Eleven Madison Park – NYC
Normally, when dining out, we are quite laissez faire about service and ambiance because food is our top priority. But for special occasions, it’s nice to go to an establishment which excels in all three. To celebrate my husband’s birthday early this month, we had dinner at Eleven Madison Park, Danny Meyer’s fine dining restaurant housed in a landmark art deco building overlooking Madison Square Park.
We hadn’t been there in years, but I’ve heard that Chef Daniel Humm has been racking up one glowing review after another with his “market driven french cuisine” tasting menu. And, of course, Danny Meyer has always been renowned for the high standards in service he maintains at all his restaurants.
As we step inside, I’m awed once again at how massive and beautiful this restaurant is, especially the tall voluminous ceilings plastered with art deco style floral friezes. Given its size, it’s by no means a backdrop for an intimate dinner, yet the noise level is such that you don’t feel like you’re in Grand Central Station during rush hour either.
We’re seated side by side on a banquette that looks out to the front of the restaurant. The wine list is impressive. We pick whites for the evening — a glass of Chateau Grillet from the Rhone Valley for me and Chenin Blanc from Vouvray for him. I would have liked to try the Condrieu but it did not come by the glass and we were never going to be able to finish a bottle between just the two of us. We decide on the Winter Tasting Menu that kicks off with hors d’oeuvres:
Beet marshmallow (tart to the bite), celery panna cotta sable, goat cheese gruyere galette with meyer lemon confit, foie gras macaron, crispy cornet with minced veal
Santa Barbara Sea Urchin Cappuccino with Peekytoe Crab and Cauliflower. So good we were trying to scoop every last drop with our spoon but the shape of this bowl made it quite difficult.
Foie Gras Terrine with Golden Pineapple, Pickled Pearl Onion and Rum Raisin Brioche
Scottish Langoustine Poached with Cauliflower, Toasted Almonds and Raisins. Fresh langoustines perfectly cooked, neither mushy or overdone, sitting on a smooth flan flavored with cauliflower.
Everglades Frogs’ Legs Sauteed with Parsley and Porcini Custard. You have to delve deep into the foam to get to the meat of the dish.
Milk Fed Veal Braised Cheeks with Celery Root and Black Truffles. Fork tender meat glazed with a truffle reduction. A perfect winter dish.
After the main meal, we are presented with a selection of cheeses from France: Brebirousse d’Argental (pasterized sheep’s milk, Lyon France), Petit Sapin (pasteurized cow’s milk, Jura France), Bleu d’Auvergne (raw cow’s milk, Auvergne France). I’m told that the Petit Sapin is Eleven Madison’s house cheese, starting its life in the Jura region of France then brought over to NYC and finished at Murray’s cheese shop. It’s a soft cheese, creamy and delicately pungent. My favorite of the three.
“Soda Pop” Tangerine, Grapefruit, Pomelo and Lemon. Underneath the meringue is a palate cleanser of “pop rocks” which tingle in your mouth as you crunch into them. The first time I tried these was at Arzak’s in San Sebastian, Spain many years ago. It delighted me then as it does now.
Milk & Chocolate. Various textures of this pairing doubles as a birthday cake.
Macaron petit fours in pretty pastel colors and flavors. We had one of each kind, but the one I remember most is the black sesame with green tea at the far right.
No surprise that the service throughout the meal was excellent, but it was really afterwards that I realized how the seemingly small personal touches go a long way in making this a memorable evening:
1. Even though Elevan Madison seats up to 150 guests, they don’t use a ticket to keep track of the coats. By the time, we were at the door, they were already retrieving them without our having to ask.
2. When our hostess saw me writing down the different cheeses we had, she told me not to bother. By the end of the meal, she presented us with a customized menu (complete with a birthday greeting at the top) describing everything we ate that evening. Great keepsake.
Food. Service. Ambiance. Eleven Madison hits the high notes perfectly on all counts.