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Just another spectacular dinner at Eleven Madison Park

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As usual, full review with photos (and alternate courses) on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

We had a spectacular dinner there last week, where we went all out by ordering the new tasting menu as well as adding the signature off-menu duck. Our gougeres were even replenished twice! The new tasting menu is comprised of waves of canapes followed by more traditional courses.

HALIBUT with dashi and seaweed lavash
First came crisp and light lavash flatbread flavored with seaweed accompanied by a cup of dashi with a sprig of herbs and a piece of halibut fume. The smoky fish taste worked well with the umami-filled dashi and did a good job opening up the taste buds for what was to come.

MONKFISH loin with lemon and scallion and torchon of liver with apple and curry
The loin was served on a rice cracker and I really liked how the puffed up texture worked with the texture of the ceviche-style fish. The apple was terrific in balancing out the fatty fish liver torchon, but I wasn't sold on the combination of apple and curry.

SEA URCHIN toast with foie gras and lemon
This was absolutely wonderful. The meyer lemon puree and sea urchin worked terrifically together, and provided just enough brininess and acidity to handle the rich chilled foie gras mixture. For those who might be worried that the foie overpowers the sea urchin, I would say that there is a little bit of that, but the sea urchin still comes through.

SMOKED STURGEON sabayon with chive oil
I've had this a few times before and it continues to be very good. Just a wonderful combination of the smokiness of the sturgeon, the warmth and earthiness of the chive oil, and the rich yet slightly acidic sabayon. Remember to mix the chive oil at the bottom thoroughly if you get this!

CAVIAR fingerling potato and creme fraiche
A classic combination presented here using a chilled fingerling potato as the vehicle.

BLACK TRUFFLE beignet with black truffle remoulade
Fried dough completely covered with black truffle aroma and taste. Mixing it with the remoulade added a lovely creaminess to round out the bite. Delicious and smart.

This was the last of the canape courses, which were served in five waves and consisted of eight individual bites.

LANGOUSTINE ceviche with celery, apple and lime
The lime and celery in the broth allowed the freshness and flavor of the raw langoustine to come out, but it was the cold apple snow which added an extra texture and temperature dimension that made the dish stand out.

CARROT roasted with dates, cumin and wheat berries
I liked how the sweetness of the dates and other components brought out the earthy side of the carrot, which was tender yet firm and not mushy. This was a terrific bridge between the cold refreshing first course and the subsequent savory fish course.

JOHN DORY seared with celery, artichoke, and black truffles
This earthy preparation of the john dory had classical flavors that went lovely with the firm meaty fish.

VEAL blanquette with winter vegetables and smoked bone marrow
The veal was tasty and the jus was rich, but what really made this dish for me was the wonderful selection of winter vegetables and the smoked bone marrow which added a depth of flavor and a variety of textures to the dish as a whole.

LAMB roasted with vadouvan, lady apples and puntarella
Although I love all the individual components of vadouvan spice, I'm really not a big fan. It worked in this dish because the combination of those spices with garlic, tender lady apples, and the bitterness from the puntarella came together nicely for me. The lamb was cooked perfectly I thought, although I know people who prefer their lamb bloody.

DUCK roasted with kumquats and turnips
Speechlessly wonderful. The kind where everyone just concentrates on the food and stops talking. The kumquats were nice and sweet and provided a good balance, but they weren't really necessary. Just close your eyes and savor the concentrated flavor of the duck with a few sips of lovely red wine. The crispy skin almost becomes overkill.

The secret is the dry-aging, which concentrates the flavor and allows the skin to become really crisp during roasting while the fat cooks down. As our server expertly carved out the breast. I asked about the other parts of the duck, and our server said that due to the dry aging process, the dark meat parts become very very gamey.

KIR ROYALE cassis, lemon, champagne
It seems to be a common theme that the predessert here at Eleven Madison Park is based off of familiar drinks. Besides this kir royale, I've had variations of a malted milkshake and strawberries and champagne before. It's a refreshing take, but truly nothing new in terms of flavors.

