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11 Madison Park - dissenting opinion

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Last night, I had a 7:45 reservation for four people. After the meal, I had to wonder what the big deal with this place is. I liked 11 Madison Park before Chef Humm was hired. Based on all the raves I've been reading here and on eGullet, I had very high expectations for tonight's dinner, and they were not met. The desserts were great and the highlight of the meal. The wine pairings the sommelier recommended were also excellent. The service was extremely slow (we waited at least an hour by the clock for the appetizers to arrive). Nothing was bad, but I fully expect that my meal at Hearth on Friday will be a lot more impressive.

1st batch of amuses - just OK, I thought; nothing very memorable. I liked the hamachi amuse best, probably.

2nd amuse (served at approximately 8:36) - delicious, reminiscent of Vongerichten's work at JoJo 15 years ago, I thought. Broth richly redolent of vegetable essences including tomato, parsnip, and carrot, mussel.

Bread - very nice. Favorites: Olive bread; nutty multigrain bread which was charred just the right amount.

Appetizers:

Me: Consomme of Hawaiian Blue Prawns and Maine Diver Scallop with Green Apples and Ginger. Very much influenced by Tom Yong Goong (Thai shrimp soup w/o coconut milk) but by no means a takeoff. Contained kaffir lime leaves and (presumably kaffir) lime juice. Very nice.

Parents: Salad of Peekytoe Crab. They liked it but weren't blown away.

Brother: Terrine of Foie Gras with Port Gelee. (Also came with foie gras creme brulee.) He would have preferred just seared foie gras and found the dish a little sweeter than he would have liked, but it tasted good. The foie gras creme brulee was a nice touch.

Mains:

Me: Slow Cooked Loup de Mer with Broccoli Puree, Hazelnut Emulsion and Chanterelles. Sounds good, right? Well, it was fine but not really memorable.

Father: Black Angus Tenderloin "Poele'" with Braised Oxtail and Sauce Bordelaise. My father liked the steak, didn't like the stewy oxtail/vegetable mixture. The rest of us did. I thought this dish was great.

Mother and brother: Lobster, which they liked (I didn't try any).

Dessert:

Me, Mother, Brother: Chocolate-Hazelnut Souffle' with Gianduja Ganache and Espresso Bean Ice Cream. Lovely! It came with a tasty (non-alcoholic) shot of a hazelnut drink. The ice cream was a strong coffee flavor, accompanied by ground coffee beans. The souffle' was more in the nature of a molten chocolate cake, at least to my palate, but a very good one at that.

Father: Sheep's Milk Yogurt Cheesecake with Roasted Pineapple, Kaffir Lime and Frozen Coconut. I didn't get a try of this, but my father was less thrilled with his dessert than we were with ours.

Post-Dessert: Wonderful chocolate truffles, very concentrated pates de fruit (guava, I believe), buttery chocolate fudge.

They were kind enough to give me half-pours of wine for pairings with the appetizer and main. The pairing with the appetizer was a truly delicious wine, Wegeler, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Spaetlese, 1994. I also really liked the pairing with the main. Unfortunately, I can't find it on the online wine list and didn't write the name down. So if I remember, I'll come back to this thread and post the name.

Other than the really overly slow service, there was nothing wrong with the meal; it just didn't meet the very high expectations I had and didn't feel like a good value because of that. I was expecting a memorable meal, and was instead left with one memorable amuse, perhaps, memorable desserts, and great wine pairings. I would definitely come back to sit at the bar and have dessert with a wine pairing, but I think I will have to look elsewhere for a truly sublime meal.

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  1. "Based on all the raves I've been reading here and on eGullet, I had very high expectations for tonight's dinner and they were not met."

    Not everybody loves it. I sure didn't.
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    1. i agree with you. i was very under-impressed by the whole experience. ithought the food was okay, but not up to the raves that most people seem to give this place. i also agree that the desserts were the best thing. also, we had early reservations and with an empty restaurant, they placed a couple with a one year old baby at the table next to us. let me not digress into my feelings about taking a baby to that restaurant, but to put them next to us, when there were about 20 open tables, shows a lack of seating management by the restaurant. and to add insult to injury, it was a special occasion, which i told the reservationist about, who then asked me for the names, but nothing was done at the table. when i complained to management about everything, they told me that we should have been given specially printed menus which were then mailed to me. all in all, a disappointing experience. thanks for letting me get that off my chest!

      1. I had a dissapointing lunch at EMP in August. The food wasn't bad. Actually it was quite good (although, in my opinion, not as good as many of the posts would lead you to believe). My problem was the pacing of the meal. When my wife and I chose EMP to have a rare fancy lunch out, we made our reservation for 2:15 - their last seating. When we arrived, the place was nearly empty. In fact, there were only two or three other tables, and they finished and left 15 minutes into our meal. This was fine, as we like to feel that we have the room to ourselves.

        We proceeded to order a pricey bottle of wine and sat back to enjoy a nice leisurely meal. No such luck. The nanosecond each course was cleared, the next was placed down on the table. We were out of there in less than an hour. Really lame. I know we should have told them to slow the pace down, but when you're paying $275 for lunch, you shouldn't have to.

        1. For some reason, I've eaten more Restaurant Week lunches at EMP than any other place. Each time, I've enjoyed the room and the service, and the food has failed to wow. Despite the generous gift certificate that is proffered at the end of the meal, I've never been motivated to return for a "full-fare" lunch or dinner. Like Pan, I haven't been dissastisfied with my meals there, just unexcited. I can't remember anything I've eaten there, which is always a bad sign.

          1. I would say that I actually WAS dissatisfied with my meal there, considering how long I waited for it and how much it cost. Tonight, I celebrated my mother's real birthday by bringing up takeout from Grand Sichuan St. Marks for the same party of four. We all liked the meal tonight much better, on the whole. As my father pointed out, it was of more consistently high quality (though of course without the great desserts and great wine), we didn't have to wait over an hour to be served the appetizers, and it cost $47.30 for three cold dishes, three hot dishes, and rice. Yesterday's meal cost $460 including an $80 tip for four, and no way was it anywhere near 10 times as good. Well, on to Hearth on Friday.

            It's interesting and reassuring to read that I'm not the only one who's found 11 Madison Park under Chef Humm to be underwhelming.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pan

              I feel the same way and was surprised. For the past 5-6 years if I had had to choose one favorite restaurant, it would consistantly have been 11 Madison Park. That was when Kerry Heffernan was there. Earlier this month was my first visit since Daniel Humm took over the kitchen and I was pretty disappointed. I missed that morning-after thrill of having had a really excellent meal.

              I really preferred the ala carte menu of yore, too, to the three fixed options. Too bad.