11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY
When I was planning our trip to New York, I was pretty confident that during the trip we would be indulging in the best meal of our lives and, thankfully, I wasn’t wrong. However, I had assumed that Per Se would deliver the most memorable meal. I was pleasantly surprised when, in fact, it was Eleven Madison Park that surpassed all of our expectations.
Firstly, if you are planning a trip to Eleven Madison Park in the next few months, stop reading NOW. Do not flick through the pictures. Do not try to get a glimpse of how spoiled you will be. Get outta here! I say that as a friend and as someone who doesn’t want to ruin the experience for you.
…OK…so if you are still reading, I’m assuming that you aren’t going to New York anytime soon. Try to bear with me as I struggle to capture in words four hours of an incredible experience. To me, it was more than a dinner. It was almost a performance, a dinner complete with a rotating cast of seamless performers, mystery, and intrigue. This is not an exaggeration.
If you are going to visit Eleven Madison Park jump in, feet first, and prepare to pay for the experience. The tasting menu of fourteen (yes, fourteen!) courses is $195 per person, and drinks pairing is an extra $145. I was hesitant to pay for the pairings but in the end, I decided to splurge and was very glad I did. They certainly didn’t skimp on the booze and after the ten or so drinks that we had, we were extremely happy wobbling out of there. The interesting thing with their pairings was that it wasn’t just limited to wine, there was also beer, Sauternes, sherry, and apple brandy. When it came to the menu, you were able to select four courses out of the fourteen courses but the rest were a surprise. The beauty of their menu is that you don’t know exactly what you are getting as you are only selecting the main ingredient for each course. For example, for one of my courses I selected the element “foie gras” but how that would be served, or with what, I didn’t know. I only knew I was getting foie gras. Personally, I love this concept as I’m not that adventurous when it comes to ordering food.
We were told that we were among some of the first diners to experience this new tasting menu and the theme of the menu was “New York”. Quite simply, dishes were meant to showcase either produce from the region of New York, or stories and dishes traditionally associated with the area. It goes without saying that I found all of the food amazing, incredible, outstanding! There were courses that were more memorable than others and, for me, they were the Black and White cookies, the Sturgeon sabayon, the carrot tartare, the carved-at-the-table duck, the picnic basket, and the sleight of hand card game that introduced us to our dessert course (I told you there was intrigue). I get giddy just thinking about this dinner! So, let me introduce you to the best meal of my life!
Black Truffle and Parmesan – Savory Black & White Cookie.
These are the restaurant’s savoury take on the famous Black and White Cookies. They were melt in your mouth, earthy, truffle cookies. Absolutely decadent.
Apple – Smoked Tea with Celery Root and Apple Chips.
Drink Pairing: Diebolt-Vallois, Blanc de Blancs, Cramant, Champagne, France.
The story goes that potato chips were first created in New York. In the packet were four chips and each one was prepared differently.
Tomato – Gelée with Gooseberries and Tarragon.
Cucumber – Snow with Lapsang Souchong and Grape.
Sturgeon – Sabayon with Chives.
One of my favourite dishes! The sabayon was creamy, foamy, dense, all at once. It was really hard to pick the sturgeon flavour as there was no fishy flavour at all. The only problem was that I wanted more!
What is under the dome?? (The mystery I was talking about earlier!)
Sturgeon – Smoked with Everything Bagel Crumble, Pickles, and Caviar.
Drink Pairing: El Maestro Sierra, Fino, Jerez, Spain.
First Selected Course: Foie Gras – Seared with Water Chestnuts, Dates, and Sunchokes.
Drink Pairing: Château d’Yquem, Sauternes, France 1998
Carrot – Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments
Drink Pairing: Hermann Wiemer Riesling, Magdalena, Seneca Lake, New York, 2010.
This dish is a tribute to the steakhouses of New York. A chef came out to our table with a meat-grinder and made “tartare” at the table. This dish, even in its simplicity, blew my mind!
Second Selected Course: Lobster – Poached with Escarole and Almond.
Drinking Pairing: Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco, Vorberg, Alto-Adige, Italy, 2009.
The Long Island Clambake.
Clam – Clambake with Tomato, Corn, and Zucchini
Drink Pairing: Southhampton Brewery, Saison Deluxe, Long Island, New York.
Third Selected Course: Duck – Roasted with Lavender and Honey, Apple and Quinoa.
Drink Pairing: Domaine Bois de Boursan, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône Valley, France, 2009.
We opted to share the duck and, when I talk about how strong the service was, this was particularly evident when we were served this dish. The whole duck was served on a carving table that was wheeled to our table. Our server then sliced the duck – infront of us – and served it on plates that were warming on the side. Impeccible.
Greensward – Pretzel, Mustard, and Beer.
Drink Pairing: Ithaca Beer Company, Picnic Basket Ale, Ithaca, New York.
The picnic basket was such a fun course. We got to create our own picnic at the table from New York state produce, and of course, there was a pretzel. The beer was specifically brewed for Eleven Madison Park.
Malt – Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer
I’d never heard of Egg Creams before, but once again, it is a tribute to New York, in particular Brooklyn. It was created in front of us at the table.
Chocolate – Ganache with Caramel, Apricot, and Cocoa Nibs
Drink Pairing: Heidi Schroeck, On the Wings of Dawn, Ruster Ausbruch, Burgenland, Austria, 2009.
Fig – Glazed with Orange, Sage, and Tapioca
Drink Pairing: Donnafugata, Ben Ryé, Passito di Pantelleria, Sicily, Italy, 2009.
Huckleberry – Soy Cheesecake and Lime
So, the intrigue that I mentioned earlier came with the final dish, dessert. I’m not going to give away the trick but the course involved a card game, Three Card Monte, with cards made especially for Eleven Madison Park. We had to choose a card that helped select our next dessert course, the chocolate that you see in the picture. We were not expecting what happened next and we both sat at our table for the next 10 minutes speculating how this trick was done. An excellent end to the meal!
And finally, we were served chocolate covered pretzels, finished with a sprinkle of sea salt, and a bottle of apple brandy. We were sent away that night with house-made granola (for breakfast, they told us), a box of the beautiful designer playing cards, a booklet of all of the stories, as well as menus for each person.
Service throughout the whole meal was impeccable and the servers at Eleven Madison Park know their stuff. They oozed passion. It felt as though they were truly thrilled to have us there. They seemed genuinely excited to show off their tricks and treat us to their menu. This is what I felt was lacking from our meal at Per Se.
Eleven Madison Park has set a high bar. This was the most memorable meal of my life. I would not hestiate to return to Eleven Madison Park, nor would I hestiate to recommend it to anyone travelling to New York. Save your pennies, because it ain’t cheap, but for the foodies amongst us it will absolutely be worth it.