NYC: Eleven Madison Park (May 2012)
Authors: Victor and Monty
Restaurant: Eleven Madison Park
Exec Chef: Daniel Humm
Date: May 1, 2012
Monte: I think the centerpiece is gorgeous. I’m not big on decoration, but this felt like a gaudy and yet elegant way to lend class to the room.
Black-and-white cookies, savory version. White is parmesan, and black is truffle (on the bottom).
Monte: The playfulness of EMP is always welcome in my book. I’m surprised at the growing number of people who are hating on “molecular gastronomy” and creativity, calling out chefs who try to do something new and push boundaries. If I walk into a restaurant expecting a sweet black and white cookie, and instead get savory truffle and parmesan, I see that move as a clever jest by the chef to playfully manipulate my expectations and surprise my taste buds with a different but delicious dish. Shouldn’t this kind of thinking outside the box be encouraged? Especially when it succeeds in tasting good?
Quail egg with bacon on brioche!
Monte: I think everything tastes better with quail egg. I can’t think of anything that would taste worse with quail egg. Add raw quail eggs to all the nigiri. Add poached quail eggs to all the steaks and sandwiches. Boil quail eggs and just snack on them.
We also brought along some Dom Perignon to enjoy with the meal.
Monte: The dom tasted exquisite. I can’t really describe the fresh fruity notes coming from that champagne. The apple tea was strangely savory, slightly salty and herbacious (rosemary? thyme?) with the undercurrent of apple throughout. It’s cool.
Amuses-bouche 4 and 5:
Left: Mackerel with horseradish and mustard.
Right: Scallop with chip with pickled daikon and sesame.
Curry-and-greek yogurt lollipop.
Monte: I love these lollipops. I remember EMP doing a beet-goat-cheese lollipop that blew my socks off, and these curry-yogurt ones were no different. Chilled yogurt filling awaits the unsuspecting diner, who pops the savory curry-flavored lollipop in like any other dumdum or creamsicle. It is whimsically like a popsicle, especially on a warm summer day (as it was when we ate it), and yet an entirely different experience via its explosion of Indian flavors.
Amuse-bouche 7 (last one!):
Uni with celery root and apple snow.
Monte: I think the lollipop dish and this dish do a good job of playing with different textures expressed through varying temperatures of food. The cold adds a bite and sweetness to the dish that is so different from the changes to flavor that come from seasonings.
Sturgeon and Bagel course!
Smoked with caviar, pickles, and cream cheese.
Victor: I looove this dish. It’s fun and playful. They released this dish to the general public in September 2012 as part of their new tasting menu/format, so watch out for this one!
The smoked sturgeon and bagel bits!
The caviar and bread, along with cucumbers and pickles in the back!
Monte: So when they bring out the smoking dome, Victor & I were like “ooooooh” we’re in for a magic show. The smoke clears, and Chef James explains to us that he was inspired to recreate and reinvent his own childhood memories of having smoked fish and bagels from NYC’s institutional Russ & Daughters. I didn’t try Russ & Daughters until after having this dish (always going instead to the conveniently close and impeccable absolute bagels), but this dish tasted amazing. Beyond the theatrics and absurd amount of caviar given, the flavors were of an elevated everything bagel with intensely smokey fish – it was an absolute treat.
Victor: Taste-wise, this is my favorite bread of any restaurant I’ve tried!
Monte: This is like croissant meets parker house roll meets crack. It’s addicting in its sweet buttery salty goodness.
Poached with quail egg, shad roe, and rye.
Monte: I love white asparagus and find it always sweeter and more tender than its green cousin. Huzzah for another quail egg cameo.
Cured foie gras.
Cured with black sesame, gem lettuce, and duck prosciutto.
Monte: Sour and salty notes, mixed in with rich smokey foie and duck proscuitto? This dish was crazy in its conception.
Fresh curds, caraway gnocchi, and spring herbs.
Monte: While little mis muffet ate her curds and her whey, I had never had it before trying this dish. Turns out I’m not a big fan, and I don’t know why little miss muffet (or anybody else) would not rather just sit on a tuffet eating braised beef short ribs on a bed of creamy polenta. I find the flavors kind of bland, more sour than anything, and it leaves a powdery dry texture in my mouth when I’m done.
Lobster! Poached with meyer lemon, burnt leek, and shellfish bisque.
Monte: Sweet juicy lobster with leeks…reminds me of the much-touted Per Se creation of lobster and leeks. Not that knowing of the similarities between the two dishes diminished my enjoyment of the dish (even having not tried the Per Se version), since I think chefs must borrow and refine ideas from each other all the time, in a collective communal effort to create something even better (a philosophy similar to google’s open network systems! I’m a big proponent of open source everything).
55-day dry-aged beef. Roasted with wood sorrel and marble potatoes.
Monte: The beef was very crispy on the outside, and juicy and tender in the middle. I actually was more in awe of the sorrels, finding them to be amazingly sweet and savory at the same time.
Lavender honey-roasted Muscovy Duck, Part 1. Duck breast!
This is my favorite duck course of any restaurant I’ve tried.
Lavender honey-roasted Muscovy Duck, Part 2. Braised duck leg in potato.
Monte: The duck course is pretty overwhelming. They bring out the whole roasted duck beforehand and carve it tableside. You get to see the lavender sticking out of the duck and it has a wonderful smell to it. The braised duck leg in the potato comes off as a very creamy and savory mashed potato with duck flavor throughout. I think the key word here is “rich.”
Cheesecake Dessert! Goat cheese, blood orange sorbet, and vanilla snow.
Monte: Come to think of it, this might be my favorite cheese course ever, more so than Del Posto’s cheese with honey. This cheesecake was mostly sweet and a little tart, with none of the blunt stinkiness that so often come with other cheese courses.
Chocolate Dessert. Sorbet with caramelized cocoa pastry, meyer lemon, and olive oil.
Mignardises + tea stuff:
Top: Matcha-flavored cookies to go with the matcha green tea.
Right: Sweet versions of the black-and-white cookies (vanilla and chocolate)!
Victor: The picture went all sdglksdglk here :(. You can KIND of see the matcha cookies and black-and-white cookies, though. There were also other mignardises like macarons and so on, but we didn’t take a picture of those :(.
Monte: Ending the meal with a sweet black & white perfectly caps this meal. It was quintessentially New York City, with all of its traditions and flavor profiles. They say the black & white was invented at a bakery in Grand Central Station, and it was nice of the chef to finally treat us with this, after teasing us in the beginning. I don’t know what the new EMP experience is like, and I know there are people who are griping about the 4-hour long theatrics, but I have full faith in the kitchen in pulling off a memorable meal with fantastic food. This meal gave no indication that the restaurant would ever do anything otherwise.