CHOCOLATE ganache with butternut squash and maple
This was good, and I liked pairing the chocolate ganache ribbons with the butternut sqush sorbet, which I thought was an innovative approach that worked. That being said, I continue to feel that the desserts are the weakest part of the Eleven Madison Park experience. I don't think they need to do the four or five courses of dessert tastings like at other top tier places, but I feel that they're caught in an awkward in-between spot. I've read that they do a terrific souffle, so maybe a solution would be to focus on classic desserts and just excel in the execution.

MIGNARDISES included chocolate covered banana ice cream pops, violet macarons, peanut brittle, and something I don't remember that I didn't really like. I thought these were fine, but nothing extraordinary, and certainly nothing novel. I thought the mignardises I had on previous visits were much better.

In all, it was just another spectacular meal at EMP. The portions are more in line with tasting menu portions I've had at other high end places, whereas the old gourmand menu seemed a little too overindulgent for some. The canapes have improved significantly in my mind compared to when they first rolled out the new menu. At the current price point of $195+t/t per person with a $30 per person supplement for the duck, there is value here, but not the outright bargain the gourmand menu once was. Still, it is roughly three quarters the cost of a meal at Per Se, which I think offers the closest in terms of dining experience.

-----
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

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  1. Beautiful review! Now I'm really jealous of you since I cancelled my dinner reservation last week due to the snow. Definitely need to reschedule; will probably wait a few weeks for some better weather (hopefully!).

    1. Yep - officially excited to go back.

      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

      1. Great review, fooder! This is the same tasting menu we had for Mr. R.'s pre-birthday celebration on 1/22 though some of our amuses were different, and we did not include the duck since we'd had it for my birthday dinner in October. At that time, it was prepared with the kumquats and turnips and was -- as it always is -- spectacular.

        EMP Tasting Menu photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        I finally managed to finish labeling and opening the photo sets from my birthday dinner.

        My birthday dinner photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

        1. Great review. You also had one of my favorite wines (and, actually, the bottle that we took to Per Se back in December): Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. What vintage did you have, if you don't mind my asking?

          -----
          Per Se
          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

          1. @rgr Your pictures came out so much better than mine! I did find the room somewhat dimmer than I last remember. I'll have to make sure to request a table with more light next time!

            @loratliff My friend DC said specifically when I took the picture of the wine that the money shot would be the year. I thought it was visible in this photo but I guess not. It was 1978.

            1 Reply
            1. re: fooder

              Sorry, I didn't look that closely, but I see it now. Thanks!

            2. I've always thought that the one area EMP lacked in was desserts as well. Yeah, the vanilla souffle is pretty good, but other than that I have not been impressed even though it's one of my favorite restaurants otherwise.

              This reminds me I really, really need to go back soon - still have not been since the re-vamp and I'm dying to!

              24 Replies
              1. re: uwsister

                I meant to ask - is the souffle always on the menu? Seems to be the one dessert everyone raves - though my sister stiil talks affectionately about that Vacherin Lemon and Basil Parfait with Strawberries and Meringue from our visit nearly 2.5 years ago.

                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                1. re: uhockey

                  I saw it on the dessert menu on every visit - but I haven't been since the re-vamp.

                  That vacherin sounds amazing! Then again I love anything made w/ meringue.

                  1. re: uhockey

                    uhockey, No, the soufflé is not always on the new format menu. It was on the menu under the term "Vanilla" when we celebrated my birthday in October. When we were there in November, it had been removed and has not reappeared since. Of the current desserts -- all of which I like -- my favorite is Coconut.

                    I've been told that there are menu changes in store during February which, I presume, will included the desserts. In fact, we were given a preview of the new pre-dessert that will replace the "Kir Royale."

