>> Monday, May 30, 2011
What's the hottest restaurant in New York right now?
Well, I know of one place whose chef won the James Beard Award for Best Chef New York City last year. And then, one year later, it nabbed another James Beard Award, this time as Outstanding Restaurant. On top of all these, it boasts a Michelin star, four stars from the New York Times (one of only seven restaurants!), and is named as one of S. Pellegrino's Top Fifty Restaurants in the World.
Something is definitely buzzing at Eleven Madison Park. Even though this restaurant has been around since 1998, things started to happen when owner Danny Meyer hired Swiss chef Daniel Humm as executive chef and Will Guidara as general manager in 2006.
More recently in September 2010, they made some even more bold changes. For one, they reduced the number of seats by about 30%. Their goal? - to make Eleven Madison Park more of a special destination, a place that offers a "rarified experience to a smaller number of diners."
The friendly, accessible neighborhood restaurant is joining the big leagues now. Gone is the option for a la carte dining in the dining room (you can still order that way at the bar). Even the simple one or two course lunch (only $28!) is gone. Everything is a tasting menu now: three to four courses at lunch; four or five courses at dinner.
The most interesting change? The menu.
Yep, that's it! No more fancy descriptions of the dishes and all their little components. Instead, your meal is inspired by the ingredients. Mr. Guidara calls this more like a "dialogue" since you can tell the chef what you like or don't like and he can take that into consideration.
This flexibility also allows the kitchen to be more nimble, giving them the ability to change items at moment's notice.
I've been wanting to try this place for quite some time now. I was thrilled when several New York food bloggers were willing to take an extended lunch on a Friday to join me for a special meal at Eleven Madison Park.
I met up with Andrea from High Look Food Drink and Christine from Fresh, Local, and Best.
Also, Talida from Talida Bakes!
Bryan ordered a lovely mojito-like cocktail to start things off.
After ordering our core "elements" from the Bingo card menu, the fun tastes started arriving!
First the many little amuses that preceded our actual courses. We began with a lovely, savory mackerel tea with dashi. They also brought out some super thin sesame "crackers" of sorts and some lovely, cheesy gougères (all pictured above in first picture of the post).
I was feeling like eating something a bit lighter (knowing I'd be eating much heavier things the rest of the weekend!), so I opted for the "Celery Root" starter. This playful interpretation of celery root also included tiny bits of celery leaves.
Almost everyone else ordered this dish, and for good reason. It was absolutely incredible. The fois gras creme brulee was velvety, smooth yet also lightly torched with a beautiful candy shell characteristic of creme brulee. On the side, bites of fruit prepared in various ways accompanied the centerpiece.
Creamy and rich, Andrea's favorite part of this oyster dish was the bright green gelatinous leek sauce.
The butter poached lobster with spring vegetables was incredible and definitely another crowd favorite. The waiter had wholehearted recommended this dish, and thus many of us (including me!) ordered it.
Roasted pork shoulder, confit belly, pork jus, microgreens
Jasmine sorbet with tangerine "snow" and citrus foam.
The light, citrus-themed palette cleanser was bright and cheerful, exploding with various different textures and temperatures at the same time.
I was amazed at the exquisite level of detail that went into preparing these works of art. Just look at the perfect little cylinders of fruit! Andrea got this dessert and liked it very much.
I ordered the lemon dessert, which was a delightfully deconstructed lemon poppyseed crumble. The most unique element was the addition of salty green olives, which, actually, worked surprisingly well!
Bryan (typical guy!) went for the savory "dessert," a cheese tasting that also came with a lovely cheese biscuit (you can sort of see it in the distance!).
Christine ordered the chocolate dessert, which I forgot to photograph! Thankfully, you can see a picture of it on her blog.
Though I'm usually plenty full, I always look forward to the tiny sweet bites that you get at the end of the meal.
And toffee crisps!
Chef Humm was so friendly. He went around and talked with many of the diners in the dining room. He was more than happy to oblige our request for a photo.
So funny, he's like more than a head taller than all of us!
We had an excellent meal. The food is executed with finesse, care, and true attention to detail. Chef Humm is an artist, which is quite clear both from the looks and taste of his masterpieces. The space is absolutely gorgeous, with soaring ceilings and huge windows that let in ample sunlight. The service is excellent and the staff was quite friendly. Of course, the chef was super friendly too!
Overall, we had a wonderful time there. I would highly recommend this place for a date!
Peter Luger Steak House
Eating in New York (again)
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010