New York City: Eleven Madison Park

Elisa:

Located right across the historic Madison Square Park with an imposing backdrop of a spacious, light-flooded dining room, soaring ten-meter high ceilings and wooden floors, Eleven Madison Park has always attained a formidable appeal ever since its doors opened in 1998. Granted, it was originally owned by legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer who is known to strive for reliable hospitality and customer satisfaction in every restaurant he operates, including Union Square Park, Gramercy Tavern and Maialino. However, it was the arrival of Chef Daniel Humm and impresario partner Will Guidara in 2006 that lifted this already spectacular restaurant into a whole new level. As masters of reinvention, the two took big bold gambles, forgoing the traditional a la carte menu in 2010 for an abstract grid of ingredients meant to stimulate conversations between diners and servers, and then tossing it again for the current multi-course tasting menu that focuses on the agricultural bounty of New York together with the centuries-old culinary traditions that have taken root. But what makes Eleven Madison Park ultimately different from most restaurants of its caliber is that the meal presented is marked by stagecraft and tricks, yet still somewhat restrained in a disciplined, dazzling fashion and all executed with a gracious sense of genuine hospitality. On the international battlefield of glorified gastronomic destinations, Eleven Madison Park has racked up countless glittery accolades from Michelin to the James Beard Foundation and the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants. 
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Right after we were seated, our waitress comes up to us to ask for our dietary restrictions, and explains the restaurant’s liking for surprises and whimsicality. She then told us to open the white envelope that had been lying on the table and each select an ingredient. We were told nothing more. Since there were the four of us, we chose one ingredient each. I chose strawberry.
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Cheddar, Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple. Starting the meal with an extremely addictive butter cookie that is balanced by the saltiness of cheddar cheese and sweetness of apple only serves to whip up the appetite and leave us lingering for more. It’s like eating junk food on an empty stomach; you’re just left craving for more. Only difference is that this isn’t junk food, and it has every right to be so damn tasty and addictive because of the technique and right amount of ingredients used to perfect this simple yet refined cookie.
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Oyster, Baked Potato Ice Cream and Caviar. The fresh oysters and caviar, both slightly briny yet slightly sweet at the same time, paired perfectly with the ice cream that had an ever so subtle savoury note, clearing the palate for the next course. 
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Silky and smooth Morel, Custard with Maine Sea Trout Roe. Just like the Japanese chawanmushi, but with an even more umami flavor from the mushrooms, and I like how the salty trout roe pops in your mouth to offer a different dimension of flavor.
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English Peas, Warmed with Meyer Lemon and Egg Yolk. Creamy, yet light and refreshing at the same time with hints of lavender. It’s a simple dish. The ingredients aren’t tempered with so much and it speaks for itself.
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Beef, Pastrami with Ramps, Rye, Mustard, and Strawberry. This is the restaurant’s take on the New York deli pastrami sandwich. So in front of you, you are presented with homemade rye bread topped with mustard, peas and ramps, plus a bottle of soda flavoured with the ingredient that you had chosen previously because no deli sandwich is complete without a soda. So for the complete experience, take a piece of beef pastrami that had been cured till it melts in your mouth, place it on your little piece of bread, eat every piece of component together, and take a sip of your soda. By now you start to feel the restaurant’s pursuit of a whimsical feast full of nostalgic tastes yet using the absolute finest ingredients.
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Then, we were served Homemade Bread that almost resembled a croissant, so flaky and buttery, yet just slightly denser, accompanied with traditional unsalted butter and butter that had been mixed with duck fat coming from the duck that will be our main course later.
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Foie Gras, Seared with Fava Bean Marmalade and Sorrel. The foie gras was perfectly cooked, rich, creamy and soft, everything just melts in your mouth. And the crust was nicely caramelized and crispy, giving that contrast in flavor and texture.
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Apple, Waldorf Salad with Celery, Rhubarb, and Walnuts. Our waiter pushed this cart of ingredients next to our table, and prepared the waldorf salad, doubling as a tour guide or historian at the same time, explaining the dish’s history and inspiration. He peels and cuts the apple first before running it through the slicer. Then he mixes it with strips of celery and homemade mayonnaise before portioning out onto each plate, and finishing everything off with candied walnuts, diced rhubarb, a slice of blue cheese, and a few leaves of parsley. Beneath this plate of salad was a bowl of creamy, yet light and refreshing celery soup. As simple as it gets, it is as theatrical and playful as well. 
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Lobster, Poached with Beets, Ginger, and Nasturtium. There’s nothing much to say about this dish just that while it was undoubtedly delicious, it was probably the least exciting given the wildly inventive dishes that we have had so far.
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Asparagus, Braised with Potato and Black Truffle. With this dish, the chef comes out and shows us a puffed-up pig bladder filled with asparagus that had been poached in a pot. He ladles the broth over the bladder and we hear a sizzling sound that he says implies that while the bladder is being stretched and swelled up like a balloon, its contents are cooked in exactly the same principle as modern sous-vide cookery. The flavours are retained and amalgamated during cooking. The result is the most tender asparagus I’ve ever taste, slightly sweet, served with a surprisingly creamy mashed potatoes almost on par with that of Joel Robuchon’s.
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For our main course, we had a choice of lamb or duck and the whole table had to come to a consensus. We chose duck. The chef comes out with a whole Duck that came from Long Island, stuffed with lavender and honey and roasted.
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And while we wait for the chefs to carve the duck and plate our dishes, we were presented with a cracker topped with Broth, Cured Duck and Watercress. Just an amuse to tickle our taste buds before our main course of duck breast Roasted with Rhubarb, Shallots, and Scallions appear.
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My favourite part of the dish had to be the amazingly crispy skin. You could hear it crackle even as you cut it and it was just a burst of aromatic spices as you put it into your mouth. 

