Avant-Garde Cuisine Goes Casual
The South Fork of Long Island is no mecca of avant-gardae cuisine. Like most summer resorts, classics and old time favorites trump innovation. And why shouldn’t they? At the end of a day at the beach, people want good-tasting wine and drink–not a meal that comes with operating instructions or a chef’s manifesto on a plate. Well, hold on to your sun hats! The Swiss-born chef Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, co-owners of New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, a restaurant with three Michelin stars, an eleven-course tasting menu, and legions of admirers, have opened a summer pop-up in East Hampton! Do not expect such signature dishes as celery root cooked in a pig’s bladder. The à la carte menu skews posh-casual with summer favorites such as a $75 per person fried chicken feast (fried chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, Parker House rolls, coleslaw, watermelon salad, and pie), fluke ceviche, and beef tartare with horseradish and cornichons, along with local seafood and pasta dishes. This being the Hamptons, the menu features the obligatory lobster boil, but what a lobster boil it is! At $125 per person (minimum six people, maximum twelve), the EMP Summer House version includes clams, shrimp. andouille sausage, just-picked sweet corn and other seasonal vegetables, tomato salad, and pie.
Humm and Guidara decided to take their show east while Eleven Madison Park’s kitchen and dining room are being renovated. All one hundred and twenty-five members of their team have settled into their new temporary home at the site of the old Moby’s on Pantigo Road, renamed EMP Summer House. The tri-partite dining room consists of an indoor space, an outdoor space under a tent, and a second outdoor space with picnic tables and games–a world apart from the formality of Eleven Madison Park with its $295 eleven-course tasting menu. Humm has been called ‘the best chef in the world’ by Esquire magazine. This year, Eleven Madison Park took top honors at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant’s awards in Melbourne, Australia. According to that organization, Humm and Guidara “have put their lives into breaking down the walls between dining room and kitchen, making sure the customer experience is harmonious from start to finish.”
At this writing, tickets for the first round of tables had already sold out and tickets for the second round of tables from July 16 through August 5 (available at empsummerhouse.tocktix.com) were expected to go fast. But according to the restaurant’s website, walk-ins are accepted for tent and backyard dining. Given that the team’s next project is the fast-casual restaurant Made Nice, in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, and the recent proliferation of high-end small plates spots, it’s worth asking if the restaurant world is undergoing a sea change. In this regard, EMP Summer House could serve as a bellewether. If it succeeds, more cutting-edge chefs will no doubt make forays into casual dining.