Thursday, December 6, 2012

Eleven Madison Park @ NYC

Seven restaurants in New York City currently hold the highest accolade of the culinary world; the coveted Three Michelin Stars. 

That was the only thing on my mind when we first started planning our trip to NYC, to make sure I squeezed in a meal at one of the seven restaurants. Never mind the must see tourist spots, the musicals or a trip up the Empire State building, I was adamant that we secure a booking before anything.   

However to pick one out of seven was no easy task. We quickly striked out Masa, where there's one menu option for $450 before drinks and tips. We striked out Le Bernadin because I wasn't the biggest fan of seafood. Down to 5. I looked to the New York Times and the world top 50 guide for more tips. Now we were down to two; Eleven Madison Park and Per Se. Both restaurants were in the world's top 10 list but with Per Se menu being a $100 more expensive than Eleven Madison Park, so Eleven Madison Park it was.


The award I guess that most restaurants would one day dream to have.


The start of our close to 4 hour dinner.

Eleven Madison Park is partly famous for their grid menu, 4 items x 4 items where you would choose one item from each line to build your own 4 course menu. While the grid menu remains, there is now a single degustation menu of 16 courses (17 if you count the apple brandy as a digestif). Out of 16, you get to choose 4 dishes from the grid menu.

I read that the menu was designed as a tribute to New York dining but as I found out that night, while the first month of launching the menu had a narration relating the dishes to its origin and how it represents NYC, you are now presented the dishes as it is.  

First impressions; the place is beautiful with the high ceiling and a gracefully dated decor. Service is attentive from the minute you walk in and best part of all, the casual dressing theme meant I could walk in with a pair of jeans.   


Once we were seated, a box of cookies were presented. 

"Black truffle and parmesan; savory black and white cookie"

The combination of truffle and cheese is not new but to eat it in the form of a cookie, that was new and it tasted good (although I failed to remember when I ever started a meal with a cookie). Doing a little research, the original black and white cookie is actually a NYC classic snack, a lemon shortbread with a mix of vanilla and dark chocolate fondant. 


"Sea urchin; custard with baby squid, manilla clam and apple"

A brilliant dish that made use of one of my favourite items; sea urchin. 


"Cranberry; gelee with smoked curds and wood sorrel"

This was a rather refreshing dish but apart from that, rather average according to the table.


"Cucumber; snow with lapsang souchong and grape"

The palate cleanser met with disapproval, the tea lending a rather odd flavour to what was a cleansing cucumber granita.


"Eel; roasted with foie gras and swiss chard"

With four dishes down, we were thinking, come on, surely 3 michelin stars actually mean something. Then came this, although only a bite's worth, this got us sitting up because it was that good.


"Sturgeon Part One; sabayon with chives"

A creamy custard that had pieces of what tasted like smoked sturgeon at the bottom. At this stage, while we loved what we had so far, we were waiting to be wowed, like you would expect in a top restaurant.


"Sturgeon Part Two; Smoked with Everything Bagel Crumble, Pickles and Caviar"

No sooner than what we wished for, we were presented a glass cloche, filled with smoke. We were told to wait patiently for 10 minutes before our next dish would reveal itself.


The smoked sturgeon was unlike any of the smoked fish I had (thinking smoked salmon and maybe herring). It was meaty and wasn't overpowering from all the smoke.




Along came pickled cucumbers, a salad with bagel crumbs and caviar on cream cheese. Just in case you were thinking that we got a whole tin, it was half and half, half caviar and half cream cheese.


This dish though clever in trying to evoke the days of how NYC used to eat bagels, smoked fish and caviar, was a little all over the place. We were a little confused as to whether to combine everything together and eat it in one salad or eat everything on its own. In the end, I say eat the smoked sturgeon with the salad and enjoy the caviar on its own. Decadent to say the least.  


Foie Gras; Torchon with Maple, Walnuts and Cremini Mushrooms

The first of the dishes that we were allowed to choose. Out of the four, I remembered foie and langoustine. I almost wanted to order the langoustine to get some variety on the table but in the end, the call for foie was too strong. 

While it didn't come in the purest of form (i.e. a simple pan fried slice), the torchon was filled with sweet maple syrup and complimented by dried nuts and mushroom. The ladies thought it was too rich but nothing is too rich for me.


While most places would have served bread before meals, it is apparently a trend to be serving bread, post your appetisers. The warm bread was complimented by glorious butter in two forms; cows milk and goats milk. Surprisingly, unlike the pungent goats cheese, the goats butter was mild and silky smooth. Needless to say, alot of the butter was stuffed into the bun. 


A surprise to many but reading too much about the restaurant beforehand meant I knew what was coming up next.


A chef comes out holding a steamed carrot with the leaves intact and proceeds to put it through the meat grinder.


"Carrot; Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments"

I remember vaguely that this was a tribute to how steak plays a big part of NYC but using vegetables as a platform. This was as delicious eating as it was assembling it together. 


It may look like baby food but trust me, if baby food was this good, I would eat it on a daily basis. 


