Frank Bruni’s final review as restaurant critic for The New York Times has just been published. And he goes out with a bang: in the review, the multi-talented Timesman gives the Flatiron District institution that is Eleven Madison Park…four stars.

“I fell in love gradually, not all at once,” Bruni explains. “The experience had a sweetness all its own.”

More on the Eleven Madison elevation:

As for the elite club of truly extraordinary restaurants, they don’t so much raise the level of their games as maintain it (which is blessing and pleasure enough). Jean Georges and Per Se are magnificent now, but they were magnificent then, too. While there’s magic in a meal at either, there isn’t really any sense of revelation.

That’s why my visits to Eleven Madison Park over the last five years have, in arc and aggregate, given me such particular joy. I watched a distinguished restaurant get better, even though it already seemed popular enough to survive just the way it was. Then I watched an improved, excellent restaurant, which I elevated to three stars from two in early 2007, make yet another unnecessary advance.

Watching a distinguished institution get better, even though it already seemed popular enough to survive just the way it was. An experience that will be familiar, no doubt, to those who have followed Bruni’s work over the past five years.

Ends today: If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of
10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.