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11 Madison Park - dissenting opinion

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11 Madison Park - dissenting opinion

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Pan | | Oct 25, 2006 06:14 PM

Last night, I had a 7:45 reservation for four people. After the meal, I had to wonder what the big deal with this place is. I liked 11 Madison Park before Chef Humm was hired. Based on all the raves I've been reading here and on eGullet, I had very high expectations for tonight's dinner, and they were not met. The desserts were great and the highlight of the meal. The wine pairings the sommelier recommended were also excellent. The service was extremely slow (we waited at least an hour by the clock for the appetizers to arrive). Nothing was bad, but I fully expect that my meal at Hearth on Friday will be a lot more impressive.

1st batch of amuses - just OK, I thought; nothing very memorable. I liked the hamachi amuse best, probably.

2nd amuse (served at approximately 8:36) - delicious, reminiscent of Vongerichten's work at JoJo 15 years ago, I thought. Broth richly redolent of vegetable essences including tomato, parsnip, and carrot, mussel.

Bread - very nice. Favorites: Olive bread; nutty multigrain bread which was charred just the right amount.

Appetizers:

Me: Consomme of Hawaiian Blue Prawns and Maine Diver Scallop with Green Apples and Ginger. Very much influenced by Tom Yong Goong (Thai shrimp soup w/o coconut milk) but by no means a takeoff. Contained kaffir lime leaves and (presumably kaffir) lime juice. Very nice.

Parents: Salad of Peekytoe Crab. They liked it but weren't blown away.

Brother: Terrine of Foie Gras with Port Gelee. (Also came with foie gras creme brulee.) He would have preferred just seared foie gras and found the dish a little sweeter than he would have liked, but it tasted good. The foie gras creme brulee was a nice touch.

Mains:

Me: Slow Cooked Loup de Mer with Broccoli Puree, Hazelnut Emulsion and Chanterelles. Sounds good, right? Well, it was fine but not really memorable.

Father: Black Angus Tenderloin "Poele'" with Braised Oxtail and Sauce Bordelaise. My father liked the steak, didn't like the stewy oxtail/vegetable mixture. The rest of us did. I thought this dish was great.

Mother and brother: Lobster, which they liked (I didn't try any).

Dessert:

Me, Mother, Brother: Chocolate-Hazelnut Souffle' with Gianduja Ganache and Espresso Bean Ice Cream. Lovely! It came with a tasty (non-alcoholic) shot of a hazelnut drink. The ice cream was a strong coffee flavor, accompanied by ground coffee beans. The souffle' was more in the nature of a molten chocolate cake, at least to my palate, but a very good one at that.

Father: Sheep's Milk Yogurt Cheesecake with Roasted Pineapple, Kaffir Lime and Frozen Coconut. I didn't get a try of this, but my father was less thrilled with his dessert than we were with ours.

Post-Dessert: Wonderful chocolate truffles, very concentrated pates de fruit (guava, I believe), buttery chocolate fudge.

They were kind enough to give me half-pours of wine for pairings with the appetizer and main. The pairing with the appetizer was a truly delicious wine, Wegeler, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Spaetlese, 1994. I also really liked the pairing with the main. Unfortunately, I can't find it on the online wine list and didn't write the name down. So if I remember, I'll come back to this thread and post the name.

Other than the really overly slow service, there was nothing wrong with the meal; it just didn't meet the very high expectations I had and didn't feel like a good value because of that. I was expecting a memorable meal, and was instead left with one memorable amuse, perhaps, memorable desserts, and great wine pairings. I would definitely come back to sit at the bar and have dessert with a wine pairing, but I think I will have to look elsewhere for a truly sublime meal.

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