Eleven Madison Park, NYC

Eleven Madison Park

Chef: Daniel Humm
Cuisine: American Nouveau
Neighborhood: Flatiron
Price: Lunch- Three courses for $56, Four Courses for $74. Dinner- Four Courses for $125, Tasting Menu for $195. Wine list prices vary.
Phone: 212-889-0905
Address: 11 Madison Ave., NYC 10010

It is difficult to find an elegant après-work restaurant in New York City’s stuffy and steak-centric corporate dining scene. Sure there are plenty of venues clad with white tablecloths and suited up servers, but few deliver the atmosphere and taste sensations that are on par with Eleven Madison Avenue. The restaurateur owner Danny Meyer is no stranger to the New York dining scene. He built his empire starting with Union Square Cafe in 1985 to include over 10 restaurants, of which Eleven Madison Park is the largest (Gramercy Tavern and Maialino are other popular Danny Meyer destinations). It opened in 1998 under the helm of Chef Kerry Heffernan, but it was not until Daniel Humm (a Campton Place alum) took the reins in 2006 that the restaurant reached the renown that it still enjoys.

Eleven Madison Avenue partnered with the designer Juliette Cezzar to create its iconic four-leaf emblem, which can be seen on its website, cards, menu, and even butter dishes.  And the exquisite food photography on the website is courtesy of Francesco Tonelli. I know this post is supposed to focus on the restaurant-at-hand, but I really urge you to visit Francesco’s site (not now, later, once you are done reading this). The images are absolutely stunning and some of the action shots are mind boggling.

Now onto the restaurant. The venue is gorgeous–you walk in and immediately feel awestruck – the high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural light to flood the entire space. Ornate orchid arrangements gracefully adorn divides around the room, but are not cumbersome or overwhelming.  The restaurant feels beautiful and upscale yet comfortable and inviting.

The service is impeccable. I’m ashamed to say that half my party was rather late to dinner. But unlike other high-end restaurants, Eleven Madison did not rush us, did not give us ultimatums or tell us when we would have to leave by. Instead, the staff was completely accommodating, helpful, gregarious and wanted to make sure those of us who came on time were taken care of.

So as we waited, a few of us decided to imbibe some champagne to pass the time. We went with the sommelier’s recommendation of the Saint-Chamant, Cuvée de Chardonnay, Grand Cru, Côte des Blancs 1996 (Half Bottle). It was light and citrus-y, a great apéritif. With our dinner we shared a bottle of white – Montlouis Sur Loire 2007 Chenin Blanc – and a bottle of  red – Brezeme 2000 Vieilles Vignes – wines. For a digestif, the sommelier brought out a house-infused pear grappa, which for a lack of a better word, was stiff.

The food menu is the famous “minimalist grid”, where each course is designated by one word and the chef designs all the bespoke accouterments based on what is available, in season, and taking into account the clientele’s palates and allergies. We decided to go for gold and get the 5-course tasting menu, including the White Truffle dish that was in season at the time. Admittedly, with the amuse-bouches and petits fours, etc this was too much food.  Next time I go, I might scale down to the 4-course option.

As a disclaimer, the descriptions below are rough re-creations of what the servers told us the dishes were, since there is no written menu. I tried a bite of most dishes, but not all, so my commentary will be scattered.

− delicate and addicting cheese puffs… this inspired Jen to make her own via this recipe!

Chicken velouté chicken stock, fortified toasted brioche, black truffle butter
Buttery brioche with amazing velouté; most delicious and intricate take on chicken soup ever, very savory way to start the meal

Scallop avocado oil daikon in a Barneget shell
Sweet scallop + buttery avocado + gritty daikon = awesome

Hamachi yellowtail with seared chili pepper on a rice cracker
The chili pepper is a great contrast to the otherwise bland rice cracker

Smoked sturgeon on baby gem lettuce with diced radish
Great combination of smoky fish with a refreshing crisp daikon

Smoked sturgeon sabayon in egg shell with chili oil crème fraîche
The whippy sabayon in the eggshell was ridiculous. It was like eating sturgeon flavored clouds, which trust me, is something you want to do in life.

Picholine Olive Rosemary Bread or Baguette

Goat and cow butter.

Foie gras with cocoa coriander toast, kale, red berry
Great preparation of foie, but not the best. Definitely loved the cocoa coriander toast, it added a more exotic flavor to the dish

White fin tuna with anchovies

Poached lobster with sabayon
This lobster rivals the lobster course at Le Bernardin. This version of sabayon thought did not compare to the sturgeon amuse-bouche, which was out of this world

Poached egg with frog legs and white truffle on top
I know it’s easy to make a dish luxurious by adding truffles or caviar or foie gras. I’ve had plenty of all of those and loved them. But this course was something else. The generously grated layer of white truffle carpeted the savory poached egg and frog leg base. Mix them all together and enjoy the musky truffle flavors interact with the buttery texture of the egg and the chewiness of the frog legs.

Beef tenderloin, foie gras, brioche
This was a delicious piece of tenderloin and a perfect example of adding luxury to a dish with foie gras. Delicious it was, but not out of this world

Pork, dried plums rehydrated with red wine
Jen said she was more distracted with the unique tangy taste of the wine-rehydrated plums than with the pork

Venisson with chicken liver on country grain toast with several cabbages, including a braised cabbage
Our friend who ordered this said it was divine. Nuff said.
Sole with Mushrooms
Muscovy duck with huckleberry, turnip, lavender glaze
Loved watching the server skillfully carve the duck. I’m used to duck from Chinatown, so my standards might be low, but this was one of the best ducks I’ve had. Not too much fat, juicy, delicious. Lavender glaze was a great touch.

Sunrise in Tibet, white tea, jasmine tea, roboi tea

Malted milkshake, Flor de sel,  black pepper
Haven’t had a peppery dessert before, and although it was not my favorite, I found the combination of malted milkshake and salt and pepper refreshing and palate cleansing.
Friend who ordered this said it was out of this world.
Cheese was really rich – perhaps not the best choice after such a large dinner
The occasion for dinner was a friend’s birthday, so the restaurant arranged a little extra sweetness…
…and a little extra kick. A LOT of extra kick.
These granola jars were our take home goodies!
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