                    Photos of our lunch last week (includes the new pre-dessert): http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                    1. re: RGR

                      Not a big coconut guy unless paired with something savory (for instance Ducasse putting it with his Lobster) but that is beautiful. The new pre-dessert is more my style than was the Kir, so that is a nice change - seems like they enjoy the use of herbs with citrus quite a bit which is a good thing. That chicken looks lovely, as well but I must say I'm hoping for a Foie terrine over seared when I visit - else I may have to make a stop at the Per Se lounge for my fix. :-)

                      The seat you are in for that meal is the same one we sat in back in '08.

                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                      -----
                      Per Se
                      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                      1. re: uhockey

                        When my sister and I had dinner at EMP in October (post-revamp) for her big birthday celebration, I called ahead and asked whether they could do us a huge favor and prepare 2 vanilla souffles. They know it's my favorite dessert, and last summer I had the chance to meet the pastry chef who prepared the souffles, and told her that the EMP souffles were the best anywhere! EMP graciously granted my sister's birthday request, and the souffles were, as always, perfect. I would love it if they would add the souffle back to the dessert menu.

                        You might want to call ahead and ask if they could prepare the souffle for you.

                        1. re: ellenost

                          I think I will definitely try to get the souffle specially ordered next time, since I've never had souffle there yet.

                          The other suggestion I would have for them would be to allow the dessert of the tasting menu to still be chosen by the customer, especially if it's going to be the same dessert as from the prix fixe menu and not specially made. That way, a diner who has already had too much food can choose a lighter option, while someone who isn't too much into sweets can choose the cheese course, etc.

                          1. re: fooder

                            Fooder, I have asked to swap desserts on tasting menu @ EMP before, and of course they were happy to oblige. I'm sure it would not be a problem.

                            1. re: uwsister

                              You are, of course, correct, uwsister. In fact, I have never had any restaurant refuse to allow me to choose a different dessert than the one listed on the tasting menu.

                              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                              1. re: RGR

                                I have, at Alto. One of the reasons I won't be back. But of course that would never happen at EMP.

                                1. re: uwsister

                                  Whoa! What reason did your server give for not allowing you to choose something else? Did you speak with the manager? We've been to Alto twice but never had the tasting menu. Frankly, if that happened to me, the tip would go out the window and, like you, I would never go back.

                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    The server explained "the chef won't like it." It was the way he said it too. Not very nice. My husband didn't want me to make a big deal out of it (he's that kind of guy, I always have to convince him to send overcooked meat and fish back) so I didn't insist on speaking to the manager. I wish I had. I did mention it to the maitre d on our way out when he asked how our meal was. He didn't really react. Oh well.

                        2. re: uhockey

                          uhockey, LOL! That's *our* table, i.e. the one we always sit at unless, of course, we are dining with others. If we have one or two dining companions, then *our* table is the round one just in front of our regular table.

                          In all the years that we've been dining at EMP since Chef Humm took over the kitchen, seared foie gras has only appeared on the menu twice: the first time on a lunch Gourmand menu and the second time, this past fall when it was paired with the beef. The seared foie we had last week was created especially for Mr. R's birthday celebration. The fact is, Chef Humm isn't keen on whole versions, so you can rest easy as it will no doubt be in terrine form, as usual, when you are there.

                          I loved the new pre-dessert's complexity of flavors. But those who hate cilantro might feel differently. As for the soufflé, as ellenost suggests, if you really want it, we can make a special request.

                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                          1. re: RGR

                            Souffle is second only to bread pudding in the world of uhockey desserts. :-) If they'd be willing to do it, I'd certainly be willing to eat it gluttonously.

                            Actually - that pretty much goes for anything I'm served at a place like EMP, but ESPECIALLY for foie gras, gnocchi, duck, bread pudding, and souffles.

                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                            1. re: uhockey

                              Prior to the menu format change, gnocchi were on EMP's menu for the longest time. But here's the thing. On last week's menu, CRAB, which Mr. R. ordered, was the return of a dish from the old menu: tagliolini with crab, lemon, and black pepper. Oddly enough, neither of us had ever had it. He loved it. I tasted. Delicious! So, who knows? The gnocchi could make a comeback. I had them. They were done with goat cheese. Very rich!

