Sheer opulence. A decadent dinner @ Eleven Madison Park
When Chef Daniel Humm first took over Eleven Madison Park the, forgive me, “hum” set through New York City. Eating here has been on my dream list since I first flipped through the pages of Humm’s incredible cookbook. Tonight I get to live my dream of dining at the number five restaurant in the world. Tonight we dine at Eleven Madison Park.
We dress up in our loveliest frocks and jump in a cab. The restaurant is of course located on Madison Avenue and though our russian cabbie had no clue where we were headed we got there safe in the end. Stepping through the front doors we realise just how enormous this restaurant actually is. Glorious high ceilings and extravagant decor. We are greeted by a team of expert waitstaff and escorted to our table. Champagne for me to start and cocktails for the girls.
We begin the grand tasting course, Jess’s camera poised at the ready for some serious food shots, a savoury black and white cookie with flavours of cheddar and apple. The black and white cookie is distinctly New York and the inversion of flavours is wonderful. The cheddar is sharp and the apple adds a lovely sour tang. First course is downed in a single delicious bite.
This is followed by sea urchin snow with smoked cantaloupe and yoghurt. The oceanic mineral flavour of the urchin is lightened with the addition of yoghurt. Usually urchin has quite a challenging texture for many diners but this snow was light and powdery. Combined with the smokey cantaloupe made for an interesting combination that I really enjoyed. Jess isn’t an enormous fan of urchin but enjoyed it in this form. As I’m writing this review I realise just how huge it is going to get so i’ll do my best not to waffle on too much.
Our next course is served on a bed of sand, a perfectly clean and shiny surf clam nestles in amongst the dune and we dive in to a delicious dish. Surf clam, tomato, beans and savoury. The tomato comes in a form of a lighter than air foam and the savoury is a rich smokey bacon. This was a delight to eat, the beans added a great creaminess and the tomato rounded out the smokey flavour.
Continuing on in the seafood surprises our next course is a good old fashioned American Clam bake! A teapot filled with a wonderfully savoury tomato tea arrives at the table alongside several preparations of little neck clams, razor clams and scallop. Dubbed the “manhattan chowder” this dish was pure class. Perfectly cooked seafood, a crystal clear tomato tea and a savoury cracker shard that was crisp and crunchy. Humm’s nod to American cuisine is ingenious without ever losing direction or purpose.
Our next dish was a dish of decadence. Lobster, in serious amounts. On the menu the dish reads tomato confit with lobster salad and bonito but to me this dish was all about the creamy crustacean. Claws were stuffed with a mousselline of lobster meat, topped with a tomato espuma, the confit tomato was stuffed with more lobster and this dish screamed summer seafood. We’re five courses in and my mouth is demanding more.
Now the lobster was decadent but the next course is just lush, opulence and all things yummy. Foie gras brûlée with summer berries and beets. The foie is so light and caramelised on top like a perfect free form creme brûlée, the berries add little pops of acidity to balance all that creaminess and the beet gives just a touch of earthiness to tie everything in a neat little package. Yum! I devoured this course and most of the girls.
Suddenly a meat grinder is attached to the table. Have we done something wrong? Is chef coming out to grind our fingers due to our offence? No, in fact he is preparing our next course. Carrot tartare with rye bread and condiments. This dish put the diner in control. The carrot was ground down and we were able to choose the flavours. There was plum mustard, horseradish, pickled quail egg, mustard seeds, chives, the list goes on and on. With every flavour combination the carrot was altered in a different way. I thought this dish was a great expression of a humble ingredient.
Now we’re moving through courses. This is Tanya’s first fifteen course gastronomic experience and I don’t think she knew quite what she was getting into because the eyes are starting to bulge! Jess and I have become well seasoned eaters to say the least and the next course was a great display of chefs skill. Black bass poached with zucchini and squash blossoms. The delicate piece of bass had been “rescaled” with perfect rounds of zucchini, the squash blossom was filled with ratatouille. This is precision cooking, wonderfully soft fall apart fish, a perfect brunoise on the ratatouille the chefs here take everything they do very seriously. All we have to do is sit back and enjoy.
We are officially half way through the dining experience so you are half way through this insanely lengthy review. Hang in there because the food just kept getting better and more incredible with each dish. Next we’re served an enormous ostrich egg, this is the inspiration of our next dish. Ostrich egg with corn pudding, truffle and buttermilk. The corn is sweet and served in many textures with the eggy richness pairing with wonderfully earthy black truffle. Did I mention this place was decadent?
Now it’s time for some meat! It arrives in the form of a whole roasted duck, filled with fragrant lavender and crusted in intensely floral Szechuan pepper. This dish was an incredible treatment of the duck. Perfectly pink, the Szechuan gave the skin gorgeous crackle that snapped under tooth before biting into the juicy flesh. Just thinking about it again is making me salivate. The duck was served with a roasted, fermented apricot which gave a kind of sweet sour note and some roasted fennel. As a side dish we also get the perfect one bite, a tantalising mix of confit duck rillette and foie gras. As if this dish wasn’t good enough already!
Next we go on a picnic in the park, Greensward washed rind cheese, pretzel, mustard and green tomato. A picnic basket is delivered to our table which we unpack like hungry children. Leaving it up to Jessica, she makes our table look pretty and neat. The unusual part of this dish was not only the picnic but the fact that the cheese and the beer served alongside is made specifically for Eleven Madison Park. The washed rind cheese is soaked in the beer and aged for two weeks, this gave it a very wheat characteristic that I loved its the sour bite of washed rind. The beer was also used in the pretzel dough which accentuated the malt characteristics. The entire dish worked well on such a grand scale that I was blown away. A perfect end to the savoury part of our menu.
The next dish excites Jess because here comes dessert. It begins with an egg cream. Shaken together table side for all of us with flavours of malt, vanilla and seltzer. It’s delightfully fizzy and sends a rush of bubbles straight up my nose. Lots of fun and freshens the palate wonderfully.
Now the actual dessert begins with sassafras. The primary flavour in root beer comes here served as a sorbet alongside banana cake, caramel and vanilla. The sassafras has an extraordinary vegetative quality that I thought brought this seemingly simple dish into another realm. Jess enjoyed it thoroughly as it was gone in around 4 seconds.
Our final dessert arrives with a show, initially the dessert consists of red pepper sorbet, cheesecake with strawberry and cashew. However our lovely waitress brings a deck of cards, each with specific flavours. Tanya cuts the card deck and she assigns us three individual cards. Each with the flavours mint, orange and lime. Lift up our plates and hey presto for me a mint chocolate, for Jess a lime and for Tanya the orange. Not only can this guy cook. He is a wizard! A kind of comic play on the millions of street performers within New York, we thought it was great. The dessert itself was a great sweet and savoury end to the meal with the capsicum flavour being cuddled along with strawberry and cashew.
We grab the check and with it our true final course some chocolate covered pretzels and an original black and white cookie. To finish with these iconic New York snacks just brought us back into the beautiful city of New York.
To say that Chef Daniel Humm’s food is incredible is an understatement. For me his food screams of the city of New York. A city of decadence, opulence, bright lights and big sights. This meal is another one on our quest for perfection and it was a perfect New York experience. Service is warm, relaxed and friendly with all the little extras thrown in and the food took me to the city streets, in a way that I have never felt before. We usually associate terroir with wine but the meal at Eleven Madison Park has New York terroir, with all the fine trimmings and just a little bit of attitude.
Start spreading the news, I wanna be apart of it.
New York, New York.
Josh and Jess
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave Manhattan, New York USA