My brother has been a chef at Eleven Madison Park for about a year now. When my family realized he had to work on Thanksgiving we decided it was finally time to pay him a visit. We waited until
he could actually get us a reservation he was established there before going, which has been excruciating because since he started there, the restaurant was the first in history to make the cover of the New York Times, it was rated #1 in New York by New York Magazine (#2 by NY Times, after Thomas Keller’s Per Se), it went from 1 to 3 Michelin stars, Chef Daniel Humm was awarded Outstanding Chef by James Beard, and it was rated #10 in the world by the San Pellegrino rating. NO BIG DEAL OR ANYTHING.
We knew that it was going to be legendary, just watching Tom mature as a chef in the past year shows how much he has learned. Even with my tremendous expectations they managed to wow me from beginning to end. The experience feels like an escape from reality. From the moment you enter you dont have to worry about a single thing — you’re in their world and everything runs like a well-oiled machine. They pick out every item for you, so no stressful menu deliberation. All you have to do is tell them what you don’t like. I started to write down the name of a wine we tried and the server came over and told me not to worry about it, just relax and enjoy, because at the end of the meal they provide a list of all food and wine. The second you get up to go to the bathroom, someone will suddenly appear next to you and escort you there. And don’t worry about missing a course while you’re gone, they won’t serve anything until you’re back. The flow of the restaurant is ridiculously impressive, all the servers only walk around the dining room clockwise, so there will never be a traffic jam. You would think all of this perfection means the place has an attitude about it – not AT ALL. The entire staff is super down to earth, calm and willing to describe every detail of every dish.
As the New York Times article described, they recently reinvented the format of the restaurant to be a sort of homage to New York. All the courses in some way represent the city, from its historic dishes to its seasonal ingredients. Even the plates represent New York – all of which are made custom by a ceramic company in Brooklyn, which is apparently known for ceramics.
So here goes the longest post in the history of Just Add Cheese. I tried to make it as concise as possible, but there were too many details I absolutely needed to include. I’ll do my best to do this wonderful experience justice.
Champagne to start.
They have a menu dedicated to Manhattans, all of which are made at your table, courtesy of the Manhattan cart. (More on this in the NY Times article)
Bushwick Manhattan | Brujeria: Blanco Highland Tequila, Strega, Yellow Chartreuse, Kaffir Lime, Green Tea, Jalapeno, Lime
First course: cookies.
NYC famous black and white cookies, but savory. Made with green apple, vegetable ash and cheddar
Oyster with mignotte snow, crispy buck wheat with sorrel
Roasted beet with goat cheese foam, rye bread crumble, macerated cranberries, cranberry snow, beet snow, and nasturtium (herb on top)
Uni custard with shellfish ragu, uni, green apple foam, celery root, and fresh green apples
Light, juicy German Riesling from the Pfalz region for upcoming sturgeon courses
Smoked sturgeon sabayon with chive oil in an eggshell
Applewood smoked sturgeon
Served with baby gem lettuce salad, soft poached quail egg, pickled red onion, and everything bagel crumbs
The smoked sturgeon and little salad were served with caviar, meyer lemon bavoroise (which is cream cheese gelatin with whipped cream folded into it), rye toast and pickles. You basically make little modern versions of traditional NYC bagels and lox but with these extravagant ingredients. Definitely one of the most memorable dishes!
Gruner Veltliner pairing for the next few courses…
Homemade roll (which tasted like a cross between a roll and croissant) with beef stock butter.
Salsify (root vegetable) with mangolista ham, bulgar, crispy bulgar, hazelnuts and arugula
Gueuze is Lambic style Belgian beer for the upcoming carrot course, which was my landslide favorite course from the entire dinner…
First, someone attaches a meat grinder to the table…
Then grinds carrots, which are previously cooked sous vide in a steam oven
The ground carrots are then transferred to your personal board of carrot fun…
where you add all the following ingredients: (from top left) mustard seed oil, spicy carrot vinaigrette, apple and parsley mustard, toasted sunflower seeds, pickled quail egg yolk, dried and smoked bluefish, chives with broccoli flower, pickled mustard seeds, grated horseradish, apples compressed in dill pickling liquid, Amagansett sea salt (long island)
Voila! Carrot tartare. And by far the most carroty thing I’ve ever tasted. This was UNREAL.
This dish was created to give a nod to the famous steak houses of New York, which were traditionally the staple of fine dining in the city. Steak Tartare was a popular “luxury dish,” and this is Daniel Humm’s way of reinventing it.
A look at our forthcoming ribeye
Oxtail consomme – basically a super concentrated broth made with oxtail. Ground beef, carrots, celery, onion and egg whites are cooked inside of it and later removed which clarifies the broth.
Red wine for the upcoming steak – ’99 Barolo, and officially the best wine I’ve ever had.
140 day dry aged ribeye grilled directly on white oak charcoal and chanterelle mushrooms, which are grilled on a rack above the beef to soak up beef-flavored steam and smoke. Also served with multigrain bread and brown butter crumble and mustard greens
A look inside the kitchen – all the walls decked out with Miles Davis posters because an original NY Times review said they needed more “Miles Davis,” which they decided to take quite literally. That was actually the origination of the whole “reinvention” theme, reinvention is one of Miles Davis’ defining qualities. The Make It Nice poster is the motto of the kitchen and also the first words Daniel Humm learned how to say in English when coming to the US.
Liquid nitrogen gin and grapefruit cocktail
Cheese course served picnic style with NY soft pretzels, vacherin mont d’or cheese, champagne grapes, and plum mustard. Meant to emulate a Central Park picnic.
and Wheat Ale from Ithaca Beer Company made specifically for Eleven Madison Park
Vouvray for the dessert courses
Egg cream – tastes like a very rich chocolate milk with carbonation
Poached pear with carmelized panna cotta, acorn bacon crumble, whipped creme fraiche, pear gel, pear sorbet, compressed pears
Goat’s milk cheesecake with cranberry gillet, candied cranberries, cranberry pop rocks, merengue sticks
And for the Grand Finale…
When we finished eating the cheesecake course, the server came over with a deck of cards. He asked me to cut the deck and we all picked one, each had a different ingredient. When we each had a card he asked us to lift up our cheesecake plates, and there was a matching chocolate underneath the plate. WHAT!
This is inspired by New York’s famous three card monty. Not even the chefs know the secrets of the card trick, which the servers learned from David Copperfield’s actual magic consultants.
Eleven Madison Park was a truly incredible dining experience. By far the longest meal of my life, clocking in at 4 and a half hours. I have never left a restaurant that drunk before either. But when you combine all those drinks with the food it’s a whole different kind of drunk — possibly the best kind.