Eleven Madison Park is probably one of the restaurants that doesn’t need much introduction. Michelin 3 star, NY Times 4 star, and recently named #5 in World’s 50 best restaurant list. W and I decided to dine here on our recent-ish (December 2013) trip to NYC. Definitely a splurge, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience. It wasn’t just a meal, it was a 4 hour culinary experience that is unforgettable.
As soon as we stepped into the restaurant, we were greeted and our coats checked. We were then promptly escorted to our table and seated side by side – which allowed them to prepare some of the dishes by our table. After we were seated, hot towels were given to us, and our waiter welcomed us to Eleven Madison Park, and asked us for any dietary restriction or food that we dislike, which we think should be a standard practice for tasting menus because hey if I’m paying an arm and a leg for a meal, it better not have food I can’t/don’t eat!
We started our meal with some drinks. W ordered Manhattan Cart, and the waiter brought a little map of manhattan that has a list of various whiskey based cocktails. Another waitress soon came out with a cart full of various alcohol and explained each different cocktails since we are noobs when it comes to cocktails. W ended up ordering the classic – Manhattan, which she prepared right at our table. (I wish I took more pictures… forgive me we weren’t planning on starting a food blog!) I ordered Charles de Gaulle, a chartreuse based drink with hot chocolate and marshmallows. The chartreuse came through a little strong for my liking, but then I don’t really drink so… my bad.
Our first course/dish came out in a box that is neatly wrapped by a ribbon. We were instructed to untie the ribbon, and inside we find Cheddar Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple. A twist on a New York classic. We didn’t really taste the apple because the cheddar was strong, but nonetheless it was one delicious savory cookie.
Every dish was brought out by a different waiter/waitress, and they explains each dish in detail. We thoroughly enjoyed the Grape Gelée with Olive and Fennel. I am not usually a fan of olive, and I would never have thought of pairing grape with olive and fennel, but the combination is surprisingly delicious.
Next up we had Pickled Beet with Yogurt and Nesturtium. The yogurt was presented as a yogurt snow, which was really fun to eat. I have to admit I had no idea what nesturtium was and I had to look it up, but damn I’d eat flower petals everyday if this is what it taste like.
The Sturgeon Sabayon with Chive Oil was served in an egg shell. It’s a rich, creamy soup that is extremely flavourful. Since W doesn’t eat seafood, the sturgeon was replaced by mushroom.
The next course had a few different components, where the main star is the Smoked Sturgeon/Mushroom with Everything Bagel Crumble, Pickles and (Cucumber) Caviar. The sturgeon/mushroom was brought up covered in a bell jar so the smokiness from the charcoal gets infused into the sturgeon/mushroom. The thinly sliced rye bread was very crispy perfect for pulling everything in the dish together. The cucumber pickles with dill sadly didn’t get pictured but it was very refreshing. I got caviar whereas W got cucumber Caviar. They were presented in a cute caviar tin, and underneath the caviar was a thick layer of cream cheese. I have never had caviar, but you bet this won’t be the last time since I loved it! The last component of this dish was the tiny salad with everything bagel crumble and quail egg. I eat everything bagel often but they never tasted this good!
I was a little surprised that we didn’t get bread first because I’m so used to that. But this was definitely worth the wait. The bread came out in a little cloth “bag” and doesn’t it look like 2 peas in a pod?! It was probably the most delicious bread that has ever entered my tummy. I would say it’s a cross between bread and puff pastry. It was served with two different types of butter – a “regular” butter and one that is infused with venison (“as a continuation into our main course”-said the waiter). I loved the one infused with venison, anyone know where can I buy that? I would eat it in chunks for breakfast.
I think this is the real first course on the meal (the previous dishes were more like amuse-bouches). I had the Foie Gras Seared with Oats, Sage, and Apple. W had the Foie Gras Terrine with Potato, Greens, and Black Truffle. I have always been a huge fan of foie gras, and this is no exception. I love the crispiness of the outside and how it melts in my mouth. And the oats! I love how Chef Humm can turn ordinary ingredients into something that tastes like heaven.
This was definitely the most fun dish to eat, and it was W’s favourite dish of the night. It was the Carrot Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments. First, our server came out and “installed” a meat grinder contraption at our table without a word. Then he came out with two wooden slabs with many condiments on them, and proceeded to list them all out (and you are right, I don’t really remember any of them… except the obvious ones). Next up he grind the carrots and placed them on our “plate”. We were told to mix any of the condiments we want withe the carrots, and eat it with the rye bread. I love how Chef Humm “leaves it to us” to “make” the dish when in reality, no matter what I do it is going to taste delicious. I mixed everything in (of course) and in W’s words – I would eat carrots everyday if this was what they taste like. The carrot was so soft and well, delicious. (I would be so drunk right now if I took a shot for everytime I used the word “delicious” in this post).
It was followed by Poached Lobster with Brussels Sprouts and Guanciale for me, and Roasted Chicken with Turnip and Huckeberries. The lobster was cooked to perfection, and the chicken was definitely the most tender chicken we’ve had in our lives.
