Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
Dining date: 2/28/15
Eleven Madison Park was one of my most anticipated meals in a long time. Since chef Daniel Humm and manager Will Guidara took over the place in 2006, the restaurant has skyrocketed to be regarded as one of the best in the world. Consistently earning three Michelin stars, it was rated the 4th best restaurant in the world in the well-known S. Pellegrino list. Needless to say, expectations were sky-high; so high that I had considerable doubt the restaurant (or any, for that matter) would be able to meet them.
My dad had dined here just over a year ago but this would be the first visit for the rest of the party (though a couple of us have had Humm’s food when he was chef of Campton Place in San Francisco). Over the years, the restaurant has changed the layout of the menu multiple times; currently, it’s a multi-course menu with a fixed price tag of $225. The only choices were whether the foie gras be in terrine form or pan-seared and if the party wanted a duck or pork course.
The restaurant has a well-known cocktail program and an option for a tableside Manhattan was irresistible. Wine pairings were also available at the $155 and $225 level and we got one of the latter to drink throughout the meal.
Quinceanera highlands blanco tequila, pommeau du domaine de semainville, amaro montenegro, pedro ximenez sherry, allspice dram, lemon, new york quince jam
Arthur Avenue bourbon, cynar, carpano punt e mes vermouth, mezcal
Manhattan bourbon, carpano antica sweet vermouth, angostura bitters
CHEDDAR savory black and white cookie with apple
The first bites of food were these cookies, crumbly with with a cheesy flavor. I have to say it – the flavor was reminiscent of Cheez-Its.
WIDOW’S HOLE OYSTERS hot and cold with apple and black chestnuts
A duo of oysters was next. The first was served cold with a refreshing apple snow while the second was served warm with a comforting nuttiness from shaved chestnut (an interesting flavor combination for sure).
STURGEON smoked with pickled mackerel, fennel, dill, caviar, whitefish potato salad, pickled cucumbers with black rye and salmon, beets with apple and trout roe
Smoked sturgeon was pretty delicious served with a number of accompanying flavors and textures, most notably the caviar.
TURNIP variations in its own broth
Roasted, smoked and pickled turnips sat in a turnip broth. I thought this was fine but I couldn’t get too excited about turnip four ways.
Bread was very good, served hot, with a duck fat butter. Really nice crusty texture.
HUDSON VALLEY FOIE GRAS marinated with red cabbage and apple or seared with brussels sprouts and smoked eel
Foie gras came with a choice of preparations between a terrine and pan-seared. Both of these were good. I personally ordered the seared version which was very savory, rich with the eel along with crispy pieces of Brussels sprouts.
LOBSTER NEWBURG with baby mushrooms and lettuce
Finished table-side, this next course was EMP’s take on the New York creation, complete with story. The dish itself was centered around sweet, perfectly cooked lobster and a rich flavorful shellfish sauce.
CELERY ROOT braised with black truffle
A pig bladder was next to come to the table, filled with braised celery root (which was cooked inside). The root was plated with a buttery truffle sauce and a creamy celery root puree with truffle. Really interesting dish, with the natural sweetness of the root balancing well with the earthy truffles.
FINGER LAKES DUCK dry-aged with pear, mushroom, duck jus
One of the restaurant’s signature items, the duck was perfectly cooked with a very crispy, flavorful skin. A deep sauce provided plenty more flavor, while a rich potato puree hid duck leg confit and foie gras for some delicious bites.
CATO CORNER CHEESE roasted carnival squash, mustard, bitter green salad
A carved out squash contained the cheese course for the night with warm soft pretzels and a simple salad.
BOTRYTIS sorbet with bitter almond and ginger crumble
The pre-dessert provided flavors of bitter almond, a grape sorbet and a spoonful of Riesling.
MAPLE bourbon barrel aged with milk and shaved ice
The last dessert course was refreshing featuring various textures of maple flavors from the ice cream to the snow.
The restaurant uses Intelligentsia coffee beans; I ordered a latte to wind down the meal.
PRETZEL chocolate covered with sea salt
CHOCOLATE sweet black and white cookie with apple molasses
The restaurant’s apple brandy was paired alongside the sweets with the invitation to drink as much as one would like (or can). It was primarily just me drinking, but we only managed to drink about an inch.
Lastly, everyone was sent home with a jar of EMP’s granola for the road.
The dining experience at Eleven Madison Park was exceptional. Service was top-notch, engaging and the whole meal told a story. It definitely met expectations from that perspective. Food-wise, it was very good but that part didn’t quite live up to high expectations. There was a very high level of cooking for sure, but I think my personal flavor preferences didn’t really line up with a few of the courses this evening. Always tricky with a multi-course menu. Still, I wouldn’t mind returning someday to give EMP another go.