Eleven Madison Park, NYC 8

May 9, 2011

On April 9, 2011, Jo-Ann, Linda and I dined at our favorite New York restaurant, Eleven Madison Park. We started with glasses of Champagne: Pouillon Brut Vigneron, Premier Cru. The usual warm, light gougères arrived.

There is no longer a conventional menu. EMP explains:

 “Our menu format is intended to offer an experience in which our guests can enjoy the inherent surprise of a tasting menu, while still maintaining some control. Dishes are listed solely by their principal ingredients, and guests are invited to make their selections, share any thoughts or preferences, including any ingredient dislikes, and allow us to design their meal from there.”

For our evening the grid was: 

Striped Bass   Salsify    Crab        Foie Gras
Cauliflower     Egg         Halibut     Lobster
Chicken           Pork        Beef           Squab
Cheddar          Pear       Grapefruit  Chocolate

Diners choose one item from each row for each of the four courses. The four courses cost $125 in the evening and $74 at lunch. A tasting menu at $195 is still offered, but is only eight courses, as opposed to the former eleven. The new concept doesn’t give any written descriptions, either on paper or on the web, so I have written my own below and they will necessarily be incomplete.

The first amuse-gueule was a cup of dashi with a bundle of herbs and a piece of smoked halibut. Alongside was a crisp and thin lavash flatbread flavored with seaweed. The point may have been to provide a dash of umami to get our taste buds ready.
 


The next amuse-gueule pair was a diver scallop ceviche with tangerine and dill and a rice cracker with fluke sashimi.

Excellent. 

The lollipops were served; this time they were not frozen; they were goat cheese with beet butter on the outside: very good. Alongside were hot goat cheese croquettes with an herb dip.


Regular butter, delicious goat’s milk butter and fleur de sel were served with small, warm, brioche-like bread. It was more interesting than the usual small baguette.

 

We discussed the preparation of some of the dishes with our patient and informative waiter and made our choices.

We ordered a bottle of 2008 André Perret Saint Joseph Blanc, which was surprisingly elegant, but sturdy enough to go well with the first two courses.

The second bottle was a 1999 Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which was excellent.

  

The first course for Jo-Ann and Linda was
Crab

The orange and purple under the thin daikon radish slice on top are nasturtium and pansy petals. The crab between the two daikon slices was excellent.

My starter was
Salsify

Pieces of braised salsify were dressed with mangalista ham and bulgar, an interesting light starter.

Jo-Ann and Linda went on to
Lobster

The roasted piece of lobster tail and the “boudin,” or little sausage of lobster mousse, were a nice combination with the spring vegetables.

I had
Halibut

The lightly cooked piece of halibut was on a carrot butter with a pea purée alongside. The lightly steamed radishes had been halved lengthwise and lightly steamed; their leaves were delicious. Like the lobster course, this was a fine use of seasonal early spring vegetables.

Jo-Ann’s third course was
Beef

The tasty piece of beef was accompanied by a deep-fried sweetbread, potatoes and pearl onions.

Linda had
Squab

The tender squab breast, top left, and confit leg, combined with “variations” of sweet potatoes, including a purée, were perfected by a chunk of smoked foie gras. Superb.

I had
Pork

The round piece of loin and the square piece of pork belly were accompanied by peas, pea shoots, carrots and mint. There was a pork reduction glaze underneath.

There was a surprise pre-dessert, served from a cart wheeled up to our table: an updated version of the old New York delicatessen classic, egg cream.  Malt vanilla syrup was put in the glasses with Ligurian olive oil, milk was added and it was all mixed by a strong stream of charged water from the soda siphon.


It was a fun and refreshing palate cleanser.

Jo-Ann’s dessert was
Pear

 

Linda and I chose
Cheddar


The Wisconsin cheddar (left bottom) and Vermont cheddar (top) were top quality. They were accompanied by crab apple jelly and a light cheddar biscuit. 

A bottle of excellent cognac was put on the table along with the mignardises.
We lingered over these for a while, enjoying the glow from our meal.

 

We were given two bottles of the house granola to take home.


One highlight was that Rosamond and Olivier Bernier were seated at a table near us. At 94, she is the doyenne of art lecturers; her son, Olivier, has also given many lectures that we have attended at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
 
The cuisine respected and enhanced the quality of the ingredients and the season. EMP remains one of the very best restaurant experiences in the U.S., but with its new formula it is not putting itself in the same elaborate gastronomic category as it had been in the last few years. With owner Danny Meyer’s philosophy of hospitality as a guide, EMP has become more accessible to a wider audience without reducing its quality. We could see that with the young couples on both sides of our table, who were being put at ease by the restaurant’s staff. The new menu format would not intimidate anyone. It is a good development. Although we enjoy and seek out gastronomic temples also, we will continue to go back often to EMP.

 
http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com/  
 
 To see our previous seven EMP blogposts click here.

3 Responses to “Eleven Madison Park, NYC 8”

  1. Henry Says:

    We celebrated my wife’s special birthday just before you were there; the food was equally good and the sommelier outstanding. Unfortunately, we also experienced unforgivable service lapses, e.g.seated at a table next to and facing the bar, nothing put on the table for 30 minutes after ordering the wine, wife hardly touched her dessert and all that was asked is “are you finished?” You’ve had better luck, but when one aims this high consistency seriously matters.
    We always admire and enjoy your posts. Thanks again.

  2. Timothy Says:

    Been a long time since last we ate here.
    Looks lovely as ever.
    T


  3. Only one comment : with your post I enjoy to be again at EMP !
    Thanks,
    Fabrice.


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