Now I am really kicking myself for not taking a picture, but before the above dish was served, our waiter came out with a plate with a squash that’s filled to the brim, and sealed with sourdough, to show us how it’s made before they finish cooking it and plating it. It was beautiful! It was the Roasted Squash with Cranberries, Pumpkin Seeds, and Sourdough. This dish is the definition of fall/winter. It made me feel warm inside (is that wierd?). There’s nothing I didn’t like about this dish, at all.
Finally here’s the main course. At the beginning of the meal we were given the option of venison or duck, and it was the one decision we needed to make as a table. Luckily both W and I wanted the Venison. Similar to the squash dish, the Roasted Venison with Pears and Sunchokes were brought out to us in its whole (and encased in some fantastic smelling wood) before it was plated. I had been wondering why the restaurant had a lovely, homely smell of wood burning, and this was probably why. The venison was very tender and flavourful, and I loved the combination with pear. It was served with Venison Infused Mousse on the side.
This was another fun course (Greensward Pretzel, Mustard and Champagne Grapes), but unfortunately unlike the carrot, this was definitely our least-liked dish of the night. It was a picnic basket filled with stuff and we were instructed to dive in and discover for ourselves what is our next course. Inside we found a bottle of Greensward beer, a box with beer-infused cheese, a jar of mustard, a pretzel, plates and cutleries. I am sure beer-lover would have loved this course, but neither W and I are huge fans of beer (and were already slightly woozy from the cocktail). The pretzel was good, but the cheese was meh (again, I am not a cheese fan… so it was probably just me). We totally didn’t expect there to be alcohol served with dishes which is why we didn’t list “beer” as one of the foods we don’t eat. Oh well, it was still a fun dish.
Our waiter then came out with a cart and prepared the Malt Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer by our table while explaining the history of Egg Cream. It was a great palate cleanser before we moved into desserts. I could drink this drink everyday, the creaminess contrasting with the fizziness was very interesting in a good way.
Apple Sorbet with Bay Leaf, Crème Brûlée and Hibiscus. Somewhere around this dish Chef Humm came out to the dining room to chat with the diners. He’s such a nice guy and a genius when it comes to food. I was slightly star-struck. Anyways back to the food. Loved the presentation of this (and everything else truth be told), and everything else about it. By this course W and I were both filled to the brim and I don’t really remember what happened after this course…
Again, kicking myself for being too immersed in the show and didn’t take a picture. This dish (Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Honey and Chestnut) came out as one plate (the plate with chocolate was hidden), and the waiter did a card trick when the dish was presented. I will not expose his tricks here but it was really fun! This just adds to the whole dining experience. I had raspberry chocolate whereas W had popcorn chocolate. I love sweet potato, cheesecake, honey, and chestnut, and I really wanted to finish this because it was perfect, unlike some cheesecakes which can be overwhelmingly sweet. But at this point my belly was filled to 150% so I only had a taste of it before passing it to W. Now I am really regretting it.
Last course! Chocolate Covered Pretzel with Sea Salt, served with Apple Brandy. More alcohol! I’m not a fan of brandy so I didn’t try it, but I didn’t think W liked it judging from his reaction (neither of us are huge fans of straight liquor either). I’m sure people who like brandy would appreciate it. The chocolate pretzel was soooooo good! I forced myself to finish this one!
Well technically this was the last course, but we took it with us and ate it for breakfast the next morning. It was Chocolate Sweet Black and White Cookie with Cinnamon. It wrapped up the meal nicely since it’s just like the first course, but with a different twist. Again, a great cookie but for some reason the cinnamon didn’t really come through.
Before we left the restaurant, I was gifted with a jar of granola “for breakfast tomorrow”. According to our waiter, this was what Chef Humm eats every morning. Let me tell you, it was the most delicious granola ever, I had to seriously ration this. W was sad that he didn’t get it because this is a gift only for ladies (don’t worry, I shared)! We were also given a customized menu with everything we ate, which is the only reason how I remember the name of all the dishes. And as we headed towards the door, our coats were already waiting for us. Say what?
Au revoir Eleven Madison Park, it was a truly a phenomenal dining experience that could be summarized as food-gasm followed by food-gasm, topped with impeccable service. Truly deserving the Michelin 3 stars. We also loved how attentive the service was, and how every dish was brought out by a server who was clearly knowledgeable about the dish.
If you are in NYC or planning a trip to NYC in the near future, and want to have an unforgettable evening, and have some money to spare ($225 + tax + gratuity per person), I highly highly highly recommend this. Oh also, reservation starts exactly 28 days prior to the day you want to dine, so make sure you call in right at 9am (EST) if you want a table at your time of choice!
Name: Eleven Madison Park
Address: 11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010
Phone: +1 (212) 889-0905
Reservation: Highly recommended. By phone or online at opentable.com. Opens 28 days in advance at 9am.