This is part 1 (lunch) of 2 reviews, otherwise it would be too long…
Let me start from the beginning…My love affair with Eleven Madison Park actually began at lunch last Thursday, where I limited myself (and my credit card) to 2 courses, dessert, and a couple glasses of wine. Instead of going into depth about every single course I had, let me say now that the dishes weren’t just delicious, or even great, but that every dish blew me away. Every. Single. Dish.
I could go into depth about why this was, and will for my Examiner article, but I’ll keep it simple here: Unlike many NYC restaurants, and perhaps because of Chef Humm’s former position at San Francisco’s Campton Place, the menu is exceptionally inventive and market-driven, with ingredients that are locally sourced (as much as possible). Therefore, they are buying the freshest, best ingredients possible to create their dishes. And, unlike many NYC restaurants, while the technique used to create a dish may be extremely complicated and advanced, the plate itself is left relatively uncomplicated so that each one of those ingredients can shine – very similar to Coi in SF, but with a bit more metropolitan flare.
That said, for lunch all of the following would be highly recommended: The Balik Salmon with white asparagus/tarragon mayonnaise/fava beans, the Slow Cooked Farm Egg with asparagus veloute and morels, the Cochon de Lait (suckling pig, served 3 ways) with rhubarb/spring onion/ice wine vinegar, and the Fregola Sarda (my favorite) with veal sweetbreads/pickled ramps/sorrel (almost like risotto, but larger grains).
And, of course, the wine was expertly chosen and went beautifully with each one of our courses. In fact, I think our sommelier, Jennifer, was the best I have ever encountered in that when she served a wine she didn’t just state the name or even what it was going to taste like, but specifically WHY she was pairing it with that particular dish – what it was supposed to bring out in the ingredients. And, at the end of the meal we were given cards with descriptions about each wine we had tasted, so if we ever wanted to find it on our own we had all of the information. It’s those types of details that make this restaurant exceptional.
It is also much more than just lunch. You get hors d’oeuvres to start the meal, a little extra dish somewhere before dessert, and mignardises to finish. They do an excellent job of keeping you surprised, and who doesn’t love surprises? Especially when they’re edible!
Look, I may have a lot of Yelp reviews and do some work for Examiner, but in terms of the food industry, I’m really not that important…yet. But, the staff (specifically the floor manager Robert, and Sofia, our amazing server) treated me like I was queen for the day – extra wine pairings, a complimentary hors d’oeuvre (a pea/mint lollipop cooked in brown butter and then frozen in liquid nitrogen), the best table in the house, a tour of the exquisite (and HUGE) kitchen, got to say hello to the chef who will be representing the US at the Bocuse d’Or (James Kent) and, a VERY special treat…I got to meet the man himself, 2010 Beard winner of Best Chef New York City, Daniel Humm. And yes, I have the photo and signed menu to prove it.
Needless to say, after all of that, I was overwhelmed. But, even with all of the perks excluded, the food itself was certainly the best lunch I have had. So good, in fact, that I went back for more the next night…Continue to Eleven Madison Magic Part 2