So, I was back in new york for 36 hours this week. I had two important stops (well, three, if you consider getting admitted to the bar important): Absolute Bagels for breakfast and Eleven Madison Park for lunch.
As for breakfast, with nothing but Lenders in the freezer section of my local grocer for miles and miles, I was in heaven as I devoured my usual (everything bagel, nova, plain cream cheese, onion, tomato). I paused briefly and then ordered another, this time with whitefish salad (another treat simply not available in Alabama). I had always thought that this was the best bagel in New York. After six weeks away, I was craving bagels generally, but a return trip to Absolute specifically. It is one of the city's treasures.
As for lunch, it was the best I have ever had. We did the lunch tasting (a true steal at $125) and there were some serious highlights. First, as has been rightly reported on this board, the clam bake is out of this world. The cornbread sweet and salty with a perfect density; the razor clam is a wonderful nod to Keller's Oyster and Pearls, but with EMP's comforting touch of salty pig strewn in for good measure; the soup every bit the equal of the best bisque I have had (in New England, or anywhere else). Oh, and the aroma! As has wrongly been reported, this was served to us as part of the lunch tasting, not as a special request or anything else. I asked if it was part of the meal. Our (wonderful) server said no problem, and that was that. Second, the pork with apricots and greens was a truly perfect combination of flavors and texture. I had maybe three bites of the loin before I dared pair it with the rest of the dish, less the additional flavors detract from what was the single best piece of pork loin I have ever tried. Somehow it got even better. This dish was a true stand out amongst the various loins and bellies I have been served at restaurants that claim to be EMP's peer but which have been left far behind as Chef Humm's food and delivery has matured over the years. A cucumber dish to start and the current foie preparation, with a variety of plum flavors and textures, were also wonderful, as was a warm tomato tea and an exciting gin-based cocktail we enjoyed in the kitchen. We ended the meal with tableside tea service. My mom was blown away by the combination of ritual and relaxation.
Something special is continuing to happen at EMP and it isn't just the food. The combination of basically perfect service, a truly welcoming environment, creative cocktails, and the best beer list of any restaurant in the city -- all set to truly world class food that continues to get better and better -- makes EMP a special place.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010
2788 Broadway, New York, NY 10025