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Fresh Cheese, Pretzel, Parsley, and Strawberries. Going to the dessert, we were presented with a picnic basket and told to unwrap it on our own and just have a little fun. There was a bottle of specially brewed Ithaca ale, soft pretzels that had been baked with the beer and goes so perfectly with the heady and creamy Greensward cheese, exclusively created by Murray’s Cheese, that is also hidden inside. There was also a jar of pickled strawberries, a jar of parsley relish, and of course plates to eat on and glasses for our beer.
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With the leftover Whey coming from the cheese in the previous course, the genius Chef Daniel Humm makes it into a Sorbet so that nothing goes to waste, served with Caramelized Milk that tastes like caramel and Milk Foam. Slightly sourish but extremely refreshing. 
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Almond, Baked Alaska with Rum, Caramel and Strawberry. And for the last show of the night, what could be less dramatic than a flaming baked Alaska. Our waitress pours a couple tablespoons of heated rum over the meringue. The meringue caramelizes and a the blue-flame magic appears. The almond cake itself was slightly too sweet for my liking, especially together with the caramel and strawberry sauce (again based on the ingredient you chose the first time round). Maybe it would have gone better with coffee or celery sauce. 
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Pretzel, Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt. I absolutely believe that this was basically a butter cookie shaped into a pretzel because it was so buttery and rich, words can describe how addictive it was especially when it is covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with a touch of sea salt.
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And as we end the meal like how we started it, this time with Chocolate, Sweet Black and White Cookie with Mint.
By now it’s late, you’re dazed and dazzled having been through not just a 4 hour-long lunch, but a full-fledged production. From the card tricks to unusual serves, a succession of gorgeous amuses to celebrating its particular urban locale in a purely entertaining New York dining experience, nothing about a meal here is humdrum. With $225 per head, I definitely do think that the entire experience is worth every penny. The food, the service, the ambience, everything. Also, you wouldn’t want to give this a miss because Eleven Madison Park’s tasting menu is by far the most inspired, coherent, downright delectable, and of course, the most exciting.
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Last but not least, you are allowed to request for a tour of the kitchen but do request early because if not, there will be a long list of guests in front of you waiting to see the backstage magical show as well. Oh and before we left, we were each given a jar of homemade granola and our lunch’s menu. Now you see, I have a serious love for granola, but actually basically anything crunchy. I love my granola baked up in generous clusters, because thats how I can assure it’ll be extra crunchy, with a hint of maple-y sweetness. Well this one while overdosed with probably maple syrup, has no clusters at all. But that doesn’t really matter at all because you’re getting granola made by the world’s 4th best restaurant with 3-Michelin stars, that is so amazingly able to achieve that crispiness even without clusters!!! I have totally no idea how they do it but every piece of oatmeal or almond or simply whatever mouthful you get is just so crunchy and sweet and heavenly.

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Eleven Madison Park 
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010 
Tel:  212.889.0905
http://elevenmadisonpark.com
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This entry was posted in American/New American, Cake, Cookies, Dessert, French, Lunch, New York City, Travel to eat! :) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to New York City: Eleven Madison Park

  1. Jyoti says:

    Great photos, and great write up!

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