Lucky me! I have had lots of family in town these past few weeks and they took it upon themselves to spoil this recent college grad by taking her out to all sorts of wondeful places.
ELEVEN MADISON PARK - the decor was gorgeous. I had gotten the impression that it might seem a bit overbearing by the way I heard it decribed (i.e: big room, high ceilings, art deco). While this is all correct, there is comforting feel to the place as well; not intimidating as i thought it might be. Anyway, on to the food: I began with the mushroom martini. it was not at all like I thought it would be. It was like pureed mushrooms in a martini glass with chunks of hard boiled egg and bacon. You could literally 'drink' it up. It was absolutely delicious. I also tried my friend's sweetbreads - very yummy, though not the best I've ever had. For my main, I had the cocoa dusted salmon. It was delicious as well. The service was stellar and very accomodating (my aunt has an endless list of food allergies, so they basically made up a dish for her: fish sauteed in olive oil with capers, and a variety of root vegetables.)
CAFE BOULUD: This is a place that really makes for a fine dining EXPERIENCE. From the moment you walk in, you are treated like royalty. The waitstaff made up about 30% of the entire resataurant, which I thought was interesting. There were several tiers of the service (bread/water people in one color uniform, the 'order takers' in another, and a set of people dressed in suits that discussed wine, made suggestions, etc.) Everything on the menu looked so superb, I had a lot of trouble deciding what to get! I ended up starting with the Octopus which came in a somewhat thick, tomato-like sauce with bacon and red peppers. It had a VERY smoky flavor - yum! For my entre I had the scallops with roasted brussel sprouts. This was the best thing of all. The scallops were perfectly cooked. Every bite was memorable due to the wondeful flavor of the dish.
PRUNE: much smaller place than i thought it would be with tables very close together (it wasn't bad, but made for different type of dining experience - it was much more relaxed, reminding me of a european cafe, almost). From the bar menu, we ordered shrimp toasts (looking almost like some kind of asian dumpling), sardines with celery and almonds (very good, but on the salty side). For my entre, I got a salad and the monkfish liver with buttered toast. I had not idea monkfish had such large livers! It was gigantic, but wonderful. The texture was very soft and creamy (the type of texture that would absolutely disgust some people, especially after knowing what it was, but not us chowhounds! ; ) We also shared the mixed wild mushrooms - yum! My only mild complaint would be that they seemed to forget about us after our appetizer. We had to flag someone down so we could order our mains. Not crippling to the experience, but worth noting.
All in all, I would NOT recommend all of these restaurant for any experience. For example, I wouldnt take high profile business clients to Prune, nor would I go for a casual, quick bite with my girlfriends at Boulud. However, I found all three to be brilliant and delicious in their own way.
Thanks for reading!