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Jun 2, 1999 02:51 PM

eleven madison park

  • w

went there for lunch on friday and was pleasantly
surprised. i had heard it wasn't that great and am a
bit skeptical when it comes to danny meyer's
restaurants, though that is definitely changing. union
square cafe (in my personal opinion) is the single most
overrated restaurant in manhattan. gramercy tavern is
better, but still doesn't live up to the hype. tabla
is awesome, however, and i think 11 madison is up to
the task as well.

the room is great: spacious, airy, well lit (at least
in the middle of the day on a sunny friday afternoon)
with high ceilings and simple decor. i think they have
the same chandeliers as tabla (there must have been a
sale at pier 1), which don't quite look right in 11
madison, but are fine nonetheless. the walls are lined
with what we were told are paintings of leaves from
madison park across the street but look more like
someone dipped their butt in green paint and smacked it
up against the wall. (and if you think that's bad,
wait till to you see the logo on the dessert menu).

appetizers were disappointing. first of all, there
wasn't much of a choice. a few salads, a couple soups,
and then some foie gras and something else i can't
remember. i got a chicken consomme with some kind of
dumplings (marjoram?) which were actually more like
silver dollar potato pancakes. the broth lacked any
sort of life and was overladen with herbs and the
"dumplings" were bland and boring. not a good start.
the clam and potato soup didn't earn any raves, nor did
the salad of local greens, which we wondered also came
from madison park across the street.

my entree, however, was excellent. i had the skate,
which, along with chilean sea bass, is quickly becoming
my favorite fish. the skate was cooked just right. it
was still attached to the cartilage, and the waiter
gave me instructions as to how to scrape the meat off
of it. it was a new experience for me, but quite fun.
the sauce was excellent, flavorful yet subtle, and an
exciting twist came from the dime sized pieces of hot
peppers (perhaps jalapenos?) which gave the mild skate
a nice kick. i would definitely rank this dish up
there with those i've had at union pacific.

my companions had the artic char, the steak, and the
salmon. both the char and the steak got decent
reviews, but my friend seemed less than enchanted with
the salmon.

for dessert i had the coffee almond creme brulee, which
was outstanding and certainly one of the finest
desserts of recent memory for me. the coffee creme
brulee was perfect, but what really gave it panache
were the chopped whole almonds and dollop of chocolate
cream on top. mmmm! if i could only have more. there
was also a spindle of caramelized sugar thin as
fishing line which reminded me of that fairy tale where
that crazy dwarf spins golden thread, i can't quite
remember, was it rumpelstiltskin or something like
that . . . anyway, ingenious and fun to nibble at once
in a while. the dish even came with two tiny little
pain au chocolat, freshly baked and delicious, like
golden flaky bite size chocolate filled clouds. what a

service was excellent and the staff was very nice. the
chef even came out during the meal to see how
everything was going. the waiter told us he likes to
do that, which i thought was pretty cool.

i don't think it would be too hard to figure out what i
told him: everything was great; i'll see you again


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  1. i had a really bad meal there will never go back

    1 Reply
    1. re: ts

      Oh gee ... can you elaborate???

    2. hi wonki - strangely enough, I saw your post right
      after coming out of a group lunch at 11 Madison Park
      today - no place is at its best catering for parties
      in private rooms, we were in a very nicely set up
      upstairs room overlooking the main dining room and, of
      course, the Park. Service was very competent and
      pleasant but did not reach the highest levels.

      As for the food, I had chicken braised with riesling
      with wild shrooms and parsley spaetzle); asparagus
      salad with creme fraiche and dill sauce and a garnish
      (in the shape of a flower) of thinly-sliced cured
      meat, and an apple cider tart with cinnamon ice cream
      and cute garnishes. Serving sizes were decent, but
      dwarfed by huge service plates. Everything was very
      well done - there was nothing to fault in the
      preparation or presentation of these dishes, vegs and
      chicken cooked scrupulously to the correct point, high
      quality super-fresh ingredients, etc. but it just
      didn't add up to a deliciously exciting meal or a top
      restaurant experience- merely a very, very good one.
      Possibly a tad bland, calibrated for a business
      clientele (which we were, I guess).

      All in all, extremely competent and pleasant, but not
      a place I would rush to re-visit paying my own $.

      5 Replies
      1. re: jen kalb

        ps one of my colleagues had had two prior meals there,
        one a lunch "excellent", one a dinner, "superb" and
        said the meal we shared was not as good. The comments
        on the lightly-cured salmon with peas and potatoes and
        sorrel sauce from my group ranged from bland and a bit
        overcooked to oversalted. So the salmon doesn't sound
        like the best bet at 11 Madison Park right now.

        On the other hand, the asparagus salad converted one
        colleague, a long-term hater of asparagus to a lover
        (I'll never forget a late-70s L.A. meal that turned
        me, a former liver-hater into a passionate liver-
        lover). Maybe Ma Maison? One has to take seriously a
        a place that offers this kind of transforming

        1. re: jen kalb

          How pricey were those lunches?? Would you say they were
          well-priced for the cuisine, ambience, etc??

          1. re: Caroline

            I was a guest and did not see a priced menu. My
            colleague didn't share price info on her meals. I
            would be shocked if the prices were out of line with
            the many competitive and/or comparable places nearby.
            This looks and smells like an expense account lunch
            destination (except during Restaurant Week). Sorry I
            can't be of more help.

            1. re: jen kalb

              hey jen, how are you? from what you tell me and from
              what i hear and from what i said earlier, i think the
              consensus on this place has to be: order carefully.
              there certainly are some dishes that just don't cut the
              mustard while others seem to shine.

              as for prices, it's definitely pricey. i went with
              three others, and each of us had an appetizer, entree
              and dessert. throw in a couple iced teas and some
              sodas, coffee, tax and tip, and we're talking $222 all
              in for four people. kind of a lot for lunch unless the
              boss is paying, but you can do worse.

          2. re: jen kalb

            We had lunch one day, my fresh tuna salad was a sheer
            disappointment. For some reason, the tuna could not
            be prepared rare, it was a white, overdone thin slice
            of tuna. We will not rush back.