Our best meal during our NYC trip, and maybe one of my best meals of all time, took place at Eleven Madison Park.
We’ve been trying to cut back on our food expenses this year after all the indulgence of last year. But with so many great restaurants in NYC, we had to make some exceptions. I really wanted to check out Eleven Madison Park after my friend told me it was his favorite restaurant in NYC.
The three Michelin star restaurant has only one tasting menu, priced at $195 per person. On the night we dined, we were treated to a 16-course tasting menu, complete with elaborate presentations, magic tricks, story telling, and a very special “kitchen tour.”
The addition of adding the dazzle and show was a decision made last year that led to a lot of controversy and criticism for being too gimicky. Having not dined at EMP prior to the change, I don’t have anything to compare to. I can understand the concern, but as a tourist, I have to admit that I liked it. I thought it made the meal far more memorable. While dining there, I kept trying to remember the dishes from my French Laundry experience and could only remember about 2 courses. Had it just been a show without good food, I probably would have felt differently, but I loved the food as well.
CHEDDAR (savory black and white cookie with apple)
Our meal started out with a savory take on the classic New York black and white cookie, which even came wrapped up in a little box. It was a nice little bite of cheesy cookies, while also giving us a reminder that we were in fact in New York City.
SEA URCHIN (snow with smoked cantaloupe and yogurt)
This was a little like eating sea urchin ice cream, except the snow was crunchy. This was an interesting dish, but not one of my favorites.
SURF CLAM (tomato, beans and savory)
A foamy soup with bacon and beans underneath. I liked that it was served on a bed of sand. I barely remember this dish, most likely because of the presentation of the dish right after.
LITTLENECK CLAM (Manhattan Chowder with Whelk and Scallop)
This was EMP’s take on Manhattan chowder. It consisted of multiple parts. First, we were given a small carrot chip, meant to be eaten immediately. Then there was a clam broth being brewed in a clear tea pot. Finally there was a platter of various clams.
TOMATO (confit with lobster salad and bonito)
If you love tomatoes, this was an ode to tomatoes. The tomato lobster salad was one of my favorite dishes of the entire meal. It was accompanied by a tomato soda. We loved the drink so much, I wanted to buy a soda streamer to make my own. The lobster claws were stuffed with additional lobster salad.
Next, we took a break from the tasting menu for a bread course. Interestingly, this was the only time bread was served during the meal.
The crispy, buttery, flaky roll was quite tasty. It was accompanied by two different butters, including a duck fat butter.
FOIE GRAS (brulee with summer berries and beets)
After the ban on foie gras in California, I am always looking to eat foie gras whenever I’m outside of California. This was one of the prettiest dishes of the night. I loved the colorful berries. I thought it was a little curious to add a torch of sweet brulee to the surface of the savory rich foie gras and I personally could have done without it.
CARROT (tartare with rye bread and condiments)
This was a fun course. First were were given wooden plates that had various ingredients. Then someone came out and began grinding a giant carrot right in front of us, turning it into a carrot tartare. We were then asked to mix all the ingredients with the tartare. Carrot tartare might not sound like the most appealing dish, but we enjoyed it. The carrot was very tender and I liked all the condiments, especially the quail egg.
OSTRICH EGG (corn pudding with truffle and buttermilk)
Next came a corn pudding with truffle and butermilk, served inside an ostrich egg. It was more like a soup than a pudding, but still enjoyable.
DUCK (roasted with apricots and fennel)
First, we were presented with the show duck. Then we were given our plates with the duck slices. The duck was cooked so perfectly. I loved how crispy the seasoned skin was, a hard feat considering how fatty the skin is. This was one of the best pieces of duck I’ve ever eaten, second only to the duck I had in that Paris restaurant last year.
GREENSWARD (pretzel, mustard, and green tomato)
For their take on a cheese course, we were presented with a picnic basket. We were left with the task of unpacking it and setting up our table picnic. It included olives, beer, pretzel bread made with the beer, and a block of cheese.
I loved the attention of detail, down to the plates which were made to resemble paper plates, even crinkly up at the sides, but it was actually a solid ceramic plate.
MALT (egg cream with vanilla and seltzer)
Dessert started with an egg cream drink, which was prepared in front of us along with a story of the drink and its history in New York. This was my first taste of egg cream and I really enjoyed it. It tasted faintly of a vanilla milkshake.
SASSAFRAS (sorbet with banana cake, caramel, and vanilla)
RED PEPPER (cheesecake with strawberry and cashew)
After eating the various sweets inside the cup, our waiter came back to do a little magic card trick.
He showed us a deck of cards, each with a picture of a different ingredient. Mr. K was then asked to cut the deck and we each drew a card. The ingredient on our card was in our next course–which we actually had with us the whole time.
When our glass was lifted, there was a piece of chocolate underneath. And sure enough, each of our pieces of chocolate corresponded with the picture of the ingredient/flavor as our card. Mine was passion fruit and Mr. K’s was honey. It was a fun little act and we weren’t able to figure out how he had done it.
At this point, Chef Humm himself came out to greet and speak with all the guests. It was great meeting him and taking a photo, though because of the low lighting our photo came out blurry. Oh well.
If you read my French Laundry post, you know that I shared the hidden menu secrets to get the full experience. I tried to find out those same secrets for my dinner here, and this is my advice: ask for a kitchen tour when you make your reservation.
At this point of the night, we were asked to leave our stuff at the table and bring ourselves and my camera into the kitchen for a “tour.” Once inside, a small table was set up for us to sip on a cocktail and watch the kitchen work. The cocktail (the name eludes me), was prepared right in front of us and involved using dry ice. We were then asked to break the frozen concoction, creating a sweet purple cocktail. This was delicious and we were also grateful that we had not gotten any wine with dinner given how much of lightweights we are. Between the cocktail and the beer, I was already getting that Asian glow.
After getting a quick rundown of the kitchen, we were then escorted to the VIP section. It was a quiet lounge area. Our stuff was already there and here we got to leisurely enjoy the rest of our desserts and coffee/tea.
Our little table had a chocolate covered cookie pretzel (the second to last course of the evening), some apple brandy, and the final dessert course wrapped up in a box.
We were offered coffee and tea and we chose coffee, which was brewed in front of us using a siphon brewer, a technique that is supposed to be ideal for bringing out the best in the coffee. On our table was also a very, very strong bottle of apple brandy. We were told we could have as much as we wanted, though it was so strong I can’t imagine people making much of a dent in it. I poured some into my coffee.
Our final dessert was a sweet black and white cookie, taking our meal full circle.
We were also gifted with menus and their house-made granola for breakfast the day after.
We had a very memorable night here and I hope to return again some day. Out of all the Michelin star dining we’ve experienced to date, this was our favorite, and not nearly as expensive as some of the other tasting menus at other three Michelin star restaurants.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010