Eleven Madison Park, NYC 4

November 16, 2009

This was the best meal we have had in the US and ranks with the best we have enjoyed in Europe. I do not usually put the conclusion up front, but thought that it would set the stage properly for readers, since my writing is not up to describing the consistent excellence of this menu. Becky, Chuck, Linda and I went to EMP the evening of November 13, 2009. 

mdaRight after we sat down, two little bowls of fresh gougères were put on the table.  We decided to skip apéritifs.  The wine list and the sommelier arrived quickly. After some discussion we ordered a bottle of recommended Sancerre, which had enough light crispness to be a good first wine. The wines are discussed below.

Two long, thin plates with five hors d’oeuvres for each of us arrived. I didn’t record what they all were, but the one on the right is the delicious little faux carrot made of thin pastry stuffed with sweetbread purée, which is always served.

The menus arrived. There was a choice of a three-course prix fixe at $88 with several selections for each course, a six-course “Taste of Autumn” menu at $125 or, our choice, the “Gourmand”: eleven courses selected by the chef at $175.

We were surprised and intrigued when a little Malossol caviar tin with a bone spoon alongside arrived for each of us.

Then plates of warm, light little potato blinis arrived.

On opening the can we discovered the first course on our menu:
Sterling Royal Caviar
smoked Columbia River sturgeon panna cotta

Sterling caviar from California is first rate. The smoked sturgeon flavored panna cotta was on top of a chilled lobster consommé gelée. The three variations on rich briny flavors worked very well together. Excellent.

“Kumamoto Oyster Sundae”
celery sorbet with yuzu and toasted peanuts

The cold foamy citrusy celery-flavored topping concealed small oysters underneath, complementing their flavor without overwhelming them. (Linda had asked for no oysters and was served apple chunks instead.) 

Santa Barbara sea urchin cappuccino with peekytoe crab

This had been served as an amuse-gueule on our last visit, when we had the suckling pig menu. This time it was more substantial, with plenty of sea urchin and crab, plus little diced green apple chunks at the bottom and a luscious feuilleté baton alongside for textural contrast. Excellent.

Foie gras torchon with Blis maple syrup, pain d’épices and greenmarket apples
The cylinder of unctuous foie-gras was filled with a Bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup that was not too sweet. The spice bread crumble added some needed crunch while complementing the other rich flavors. Alongside was an excellent warm round brioche (no photo) which helped us sop up and savor all the dish, which became somewhat liquid when opened.

It was only at this point that the bread was passed; we each received a small baguette and a tubular olive bread. This was sort of an announcement that the sequence of little dishes based on rich luxury ingredients was over.

Dover sole slow cooked with Matsutake sabayon and nasturtium

The sole had a delicate flavor and was appropriately served with delicate sauces: matsutake, or autumn pine mushrooms, are highly regarded in Japan. Nasturtium leaves were puréed for the green sauce. A little parmesan brioche crust topped the fish.

Scottish langoustine poached with cauliflower, Marcona almonds and raisins

The langoustine was barely cooked. It sat on a cauliflower raft, around which lobster bisque and walnut oil were poured at the table. The soup was a bit too strong for the langoustine, but was so delicious itself I hardly cared.

Knoll Krest farm egg slow poached with autumn mushrooms, maitake purée, white truffle slices

The whole poached egg was immersed in a mushroom broth with many varieties of seasonal mushrooms in it. This was topped with a foam flavored with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. On top were two very thin slices of a mushroom and two of white truffle. The variety of mushroom flavors blended nicely to form an elegant, rich, earthy dish.

Niman Ranch pork belly applewood smoked with black truffles

This dish arrived under a glass bell, which I was not fast enough to photograph. The bell was filled with applewood smoke, which smelled lovely when the bell was lifted and solved the mystery of why we were smelling smoke from a nearby table. The black truffle purée had an insert of pork jus; the pork belly slice had a black truffle slice  and a bit of purslane on top. The smoky flavor had permeated the meat and was very good.


