11 Madison Park tonight (Friday)
Ho Hum, Daniel Humm.
Eleven Madison Park displays all the elements of the New York fine-dining restaurant (from the complimentary amuse bouches, petit fours, and take-home gifts for the ladies), but lacked in overall execution. Dishes that were plated beautifully and looked promising very often fell short of expectations taste-wise. By no means was the food bad--in fact, by normal standards, it was pretty good--but when you're dishing out $95 for four courses, you expect something that'll pop with flavor in your mouth and make you go "mmmmm," at the very least.
To be frank, I enjoyed the amuse-bouches far more than the actual entrees. Come with eager anticipation for the goat cheese layered between delicately prepared pastry flakes, as well as the macaroons with a foie-gras center. I was quite pleased when my friend Tiffany decided she didn't want hers and was able to gobble (haha) an extra one. Score!
For my chosen appetizer, I had a duo of foie gras that featured a foie gras pate and foie gras brulee. In terms of taste, the pate wasn't anything remarkable, and you could probably get the same thing at any French deli. I appreciated the brulee, with a crispy-sweet and velvety-savory playing off each other really nicely. Next, came a bouillabasse of prawn, scallop, mussels, squid, and cod. Sadly, the lemongrass broth that the sweet and succulent seafood was bathed in overwhelmed the dish entirely. For my main course, I opted for a lavendar honey glazed duck, which for me, was the best of the 3. Though a little gamey, the crispy, flavorful honey glazed fatty goodness of the duck skin was enough for me to give this dish a thumbs up.
Items on the dessert menu were far too sophisticated for us and we had a hard time deciphering exactly what "black mission" was. Turns out, it's a kind of fig. Ooh-la-la! Without digressing further, desserts again looked far prettier than they tasted...as were the petit-fours. We appreciated the gesture, though, and left a 20% tip.
A third of the price of Per Se, a third as good. In my humble opinion, your $120 (with wine) will take you much further at a fine-dining alternative such as Bouley.
I like to eats.