went there for lunch on friday and was pleasantly
surprised. i had heard it wasn't that great and am a
bit skeptical when it comes to danny meyer's
restaurants, though that is definitely changing. union
square cafe (in my personal opinion) is the single most
overrated restaurant in manhattan. gramercy tavern is
better, but still doesn't live up to the hype. tabla
is awesome, however, and i think 11 madison is up to
the task as well.
the room is great: spacious, airy, well lit (at least
in the middle of the day on a sunny friday afternoon)
with high ceilings and simple decor. i think they have
the same chandeliers as tabla (there must have been a
sale at pier 1), which don't quite look right in 11
madison, but are fine nonetheless. the walls are lined
with what we were told are paintings of leaves from
madison park across the street but look more like
someone dipped their butt in green paint and smacked it
up against the wall. (and if you think that's bad,
wait till to you see the logo on the dessert menu).
appetizers were disappointing. first of all, there
wasn't much of a choice. a few salads, a couple soups,
and then some foie gras and something else i can't
remember. i got a chicken consomme with some kind of
dumplings (marjoram?) which were actually more like
silver dollar potato pancakes. the broth lacked any
sort of life and was overladen with herbs and the
"dumplings" were bland and boring. not a good start.
the clam and potato soup didn't earn any raves, nor did
the salad of local greens, which we wondered also came
from madison park across the street.
my entree, however, was excellent. i had the skate,
which, along with chilean sea bass, is quickly becoming
my favorite fish. the skate was cooked just right. it
was still attached to the cartilage, and the waiter
gave me instructions as to how to scrape the meat off
of it. it was a new experience for me, but quite fun.
the sauce was excellent, flavorful yet subtle, and an
exciting twist came from the dime sized pieces of hot
peppers (perhaps jalapenos?) which gave the mild skate
a nice kick. i would definitely rank this dish up
there with those i've had at union pacific.
my companions had the artic char, the steak, and the
salmon. both the char and the steak got decent
reviews, but my friend seemed less than enchanted with
for dessert i had the coffee almond creme brulee, which
was outstanding and certainly one of the finest
desserts of recent memory for me. the coffee creme
brulee was perfect, but what really gave it panache
were the chopped whole almonds and dollop of chocolate
cream on top. mmmm! if i could only have more. there
was also a spindle of caramelized sugar thin as
fishing line which reminded me of that fairy tale where
that crazy dwarf spins golden thread, i can't quite
remember, was it rumpelstiltskin or something like
that . . . anyway, ingenious and fun to nibble at once
in a while. the dish even came with two tiny little
pain au chocolat, freshly baked and delicious, like
golden flaky bite size chocolate filled clouds. what a
service was excellent and the staff was very nice. the
chef even came out during the meal to see how
everything was going. the waiter told us he likes to
do that, which i thought was pretty cool.
i don't think it would be too hard to figure out what i
told him: everything was great; i'll see you again
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