Eleven Madison Park
photo by Dominic Perri
Sit down for dinner at Eleven Madison Park and prepare to be dazzled by presentations of NYC classics that verge on wizardry: Meals start and end with a black-and-white cookie; a Waldorf salad prepared tableside is presented in a dish that hides granola steeped in the same flavors; pastrami on rye is served with a house-bottled soda, the flavor of which is selected for you via a kind of game you play at the beginning of the meal. You’ll find all of the fine-dining boxes ticked here: Service is impeccable, food is pristine, sommeliers are deft at navigating the deep wine list, and the dining room is well appointed — a remarkable evolution from its roots as a large-scale brasserie. Thank Daniel Humm and Will Guidara for the current iteration; the relentlessly hard-working duo has pushed this place forward since 2006, when Danny Meyer brought them on to refresh the then-eight-year-old spot. They shaped it into a collaborative, New York–centric temple where kitchen and service staff work together seamlessly. The team continues to innovate, even to the point of flirting briefly with tableside magic after the partners bought out Meyer in 2011. Guidara and Humm have earned four New York Times stars and three Michelin stars for their efforts, not to mention a coveted No. 5 slot on the San Pellegrino list of the best restaurants in the world. Nine years in, the most remarkable thing you’ll find at EMP is the contagious enthusiasm for this kind of experience, a buoyant joy that makes you feel your (not inconsiderable sum of) money is well spent. With that energy, and with the owners’ constant vigilance, it feels inevitable that this place will one day be ranked the best restaurant on the planet, exactly what the owners intend.