"Lobster; Poached with Escarole and Almond"

The second of the four dishes. The ladies picked the obvious lobster, but with all good produce, minimum cooking is required so while it was good, it was shadowed by the playfulness of the previous dish.


"Potato; Baked with Pike Roe, Bonito and Bay Leaf"

I refused to go down the same path and asked for recommendations. The humble potato may I suggest, our waiter said. Well I think I struck jackpot. Only a genius of some sort could make potato taste so complex.


"Duck; Roasted with Lavender and Honey, Apple and Quince"

The third course of our choice included an option to have duck for the whole table. We did just that after hearing all about it. Displayed with bright lavender stuffed in its cavity with its glossy skin. As sudden as it appeared, it disappeared back into the kitchen.


The first half was the duck's heart (if I am not mistaken). I would be kidding myself if I told you I wasn't more interested at the meat.


A sliver of the duck breast was served and ohh and aah were heard around the table. Juicy and flavoursome, this was brilliant. Except, we all wondered after the meal, where did the rest of the meat go!?


"Greensward (Cheese); Pretzel, Mustard and Grapes + Cider"

The Cheese course was next and involved a little DIY. Matter of fact, the waiter hurriedly drop the picnic basket on our table and commented, enjoy (or something to that effect).



It was a nice way to engage the guests, I mean it wasn't much work opening a refreshing bottle of cider to serve between yourselves and toasting to good cheese, pretzel and what a wonderful night this was for all of us. However as a cheese amateur, I can't report anything else about it except we finished it all.


"Malt; Egg cream with Vanilla and Seltzer"

Served table side, we were given a little history about the sparkling water that was used to make the drink. It went something a little like, first formularised almost a hundred years ago by Mr So and So, we still get our supply of sparkling from them. 


I wouldn't say this was as a palate cleanser which usually should have an acidic tinge to it but this was a good intermission. 


"Pistachio; Ice cream with Grape, Golden Raisin and Sauternes"

The last of our choices. The Wife is quite nuts when it comes to Pistachios so it was. Going with the green theme, there were about half a dozen of different elements showcasing the humble nut. 


"Chocolate; Lavender Sorbet, Orange and Maldon Salt"

I didn't really get the lavender sorbet, a little over powering. Being old fashioned when it comes to desserts, I expect more than chocolate cake crumbles but thats just me.


"Huckleberry; Goat Cheese Cheesecake and Lime"

When it comes to Cheesecake, people think about New York, why else would there be a variety called the New York Cheesecake?

I won't go into detail (it's getting a little hazy in the mind) but it was good.


At this stage, our waiter bought out a pack of cards. Let's just say it involves choosing a card which represents a flavour and finding the same flavour being placed at the bottom of the dish in which the cheesecake was presented. Impressive.

The result of a magic trick; an espresso flavoured chocolate.


"Pretzel; Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt"

Walk down any street of NYC and you will see vans serving pretzels. This version was good, coated generously with chocolate. As a big eater, I was stuffed.


What I love about this last move is even though the meal have ended, we were presented a whole bottle of apple brandy as a digestif and asked to enjoy as much or as little as we wanted. It meant, take your time, enjoy and relax, there is no need to leave (well maybe when they do close). It's amazing how the clear distilled liquid smelled exactly like apple juice but was strong and punchy as any liquor would be. Unless you are into hard core drinks, I say enjoy a shot or maybe two.


As we called for the bill, not really wanting to leave and after experiencing what was our best meal of our lives, we were presented breakfast for tomorrow, muesli in a nice jar and some petit fours as well. A pity I had no space to stuff the jar back home. 

I think I have praised the place, the meal, the chefs enough. It wasn't just a dinner, it was an experience. An experience I don't think I can forget, unless someone wants to buy me dinner in another restaurant of this calibre.

Address and contact details:
Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon

Verdict: Is it possible to give 5 stars? 


Baby Sumo said...

WOW what an amazing looking meal. It would be my dream to visit one of NY's 3 Michelin-star restaurant too.

Pureglutton said...

Such an elaborate meal! Sounds like an adventure in itself :-)

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

pureglutton: well 16 courses, thats about as much as i ever had!

babysumo: well my next dream is a 3 michelin star experience in spain or japan!

Rebecca Saw said...

Sublime :)
And yes, dining at such places are really abt the experience, and even better if food is fabulous :)
Just had dinner at Robuchon in Sg 2 nights ago, the experience again was well worth the time and money spent.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

rebecca: that guy is famous, almost wanted to break the wallet and eat at his vegas outlet. did u try his legendary mash? saw the price of his degustation menu, at 500pls sgd, gosh thats more expensive than my meal!

Ciki said...

Good lord that's one long meal.. how much ar? Looks lovely!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

ciki: just under 200, a blardy exp meal!

msihua said...

So OMG-ing to myself and so so superbly jealous..Eleven has been on my bucket list! Waaaaghhhh!!!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

msihua: haha i think my bucket list is Spain..