Eleven Madison Park Review-A+ (Long)
Well, maybe this will be boring since others have offered rave reviews but just in case someone has yet to try EMP, go, run, do not walk. To those who have (recently) been less than overwhelmed, I wish you a successful return visit. I took a friend/ex-coworker to dinner Fri night (it was meant to be a blowout to thank my friend for 13 years of great coworking--I am changing jobs--from at Bdway and 21st to PAS and 25th-luckily, same great food options).
It was a perfect evening--perfect balance of ambience, drinks, food, service. Yes, it was pricey but it was meant to be a special occasion. I will share the tab at the end--do not scroll down yet.
We arrived at 6pm (btw-reservation via Opentable.com and treated very well all around).
Two women we were and no slight at all in table selection. I appreciate that EMP accommodates parties of 2 often via a 4 top table. I have been there a few times as 2 and been given the roomier 4 top. Occasionally also given the 2 top but it's nice to get the larger table to not feel too squished. Our table was up the steps, in the center of their spacious yet cozy room. The room never feels too big or noisy--while from 6-8 the room felt about 1/3 unfilled, after, the room was fully occupied. Still, very low noise level. And with lots of service staff buzzing around, you don't really notice. Service is very unobstrusive but there when you need it (almost as if someone was reading my mind).
Our captain/server Charles was perfect. He had the perfect balance of respect, desire to please and friendliness. We never felt rushed and he was eager to please. My friend and I had lots to chat about (we left at about 9:30) so we sort of settled in.
Also, Craig (I think he is one of the sommeliers) was great too. He helped with choices on the wine list and made it fun to learn about the options.
What we had:
Upon placement of our pre dinner drinks (Henriot Champange, a glass and a champagne cocktail--sorry not sure of name but on the cocktail menu--both great), each received a plate of amuse bouche--4 tastings of: foie gras "sandwich", goat cheese "napoleon", sweetbread "pocket"--not sure how to describe this one, zucchini wasabi "roll". I almost asked for another round--I think I did but I demured when I thought Charles might aim to please me too much.
After the plates were removed, another amuse arrived--teacup full of pea soup and lobster. While the lobster was great, pea soup is not my favorite--no matter who prepares it, sorry EMP.
We consulted the wine list for our dinner options and I opted for one of two half bottles of Riesling from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (Germany)--my current favorite. With Craig's help, I picked one of the two but eventually ordered the other midway through dinner--both were good: JJ Prum Spatlese and Will Schaefer Auslese. My friend also ordered a Grey Goose Cosmo but eventually tried tastings of the wine (I find more folks enjoying Rielsings if they give it a try--I prefer to think of them as complex and full-bodiedrather than simply sweet. I only drink White wine or Champagne).
We went with the four course dinner ($84 per person I think). To start, I had the Big Eye Tuna Salad with Pickled Asian Pears and Celery--very good but more importantly, light and refreshing. My friend had the Ceviche of Diver Scallop Lobster. Also very good. Portion size was appropriate for an appetizer.
btw-bread options were yummy but after one slice I held off to leave room for the rest.
Our next course, we both had the Gnocchi of Potatoes with Prawns and Calamari. This is a rich course. Serving size was fine. I have had a version of this during Restaurant Week. It is quite good and highly recommended.
We had the Glazed Muscovy Duck with Lavendar Honey and Spices for two as our next course. This is brought whole to the table to ooh over. The individual portion size is quite large. We each took home half. In addition, this is served with a very decent size portion of duck confit. The combination of the duck breast and confit is quite filling. Very very tasty. I have seen it on the menu previously but never had as you do need 2 to order.
After this all, I know better than to have too rich a dessert (for me that means avoid chocolate). I opted for the "creamsicle": tangerine sherbet and vanilla semifreddo and my friend ordered the Sheep's Milk Yogurt Cheesecake. Both were refreshing and light but I would opt for the Cheesecake next time.
We each had a glass of CH Berres Beerenauslese (from my favorite Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany). This was out of sight. Who needs dessert!!!
Next, we were gifted each "lollipops" of sweets--pistachio macaroon, passion fruit beignet, chocolate and peanut butter cookie--in a fun arrangement. These went very quickly.
There was never a rush for us to leave or dispatch us. Charles was charming and fun too. I will ask to sit in his "area" next time if available. As we were leaving, each of us was given a breakfast brioche for the next day. And, several staff checked in with us to thank us for joining them and if there was anything we needed. For us, it was a great evening. I didn't feel overstuffed or over anything. Just perfect. The price tag--well, it was a special occasion. Pre tip: $480.
I will return soon--for both special occasions as well as any nice evening out. I look forward to it. And, sooo glad I live and work a few blocks away.
PS-I will report separately on Blue Smoke--another special occasion dinner (ok, I am between jobs and am living high before I begin my next job!)
Great review. I think I had pretty much the same feeling that you had for my dinner visits to EMP. Everything was quite perfect from start to finish. And I agree that the amuse bouche is so good - I LOVE the foie gras sandwich and the sweetbread pockets! If they were to offer them as appetizers I will totally order them so that I can have a bigger portion!
You are so lucky to be working close by!