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Eleven Madison Park Lunch Notes from August 31

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My husband and I made our third visit to Eleven Madison Park in four years on August 31, but this was our first time visiting for lunch. We were warmly escorted to the lounge area for a few moments before being led to our table where we would be for approximately the next four hours. It was very interesting to enjoy the room in the daytime after always being there in the evening—it is a beautiful, elegant place and it was a lovely sunny day.

We decided on the full tasting menu since it would be our last chance to have the current version of the lunch tasting. My husband had talked to the wine director before we arrived because he was interested in a particular champagne from the list since we had served the same producer’s champagne at our wedding reception and were now here to celebrate our 15th anniversary. He was able to make sure it would be available and so we started by enjoying the NV Jacques Selosses Les Carelles as they brought our savory black and white cookies to begin the amuses.

We then progressed to the tomato tea with lemon thyme, which was as good as I remember from our dinner last year. Other than the egg cream, this was the only repeat dish that we had. We did request that we not have the “clam bake” again even though it was really great last year; we just wanted to experience as many new dishes as possible.

The tomato tea was followed by yogurt and chickpea lollipops, which were even better than last year’s goat cheese lollipops (and I love goat cheese). Then some small chickpea flour fritters that had a pinch of lemon zest that packed a wonderful amount of flavor. Finally, a little bit of smoked sturgeon with chive oil and sabayon in an eggshell that had really lovely flavors.

We then had the EMP take on smoked fish and bagels. They first brought out the glass dome with smoke under it. Then they brought each of us a plate with romaine topped with everything bagel dust, quail egg and pickled onion; a caviar tin with cream cheese and caviar on top; a jar of pickle sticks; and some toasts. Once we were all set with the mise en place, they removed the dome to reveal the smoked fish and let us know there was no specific way to eat the dish—it was up to us. I really enjoyed this dish, which I believe is one of the dishes that will still be on the new menu.

Our next course was couscous cooked in smoked tomato broth with melon, fennel, mint and olive dust. I had noted that did not particularly care for olives, so they left the olive dust off my dish. This dish was like summer on a plate. It was about this time that we also started our white wine, a 1991 Francois Jobard Mersault Poruzots 1er Cru.

For our next course, my husband and I received different dishes because I had also mentioned that I’m not a big fan of offal and although I noted that I do eat foie gras, I think they noticed that it isn’t necessarily a favorite of mine. My husband had a torchon of foie gras with beet and berry. He noted that the foie gras was spectacular and that the flavors all worked together very well. He was, however, jealous of my dish, which included snapper, geoduck clam, white nectarine and sea cress. It was a beautiful dish and very well executed.

Next was a very delicious corn dish. The corn was smoked with blueberry and served with blueberries, dried corn and chanterelle mushrooms with a lapsang souchong tea mousse and yogurt. It is amazing how great the vegetable dishes at EMP are!

Next we had a lobster dish with lemon verbena, squash blossom, and amaranth. This was a simple dish that had vibrant flavors, but we felt the lobster was slightly overcooked.

Our final main course was veal, which was perfectly cooked (sous vide, then roasted, we believe). Again, making sure to cater to my dislikes, my husband’s dish also had beef tongue and sweetbreads while mine did not. There were also various types of summer beans with the dish.

For the cheese course, there were two different Rainbow Ridge chévres: one fresh and one aged for 2-3 weeks. These were served with pistachio butter and green garlic. The aged chévre was amazing.

On to desert: We had the traditional egg cream made tableside; I like the orange flavor. Next, we had what I would call deconstructed cheesecake, which I thought was really good and cheesecake is not my favorite desert. Finally, chocolate ganache, apricot sorbet and cardamom mousse, which was lovely.

We were then guided into the kitchen for a cocktail called The Colony, which included cherries, cherry syrup, gin and grapefruit. It is always interesting to see the activity in the kitchen and how organized they are.

As a bookend to the first amuse, we finished off with the black and white cookies.

This is one of the best ways I can think of to spend a Friday afternoon and Eleven Madison Park still has the best service that I know of in the U.S. It certainly is not a place you can go to all the time, but it was a lovely way to celebrate our anniversary a few days early.

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