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Jun 17, 2008 05:22 AM

Eleven Madison Park 2008

I had a wonderful dinner at Eleven Madison Park not too long ago. We had the 11-course Gourmand Tasting menu.

You can read my entire review here: [url=] and see all of the photos from this meal here: [url=].

Highlights included:

1. A new incarnation of the "crab roll," this time the crab salad contained lime and green apple and was rolled in avocado. It's accompanied by a swatch of tangy yogurt.

2. A new presentation of the Nova Scotia Lobster. I can't believe how perfectly cooked the lobster was despite the fact that the broth was served piping hot; the lobster seemed impervious to the heat at the table. Every bite, from start to finish, was equally as succulent. Maybe it was because it was so good I scarfed it down much faster than I realized. While I thought this course was wildly over-salted by itself, the wine pairing put it all in check. This was my favorite wine pairing of the meal (M. Sorrel Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France, 2004, a white Rhone).

3. Duck! Duck! Duck! The server presented the bird, with its plumage of lavender, table-side before whisking it away to be carved and plated. Although I have absolutely no reason to doubt them, I have a hard time believing that the presented bird was the same from which our portions were cut. I am always skeptical of Western preparations of whole duck; the Chinese really do have a knack for the quacker. But, here, the skin was crackling crisp, perfumed with lavender honey and spices (I recall getting a smoky hit of cumin), *and* the breast meat was moist and flavorful; there was just enough fat between the two layers for measured indulgence. How did they do that? I barely needed the rich veal demi glace that was presented. No less impressive was the square of duck confit (obviously prepared separately) topped with an equally crispy sheath of duck crackling. This, above the Cape Cod Baby Crab and the Nova Scotia Lobster, was my favorite course of the evening.

Other notes (forgive me if this is old news):

1. They have a cheese cart now. The selection is somewhat beyond pedestrian, but for the most part, the limited selections were common (Epoisses, Tomme de Berger, Monte Enebro, off the top of my head). It certainly is no match for the enthusiasm and range offered at Picholine, where I dined the following evening. But, this admitted cheese snob was certainly not disappointed; I was just thrilled to see them offering a cheese course.

2. Chef Humm is now in charge of the pastry department. The Vermont Quark Souffle is a must.

Many have said it; I have said it; and I’ll say it again: it’s absolutely absurd that Chef Humm doesn’t have a single Michelin star. Personally, I think he and his staff deserve two. That Humm achieved his first Michelin star when he was 24 (in Switzerland at Gasthaus zum Gupf) has nothing to do with it. Or, it has everything to do with it - he’s now had six more years to progress and excel.

For all the insight and “expertise” that the Michelin Guide Rouge has on the New York dining scene, the omission of Eleven Madison Park from its asterisked list indicates an near-fatal flaw and oversight in their evaluation process. I’ll refrain from making comparisons. Suffice it to say, considering some of the operations that the Michelin has awarded stars to, it’s preposterous that Eleven Madison Park has none. I hope they fix that this year.

Again, if you're up for reading a much (too much?) detailed review, read here: [url=].

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  1. Michelin guide to USA is very poor, I think anyone who knows anything can figure that out.
    Glad you had a good one.

    1. The duck sounds great. Did you have to request for that substitution way in advance or just while you were already at the restaurant? Was there an additional charge fo the substitution? I'll be doing the Gourmand on Friday.

      9 Replies
      1. re: phr208

        Substitution was requested on the spot. There was no additional charge for the substitution. Again, I was with regulars/friends of the house, so I'm not sure how much of this was a generous exception. That being said, we split the duck three-ways, instead of two.

        1. re: ulterior epicure

          I've done a substitution on the spot, swapping out the last savory on the Gourmand for the suckling pig. No additional charge. No fuss.

          1. re: kathryn

            Ulterior, have you written a review of Picholine?

              1. re: ulterior epicure

                Very much looking forward to it as I'm trying to decide between Daniel, Picholine, or EMP for a last night out on my trip to NYC.

                1. re: uhockey

                  And I'm trying to decide between EMP and Picholine - one additional question - I'll be dining solo, and do NOT want to sit at the bar at either place - any thoughts as to which might be better for a solo? Picholine just seemed like such a bright, exposed room so really not sure, although I liked their menu better.

                  1. re: Eujeanie

                    Picholine's room isn't bright or exposed at all. I found it warm and inviting. The food ranged from good to very good, with mains being the weakest point. I haven't been to EMP.

                    1. re: Eujeanie

                      1. I'm fairly certain that EMP will not serve the Gourmand Tasting at the bar, but you are free to order regular prix fixe menu there. Double check before you go.

                      2. Nothing about Picholine is bright. The bar is the size of my bathroom, but not altogether unpleasant. If you are looking for casual eats, there is a "Tasting Flights" (not what the name suggests) menu that is reads terribly well. It's on their website. That's what I'll be checking out next time.

                    2. re: uhockey

                      I haven't been to Daniel in about 3 years. But, I was just at Picholine and EMP. I'd go with EMP. Unless, of course, cheese reigns uber alles, then Picholine for sure.

          2. About the duck-

            You are right...and you are wrong.

            You are right that it is delicious and that it is a truly stunning dish.

            You are wrong that it's not the same duck that you say, well, kinda, but not really wrong. The deal is that the duck that they bring to the table will comprise part of the plate-those perfectly cooked slices are so good that I don't care if they came from a duck in Central Park...I just know that they are good. The confit, on the other hand, was made from a duck that someone had the previous night and who, as it goes on and on, donated his carcass to the making of the confit, just as you so kindly donated your own to some, soon to be, happy diner the following evening. It's a great system.

            I love the place.

            If you are into cocktails, and who isn't, next time you are there tell them to make a sazerac with some of that, relatively hard to find, Pappy Van Winkle's Rye Whiskey and some Lucid Absinthe to coat the glass. I am from NOLA, and have had my share of Sazeracs, but that was easily the single best cocktail I have ever moaned over.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hadacol

              Right, I knew that part of my duck (the dark meat) pays forward to another, subsequent, diner's confit. But man, that is terribly great breast meat to have come off of a whole-roasted bird.