Dining at Eleven Madison Park is for sure one of the best culinary experience I had and trust me: I had many. No wonder how this place got some many accolades, from 3 Michelin stars since 2012, to James Beard Awards to name a few: the service was impeccable and the food was not only creative, but also fantastically presented and delicious. Know that they only offer a tasting menu and there is no a la carte, so your meal with take few hours for the pleasure of your eyes, palate and stomach. We even got the chance to meet with Executive Chef and owner Daniel Humm and chatted a bit about the menu that will change in couple of weeks, being a smaller tasting, but still showcasing local ingredients.
After our dinner, we also had a tour of the kitchen that was impressive: 30 people work there, making the magic happen in an environment quite spotless I would say and very well organized.
In the kitchen, you should not be surprised to see a photo of Miles Davis. It stems from the words of a critic of The New York Observer, Moira Hodgson, who said that the restaurant needed "a bit of Miles Davis". Interesting analogy, but as nobody understood what she meant, they looked up at the 11 (for Eleven Madison Park) most used words to describe the musician. These words can be seen on one of the walls of the kitchen.
As our kitchen tour was at the end of the meal, Executive Pastry Sous-Chef Renata Ameni gratified us with a little treat, some sort of taffy made with some apple snow that gave an incredible flavor to the whole thing.
But let's talk about the meal itself. Well, first we sat in the back of the dining room, side by side, that I always found odd, but it allowed us to see what was going on in the dining room. After greeting you, they will ask if you have any dietary restrictions, allergies, etc. Jodi asked for a vegetarian meal, while I did not say anything, although I could have mentioned broccoli (fortunately for me, there wasn't any...). We then proceeded to open the small box that was in front of the candle on the table. It contained two small savory black and white cookies made with apple and cheddar.
At the same time, they offered us a glass of sparkling wine from the North fork of Long Island: a 2009 Brut from Sparkling Pointe.
Then, they brought us an egg that contained a mushroom sabayon for Jodi and a sturgeon sabayon for me, both presented in an egg shell that was perfectly cut on the top and emptied, using the napkin rings as holders.
After this delicious start came a pie and veloute: parsnip for Jodi, oyster for me.
As my glass of sparkling wine was empty at that point, I decided to go with a glass of chablis, a 2012 Chablis Premier Cru "Montée de Tonnerre" from France.
The next dish was, for Jodi, a potato salad with black truffle:
For me, scallops marinated with black truffle and leeks.
Then was a take on eggs benedict. For Jodi, cauliflower benedict with black truffle:
For me, caviar benedict with egg, cauliflower and ham:
They came with some tiny muffins that were really good.
This definitely showcased the creativity of the Chef as it can easily be compared to a dish most of us tried and he made it close in a way, but so different and so upscale with the caviar or the truffle.
The next dish was also interesting: a take on surf and turf with a seared foie gras with Brussels sprouts and smoked eel.
On her side, Jodi got a Kohlrabi (a sort of cabbage) with pear, hazelnuts and tarentaise, a cheese made in Vermont.
This was at the same time they brought us some bread that was so good that I could not stop eating it (they brought more), a dangerous situation considering we still had lost of dishes to come...But I could not resist: it was an organic bread made with half white and half whole wheat flour that was very flakey, close to a croissant. It came with three kinds of butter: one traditional, one with some apple and one with some duck fat.
Back to having a take on a dish, the next course was sublime in both its creativity and execution: it was a take on the Waldorf salad. The original recipe was invented in 1896 by Oscar Tschirky who was the Maitre d'Hotel at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria hotel at the time it was located on 34th, before being demolished in 1929 to make way for the building of the Empire State Building.
So, we kept seeing a cart coming and going and were wondering what it was, thinking it was a cheese course as we saw some blue cheese and apples, but no, it was for this salad. So, they prepare it in front of you, combining multiple ingredients, such as celery root, walnuts, grapes and apple. It sits in a big bowl, so I admit that when I saw the small quantity of salad on this large bowl, I was quite amused.
Well it is because the bowl has two compartments and if you lift the top, you will discover a cold soup in the bottom, that is in fact made of the same salad. And guess what: it was succulent!
Next was for Jodi salsify with roasted peas and brown butter.
For me, a perfectly cooked poached lobster with butternut squash and chestnuts.
After that was my least favorite dish: hen of the wood mushroom roasted with horseradish.
It was then time to get our entree. I had to pick between venison and duck. I chose the later as I love duck and I was surely not disappointed: it was one of the best duck I ever had!
The duck was roasted with collard greens and apple that I did not really care for. No, what I really wanted was more of this superb duck: it was perfectly cooked, pink, moist with a nice amount of fat and a robust flavor that makes this one of my favorite birds to eat.
Jodi had a braised red cabbage on her side.
Then, before dessert, was the cheese course. It was a Cato Corner cheese fondue with some greens, homemade pretzel bread, mustard and quince jam. The cheese, delightfully melted was sitting in a squash (in fact, there were small pieces of squash in it) and you simply have to dip the bread in it: divine!
For dessert, it started interestingly: on one side was an ice cream with bitter almond and ginger crumble, supplemented by a wine made with botrytis, a fungus that attacks many plants, especially grapes. So, imagine a wine that is made of that! Well, it was pretty good, sweet, and paired well with the ice cream as I was alternating between the two as suggested by the waitress.
The wine was a Riesling Josef Vineyard 2012 from Hermann J Wiemer, Fingerlakes, NY.
Then, there was a second dessert called "milk and honey". a milk and honey custard with bee pollen ice cream.
But it was not finished: they had a fun way of offering chocolates by making it a game called "Name that milk". They brought four chocolate bars and we had to guess from which animal the milk came from. I will not give you the answers, but know that I had 2 correct.
And last was a chocolate pretzels with an apple brandy.
The brandy was perfect for digestion (called digestif in French). As far as the chocolate pretzel was concerned, I was so full that I only got a bite of it. It was not a chocolate covered pretzel but their take on it and I admit that I do not recall the details, having to remember everything else...
We left with these little tin boxes similar to the one used for the eggs benedict, but instead of eggs, they contained the menu, as well as some granola, an interesting giveaway I have to say.
Dining at Eleven Madison Park was definitely worth it and is a memorable experience. And the fact that we were able to meet Daniel Humm and visit the kitchen was the cherry on the sundae. I definitely recommend this place if you want to celebrate something or want to enjoy a unique experience.
Enjoy (I surely did)!
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