Monday, 15 July 2013

Eleven Madison Park

New York is a great city for foodies. The city offers top notch fine dining as well as scrumptious pizzas and burgers. It's a city where you can have a great meal on 5 dollars as well as shelling out a couple hundred. Having eaten at a few of Thomas Keller's restaurants, I had originally had my mind set on Per Se, but the tales of hit and miss quality were discouraging so I looked elsewhere. When I ask friends which fine dining restaurant they recommended in New York, Eleven Madison Park gets a mention, all the time. "You have to go" my friends urged, "it's soooooo good". So I called to book (much easier than anticipated). 

We arrived to find the restaurant housed in an impressive, 2-3 story high ceilinged hall. Light and airy, there was not a hint of pretension anywhere. There was no menu, so every dish came as a surprise (except for the courses we'd caught glimpses of while they travelled to other tables). Food was utterly superb. Each plate was elegant and understated. There's a focus on flavour and execution rather than superfluous decorations. What made the meal special was how the theme of "American food" was woven into the menu-- cheese biscuit, clam chowder, tartare, egg cream and pretzels. Too many fine dining restaurants stick to the safe choice of serving French food so its refreshing to see chefs rework American classics and serve it as haute cuisine. The meal took 4 hours but the rhythm of dishes were steady. Service was impeccable and our servers were knowledgeable, taking us through the evening with little anecdotes about the dishes we were served.  

Cheddar: Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple. Moreish and buttery
Oyster: Wood Sorrel, Buckwheat and Mignonette
Asparagus: Custard with Caviar and Rhubarb
Surf Clam: Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon and Green Garlic
Littleneck Clam: Clambake with Whelk, Parker House Roll, and Chowder
Foie Gras Seared with Pencil Asparagus and Potato Crumble
Foie Gras Terrine with Black Truffle and Asparagus
Carrot Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments-- You're encouraged to mix all the condiments together to make an accompanying sauce. The carrot is cooked and brought to the table to be shredded. 
Lobster: poached with snap peas, morels and sweetbreads
Nettles: Creamed with fingerling potato and goat cheese
A beautifully presented duck is carried to each table to show diners how it's done
Duck: Roasted with PIstachio, Rhubarb, and Fennel Braised with Foie Gras and Potato. This was the star of the evening, never had I tasted a more perfect duck
Picnic Basket??!! Our server leaves the basket on our table and we explore its contents
Complete with paper plates, cutlery and plastic cups, a pretzel stick and condiments
We take out the bottle of Beer
And finally we find cheese and dried fruit. The cutest and most elaborate cheese course ever
Malt: Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer-- Light and frothy
Celery Root: Creme Cake with Apple Sorbet, Walnut and White Pepper. This was the only course I didn't like. After all the savoury courses I was ready for a real desert (one that was sweet)
Sheep's Milk: Cheesecake with Mango and Peanut, so light!
A Magic Trick: After we had finished our cheesecakes, we were approached by our server who was holding a deck of cards. Each card showed a different ingredient. Cards were shuffled and I cut the deck a few times, then we picked two cards out of the deck. I got Mint and Oliver got Orange. We were then instructed to lift the serving glass (of the cheesecake) and the corresponding chocolate lay rested underneath!! What was more mind blowing is the fact that Mint is my favorite flavour when it comes to chocolate while Orange is Oliver's, what are the chances!
Pretzel: Chocolate covered with Sea Salt
A satisfying and memorable meal to say the least, Eleven Madison Park is definitely a restaurant worth trying.

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