                              Here's a photo (Sorry it's too dark!) of the gnocchi: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                              1. re: RGR

                                A few months ago the gnocchi were on the menu, prepared with squid and shrimp in a Meyer lemon sauce. My husband said that it was his favorite dish of the night. I am hoping for a comeback as well.

                                1. re: Nancy S.

                                  That's certainly very different from the "old" one. My guess is that gnocchi will eventually show up again on the grid but with new components.

                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    If you're in a requesting sort of mood and they're obliging I'd love to check out the souffle in a couple of weeks. :-)

                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                2. re: RGR

                                  The crab tagliolini has always been one of my favorite things to eat at EMP. I was also thrilled to see that they put it on the a la carte bar menu when I stopped by for a quick lunch last month. Back when they did the quicker two course lunch, I would order it religiously. In fact, I once skipped the main course and just had one huge portion of the crab tagliolini for lunch!

                                  1. re: fooder

                                    Is the bar menu available anywhere online? Last I checked it wasn't on the EMP website.

                                    1. re: ml77

                                      The bar menu has never been posted on EMP's website, and I've never seen it anywhere else online. However, I'm sure if you call and ask, they'll fax or email it to you.

                                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                      1. re: RGR

                                        Yeah, I'm sure that's true. Don't understand why they don't post it. Thanks for the reply.

                          2. re: RGR

                            RGR that foie looks fantastic! I will be sure to seek out a seared preparation when I return for lunch. Thanks for the info re the new pre-dessert, looks great.

                            1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                              TDA, Yes, that foie had us both swooning!

                              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                            2. re: RGR

                              RGR:

                              Since I loved the "Orange Julius" at EMP (thanks for that recommendation!), I notice you're drinking an "Up the Alley" these days. What's in it?

                              BTW, I'm loving all of your photos (especially at EMP) on your flickr account. E and I need to reschedule our dinner very soon. Everything looks delcious (especially that seared foie gras prep).

                        3. Lucky me! Just scored a last minute reservation for tonight at EMP! So looking forward to it!

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: ellenost

                            Great, ellenost! Presuming you will be having the tasting menu, I'll be curious to hear if there are any changes, so please report back.

                            Enjoy!! :)

                            http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                            1. re: RGR

                              One word describes my dinner last night at EMP: Exquisite!

                              Last night my sister and I were able to get a last minute reservation at EMP for dinner to make up for the cancellation of our planned dinner last week due to last week's storm. So glad we did. We did the tasting menu, and there were a few updates to fooder's review above. A few of the canapes had changed: We had a tasting of crab and madai instead of the monkfish loin; both were terrific. Instead of the sea urchin on toast, our sea urchin was part of a wonderful panna cotta-like gel with tiny slivers of apples (?). I loved it! Very refreshing tasting.

                              We loved all of the other canapes that fooder had (especially the black truffle beignet and the smoked sturgeon sabayon).

                              As we were discussing our likes/dislikes, I mentioned to our server that we love foie gras, and especially a seared foie gras. Chef was in a very accomodating mood, and substituted the seared foie gras prep that RGR discussed above for the veal dish that fooder had. As you know EMP typically does a cold foie gras prep, but this one was divine. I hope Chef keeps a hot foie gras prep on the menu.

                              We loved all of other courses (especially the langoustine and the carrot dishes). The John Dory was my least favorite course, but it's because I'm not a fan of artichoke or white fish. Nothing was wrong with the dish.

                              We also had the new pre-dessert mentioned by RGR above, and loved it too!

                              We didn't add the duck (although it is one of our favorites), and to be honest, it would have been too much for us.

                              I think the new EMP tasting menu is a perfect compromise between the new 4 course tasting menu and the old 11 course Gourmand. Dinner took 3 hours, we were perfectly full and totally in bliss from the food.