Kagoshima Wagyu beef herb roasted with saffron soubise and red wine braised shallots

The slab of beautifully marbled Wagyu beef for the four of us was presented before it was cooked,

It was served very rare on a Bordelaise sauce with bone marrow. There was also a mound of onion and saffron in a béchamel sauce and a slice of a torpedo-shaped shallot braised in red wine. This was an adaptation of a traditional combination that was elegant and substantial at the same time.

Alongside was a bowl of potato mousseline with braised oxtail and foie gras. Excellent.


We were offered the choice of the cheese tray or a cheese soufflée.

We were told that the cheesemaker is a friend of chef and that the cheese, which was both in the soufflée and grated on top at the table, was a Roquebillière Gruyère. This seemed strange as Roquebillière is a town near the Alpine pastures in France behind Nice. However, the chef, Daniel Humm, is Swiss. Switzerland and France have had an argument for centuries as to whether French cheeses can use the name Gruyère, which is a Swiss town. Anyway, the cheese and the dish were delicious, a nice light substitute for the cheese tray, as we were filling up and looking forward to the desserts.

The pre-dessert was
Black Mission Figs
ricotta ice cream & candied prosciutto

The base was a lemon crumble and a fig compote. Using prosciutto, which is classic with figs as a first course, in this way was clever and good. Very nice.

Flavors of Autumn
Amadei Chocolate, Piemontese hazelnuts and espresso

Chuck and Becky’s dessert. Chocolate and hazelnuts are a great combination. This was well done.

“Caramel Apple”
toffee, walnuts and Granny Smith apple ice cream

Linda and I had this dessert. The caramel-soaked pound cake was scrumptious and nicely offset by the somewhat tart ice cream. The desserts and the macaroons were notable by not being too sweet. Bravo.

The tray of Macaroons was presented.

There were unusual flavors; Becky tried them all, but the rest of us were happily stuffed at this point and just had a few.


We had started the evening with a bottle of 2008 Pascal Cotat “La Grande Côte” Chavignol Sancerre. I had mentioned sauvignon blanc to the sommelier, thinking California, but the wine list is heavily skewed to French wines and he persuaded me to try this. It had more substance and complexity than the typical Sancerre. (No photo.)

During our trip to Burgundy last June, Jean-Pierre and Suzy took us to the Carillon vineyards and winery, where we were given an informative tour by François Carillon. I was surprised to see their wines on this list. The sommelier said that they were just starting to get recognition, but in Burgundy we were told that their entire production is spoken for well in advance. They have been producing Puligny-Montrachet wine since 1632.  So we ordered a bottle of 2007 Louis Carillon, 1er Cru “Les Champs Canet” Puligny-Montrachet. It was very nice and went well with the oyster and sea urchin dishes.

I had not planned on a third bottle of white wine, but we were having such a good time that the need for it became evident. The service was not slow, but it wasn’t hurried either. I asked the sommelier to choose a Meursault in the same price range as the other wines so that we could progress to an earthier wine. He served us a 2005 Domaine D’Arviot-Perrin, 1er Cru, Meursault-Genevrières, which was just right, particularly with the mushrooms. 

When we ordered the white wines, I had ordered a bottle of 2002 Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Caillerets Volnay.  It had been put into a carafe and was poured with the beef and cheese courses. It was really lovely.

After the macaroon tray was passed, a bottle of cognac and glasses were put on the table, compliments of the house. We weren’t driving and a digestif seemed in order, so this excellent cognac ended the evening.

We were given boxes of fruit gels and a copy of our menu (from which I took most of the dish titles above) in a caviar tin to take home with us.

Summing up the fabulous meal Becky said: “It told a story all the way through.”


To see our meal at EMP in August when we had the Suckling Pig menu click here.

To see our meal at EMP with the full tasting menu in July 2008 click here.

One Response to “Eleven Madison Park, NYC 4”

  1. sue girdwood Says:

    Mike —

    This sounds simply WONDERFUL!!!! Lovely ideas, wonderful combinations of ingredients, adventurous in all respects without being silly. I live vicariously through such experiences!!



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