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Eleven Madison Park -- sublime Restaurant Week lunch (Jan. '08) -- no reservations required

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Lots of restaurants churn out lackluster meals during Restaurant Week. Eleven Madison Park is not one of those places. Every Restaurant Week lunch selection is very labor intensive, and is lovingly prepared and served with pride. I went there yesterday without a reservation, expecting to see a line of grumbling, hungry people snaking out the door and down Madison Ave. But instead there were empty seats at the bar.

There was a choice of four appetizers, four entrees. For my first course, I had a perfectly poached egg with a crown of Parmesan, luxuriously reclining in a frothy bath of a white veloute sauce along with wild mushrooms and diced celery. My entree was a chicken roulade, stuffed with trumpet mushrooms, flavorful and juicy and looking like nice fat batons. Dessert was a creamy chocolate mousse topped with ice cream. All this is available through Feb 1, 2008. What a deal!

Service was as welcoming and professional as always. People who did have table reservations had to wait a while in the entryway. That's what happens when a restaurant is crowded and refuses to cut corners or compromise on quality.

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  1. Thanks for your review. Last year I went to EMP for Restaurant Week, and was greatly impressed with the quality and selections. EMP is one of my favorite restaurants.

    1. I was there yesterday too but went to Shake Shack because I didn't think I could get into EMP!!! Do you remember what your other options were? Maybe I could try my lucky today.

      1. Agreed. My lunch yesterday was superb. Parsnip pear veloute with chestnut; salmon with citrus (blood orange, etc.); chocolate/caramel dessert. All of it was excellent. The veloute was perfect, the dessert heavenly and the salmon, while nothing short of perfect, was, in the end, salmon.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dkstar1

          dkstar1,

          I ordered the exact same dishes (all 3) as you! I thought this time EMP did a much better job than the summer RW lunch. Last time the appetizers were quite disappointing, and the service was only so-so. This time they finally fixed the bread and frozen butter problem, and the butter I had was right at room temperature. It is certainly good to know that a restaurant "listened" (I wonder if they read CH?) to customer feedbacks and made an effort to fix the kinks.

          I enjoyed my lunch at EMP much more this time around.

        2. Chef Humm takes immense pride in his cuisine, and he would never "dumb down" the selections for RW. In fact, most of the dishes Brian and dkstar1 had are on the current regular menu. I've had the veloute, the chicken roulade, and the chocolate caramel dessert, and they are, indeed, sensational! Ordinarily, the bar menu is totally different from the dining room menu, so it appears that RW is a fine opportunity for those who like to dine at the bar to feast on the dining room's regular cuisine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: RGR

            It should be noted that the RW items are slightly different than the ones on the main menu...for example, the parsnip pear veloute is served with lobster and costs $20 on the main lunch menu. But essentially RGR is right - you really do get a taste of the real stuff - nothing dumbed down.

          2. BrianS,

            Wow, lunch without a reservation. That's great. What time did you go? May have to give this a go. Last summer I had to make a reservation a month in advance and very early on in the day too.
            Cheers!

            1. i actually went this week for lunch and i was a little disappointed with my fare.

              i ordered the tuna tartare (the other appetizer options were the parsnip peach veloute, the poached egg, as well as a beet & goat cheese salad). i found the portion to be ample and the quality of the fish to be very high. however, it was incredibly salty. as i was able to see the salt sprinkled a top it. it made it hard to eat, which was a shame, because over-seasoning aside it was a lovely piece of fish, and the rest of the dish was superb.

              i also ordered the chicken. i thought it was, again, a nice piece of meat. it was cooked well - it was juicy and tender. however the mushroom and artichokes were few and far between, and all together it tasted as if i was just eating a plain chicken breast. it was flavorful, but not awe-inspiring, and frankly dull.

              however, my dessert was absolutely perfect. i had the chocolate symphony with caramel as was mentioned earlier. the chocolate ice cream had hints of sea salt. the caramel layered crust, and the thick and creamy (though not pudding-y) chocolate mousse/cake (?) was divine.

              i cannot say i was completely satisfied with my meal, due to EMP's reputation. Though I thought the staff and surroundings were lovely. I also enjoyed the quality of hte ingredients, and that alone made the price of the meal a steal. The dessert was actually perfect in my opinion - not too sweet, and not too heavy handed. Though, ultimately, the missteps on the other dishes left me disappointed.

              All in all, I'd give it another go.

              1. I've just returned from another fabulous Restaurant Week meal. I got there very early, before the restaurant opened at 11:30. I expected crowds but instead it was deserted. Nobody sat at any of the bar stools during all the time I was there. I sat at one of the unreserved bar tables, and most of those stayed empty the whole time. Only two other tables taken, and one of those was a crowd of businessmen who didn't know about Restaurant Week, though they happily ordered the RW menu when a waiter told them about it.

                I ordered the veloute, which was a soup, a delicious parsnip soup with a center island of diced pears and a chestnut, and a savory foam around that center island. The second course was the boudin blanc, a mild yet delicious sausage, made every morning in house, they told me. Garnished with slices of pear, onion and fennel, on a bed of mashed potatoes, with a very flavorful red wine sauce around it. Dessert was an apple tart with about 50 razor-thin apple slices nicely arranged on top. Very labor intensive. The whole meal was.

                The bartender is very likely lonely. Go cheer him up and enjoy a first-rate dining experience.