                              Service, as always, was very friendly and attentive. We tried a new soft cocktail: the "No. 11 Cooler" that was perfect (citrus flavored). Even though I adore the "Orange Julius", I think this new cocktail may be No. 1 on my list. Wine was perfect. Nathan, as always, was "spot on" with the 2006 Donnhoff Auslese.

                              We received our favorite jar of granola to take home. Love this stuff. Danny Meyer could make a fortune selling it at Shake Shack.

                              To sum up, so very glad that we were able to try the EMP Tasting Menu. We'll probably order it on our future visits.

                              1. re: ellenost

                                ellenost, great review, I'm always interested to see new additions/changes to the tasting menu that I had last weekend. I had basically the same canapes/amuses that you had and especially loved the uni panna cotta!

                                We also substituted the foie, but instead of a seared preparation, we had a torchon that was swirled with Venezeulan Cocoa with a Quince Gelee and Vinaigrette. Next time I'll have to inquire about the seared version.

                                Being a fan of the old Gourmand menu, I was very pleased with the new tasting menu, and will be sure to revisit as new dishes get cycled in!

                                1. re: ellenost

                                  Excellent review from you, as usual, ellenost! I had no doubt that you would love this tasting menu.

                                  Great that you were able to have the seared foie preparation we had at lunch. Maybe Chef's attitude is softening and, if enough of us request it, he'll include it more often on the menu without special request.

                                  We had that sea urchin panna cotta, which is composed of an apple gelée topped with apple batons. Ambrosial!

                                  I loved the langoustine dish so much during the tasting menu that I had to have it again when we were there for Mr. R.'s official birthday lunch. We also had the truffle beignets then. Fantastic! And the flavor is kicked up several notches when they are dipped in that heady truffled yogurt.

                                  On the evening we had the tasting there was no John Dory. Instead, that dish was prepared with wild striped bass. I adore artichokes, so I liked that dish a lot.

                                  My least favorite was the veal. The vegetables that accompanied it were spectacular, but I found the veal a bit too bland.

                                  While I was stuck at home, I saw a post with the recipe for the Orange Julius that Leo, EMP's head bartender, sent to the poster. So, I consoled myself by making numerous Orange Juliuses at home. When I returned to EMP in October, I "retired" the Orange Julius and returned to my other favorite, Up the Alley. I did try the No. 11. I liked it but not as much as those two.

                                  There are going to be changes to the menu this month, so I can't wait to see what new delights Chef Humm has in store during our next visit to EMP.

                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                  1. re: ellenost

                                    I love seared foie and although I did enjoy the veal I think I would've preferred a seared foie preparation. I just didn't know EMP did it since they've almost never had it on the menu!

                                    Glad to see you had a great time and happy to have influenced you to replace your cancelled reservation sooner!

                                    1. re: fooder

                                      fooder,

                                      I didn't know EMP would do a seared foie gras prep either until RGR posted about her dish. Glad I read this thread before I went.

                                      1. re: ellenost

                                        ellenost,

                                        Actually, we never expected it. Here's how it came about. After we had the beef with seared foie gras back in November, we told Chef Humm how fabulous that dish was, and that we especially loved foie gras prepared that way. We also mentioned it to E.C. Sous Abram Bissell. When we were there for Mr. R.'s birthday lunch, Chef Bissell was in charge of the kitchen, and he decided to surprise us. (Chef Humm was in France at the Bocuse d'Or.)

                                        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                2. re: ellenost

                                  Ellenost! I just missed you! Saw your post right before heading there myself last night. I asked the maitre d' about you (don't worry, I would not have barged right over, rather I was going to let her know you could come say hi if you liked).

                                  Anyhow, you had just left, but she spoke very highly of you.

                                  That said, my dinner there was 100% flawless. We had the tasting menu with wine pairings. The restaurant has lost NOTHING in my opinion since last visit 2 years ago. The food was amazing, the service was perfect -- I was very comfortable and relaxed also, which is tricky to get right. The wine pairing was the best I've had in a long time. Nathan the sommelier did a fantastic job. This wine pairing blows Alinea's and Moto's (chicago) out of the water btw.

