As usual, full review with photos (and alternate courses) on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...
We had a spectacular dinner there last week, where we went all out by ordering the new tasting menu as well as adding the signature off-menu duck. Our gougeres were even replenished twice! The new tasting menu is comprised of waves of canapes followed by more traditional courses.
HALIBUT with dashi and seaweed lavash
First came crisp and light lavash flatbread flavored with seaweed accompanied by a cup of dashi with a sprig of herbs and a piece of halibut fume. The smoky fish taste worked well with the umami-filled dashi and did a good job opening up the taste buds for what was to come.
MONKFISH loin with lemon and scallion and torchon of liver with apple and curry
The loin was served on a rice cracker and I really liked how the puffed up texture worked with the texture of the ceviche-style fish. The apple was terrific in balancing out the fatty fish liver torchon, but I wasn't sold on the combination of apple and curry.
SEA URCHIN toast with foie gras and lemon
This was absolutely wonderful. The meyer lemon puree and sea urchin worked terrifically together, and provided just enough brininess and acidity to handle the rich chilled foie gras mixture. For those who might be worried that the foie overpowers the sea urchin, I would say that there is a little bit of that, but the sea urchin still comes through.
SMOKED STURGEON sabayon with chive oil
I've had this a few times before and it continues to be very good. Just a wonderful combination of the smokiness of the sturgeon, the warmth and earthiness of the chive oil, and the rich yet slightly acidic sabayon. Remember to mix the chive oil at the bottom thoroughly if you get this!
CAVIAR fingerling potato and creme fraiche
A classic combination presented here using a chilled fingerling potato as the vehicle.
BLACK TRUFFLE beignet with black truffle remoulade
Fried dough completely covered with black truffle aroma and taste. Mixing it with the remoulade added a lovely creaminess to round out the bite. Delicious and smart.
This was the last of the canape courses, which were served in five waves and consisted of eight individual bites.
LANGOUSTINE ceviche with celery, apple and lime
The lime and celery in the broth allowed the freshness and flavor of the raw langoustine to come out, but it was the cold apple snow which added an extra texture and temperature dimension that made the dish stand out.
CARROT roasted with dates, cumin and wheat berries
I liked how the sweetness of the dates and other components brought out the earthy side of the carrot, which was tender yet firm and not mushy. This was a terrific bridge between the cold refreshing first course and the subsequent savory fish course.
JOHN DORY seared with celery, artichoke, and black truffles
This earthy preparation of the john dory had classical flavors that went lovely with the firm meaty fish.
VEAL blanquette with winter vegetables and smoked bone marrow
The veal was tasty and the jus was rich, but what really made this dish for me was the wonderful selection of winter vegetables and the smoked bone marrow which added a depth of flavor and a variety of textures to the dish as a whole.
LAMB roasted with vadouvan, lady apples and puntarella
Although I love all the individual components of vadouvan spice, I'm really not a big fan. It worked in this dish because the combination of those spices with garlic, tender lady apples, and the bitterness from the puntarella came together nicely for me. The lamb was cooked perfectly I thought, although I know people who prefer their lamb bloody.
DUCK roasted with kumquats and turnips
Speechlessly wonderful. The kind where everyone just concentrates on the food and stops talking. The kumquats were nice and sweet and provided a good balance, but they weren't really necessary. Just close your eyes and savor the concentrated flavor of the duck with a few sips of lovely red wine. The crispy skin almost becomes overkill.
The secret is the dry-aging, which concentrates the flavor and allows the skin to become really crisp during roasting while the fat cooks down. As our server expertly carved out the breast. I asked about the other parts of the duck, and our server said that due to the dry aging process, the dark meat parts become very very gamey.
KIR ROYALE cassis, lemon, champagne
It seems to be a common theme that the predessert here at Eleven Madison Park is based off of familiar drinks. Besides this kir royale, I've had variations of a malted milkshake and strawberries and champagne before. It's a refreshing take, but truly nothing new in terms of flavors.
CHOCOLATE ganache with butternut squash and maple
This was good, and I liked pairing the chocolate ganache ribbons with the butternut sqush sorbet, which I thought was an innovative approach that worked. That being said, I continue to feel that the desserts are the weakest part of the Eleven Madison Park experience. I don't think they need to do the four or five courses of dessert tastings like at other top tier places, but I feel that they're caught in an awkward in-between spot. I've read that they do a terrific souffle, so maybe a solution would be to focus on classic desserts and just excel in the execution.
MIGNARDISES included chocolate covered banana ice cream pops, violet macarons, peanut brittle, and something I don't remember that I didn't really like. I thought these were fine, but nothing extraordinary, and certainly nothing novel. I thought the mignardises I had on previous visits were much better.
In all, it was just another spectacular meal at EMP. The portions are more in line with tasting menu portions I've had at other high end places, whereas the old gourmand menu seemed a little too overindulgent for some. The canapes have improved significantly in my mind compared to when they first rolled out the new menu. At the current price point of $195+t/t per person with a $30 per person supplement for the duck, there is value here, but not the outright bargain the gourmand menu once was. Still, it is roughly three quarters the cost of a meal at Per Se, which I think offers the closest in terms of dining experience.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010
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