by, etc. 3 hour dinners = a different story. That being said, I'm totally trying to finagle Justy into going with me to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for my birthday (though I've already decided that if he won't go, I'm still going to go by myself...out to Tarrytown! Scary!).
Anyway, the food is fantastic. I don't mean that as an afterthought even though it sort of sounds like one. I suppose I just assume that any great restaurant starts with great food. And some end with great food as well,see Ko for an example of that. As much as I enjoy Ko, there's something to be said for the level of service found with good 'ole DM. The pampering. Servers so gentile and comforting that I feel I may want to take them home so they can tuck me into bed the way mother never did. Seeing Danny (as I do every time I go) standing at the edges of the restaurant, surveying his baby with a knowing father's eye, I also kind of want to bring him home too so he can tell me to do my homework or, "no TV before dinner." And I'm not even a student...nor do I watch TV.
I'm rambling. If you're ever in New York, just go. It might hurt your wallet but you won't regret it.
a meal there = happiness.
post script: i've just been informed by my favorite street jewelry seller ricky that dave chang will be on charlie rose tonight! huzzah!