                                  Loved all the amuses. Great flavor combinations without going batty about it. Their goats milk butter for the bread may be one of my favorite things on earth. Langoustine and veal dishes were great. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the dessert, which was chocolate based, and chocolate is not my favorite. But there were some really beautiful strips of chocolate ganache combined beautifully with other flavors and textures.

                                  A glorious experience.

                                  1. re: pauliface

                                    pauliface,

                                    The thing that surprises me about that chocolate dessert is that you would never think of combining chocolate with butternut squash. But it works beautifully. In fact, I think all three desserts on the current menu are delicious

                                    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      Well - to be fair, Le Bernardin does chocolate with sweet potato, so it isn't too far off. :-) Besides - chocolate is delicious, butternut squash is delicious - seems a logical pairing to me.

                                      EMP and Corton in the same day should be quite the adventure! Just 2 weeks.

                                      Great writeup Ellenost.

                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                      -----
                                      Le Bernardin
                                      155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                                      Corton
                                      239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                      1. re: uhockey

                                        Quite the adventure, indeed! I recall someone posting that, perhaps, you should not do them on the same day because they are both French. However, Corton's cuisine is entirely different from EMP's. Paul Liebrandt's combinations are less familiar (or as u.e. would say, less accessible to many diners) than Daniel Humm's.

                                        Actually, Mr. R. and I considered going to Corton last Saturday but decided instead to go to Ai Fiori because we wanted to try someplace new.

                                        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          I had no worries. :-)

                                          I'll have to find out how Ai Fiori was - it was on my "possible" list but missed the cut for being too new.

                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                          -----
                                          Ai Fiori
                                          400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                          1. re: uhockey

                                            We usually avoid going to very new restaurants, but we took a chance and loved Ai Fiori. I would describe the cuisine as Frenchified Italian. I had an absolutely fabulous foie gras terrine. Service was very cordial and smooth. It's huge, but the designers did a nice job of dividing the space into several dining areas, and I really liked the decor. Much nicer, imo, than Marea. Actually, I liked everything about Ai Fiori more than Marea.

                                            Ai Fiori photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                                            http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                    2. re: pauliface

                                      pauliface,

                                      So sorry I missed you! Nathan makes the best wine recommendations! I'm really glad so many of us had the same terrific experience. Things are definitely on the right track at EMP. RGR indicates that the menu is to change soon so I look forward to trying the new menu when I return.

                                  2. Is it still so cold when you eat there? I remember the waiters had to bring blankets to us because it was freezing. Couldn't enjoy the meal.

                                    http://www.examiner.com/ny-in-new-yor...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: julilouie

                                      I was there last night and it was toasty warm. Was able to remove my jacket.

                                      1. re: julilouie

                                        Had dinner last night at EMP, and definitely not cold at all.

                                      2. I am going to EMP for the first time on Saturday. Do you need to request the duck ahead of time? and can you order it either (i) as part of the main, 4-course menu, or (ii) as an add-on to the 4 course menu? Thanks!

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: lnedrive14

                                          Yes ahead of time.
                                          Yes as part of the main 4-course (provided the other person also wants it)
                                          Yes as an add on (supplement charge, obviously.)

                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                          1. re: uhockey

                                            Thanks!

                                            1. re: lnedrive14

                                              Sure - in all honesty, provided you give them advanced notice I wonder if EMP would say "No" to any request. :-)

                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                So I've heard. Maybe I will test them with a request for a duck tasting menu....

                                                1. re: lnedrive14

                                                  Or ask them to bring back the suckling pig tasting menu....

                                                2. re: uhockey

                                                  Fyi - just called them. No longer need to reserve the duck ahead of time. they said that was necessary during the transition period of the new menu, but now they can accomodate on the fly.