11 Madison Park
Prepare yourself, this will be a long post as the meal was a 5 hour experience. I had dinner at 11 Madison Park the night after Peter Wells had written an essay in the NYTimes schooling both Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, the entrepreneurs behind the restaurant, to stick to the food and get rid of the shtick. Trust me, they listened.
I have been a patron of 11 Madison Park since it first opened. The room is grand. Large glass windows set above the room lets the light steam in over the tops of the trees. You can't see the street but you can feel the city outside. It makes me think about what NY must have been like 100 years ago. There is this elegance to the place. That is probably why the meal is a play on dishes reminiscent of NYC.
When we sat down we were served a small box wrapped up in string like you would receive at any bakery around NYC to take your treats on the road. What is inside is not what you will be finding at any bakery anywhere soon.
Savory black and white cookies made into a sandwich. Under the black and white cookie is the middle which is a black truffle creme on top of a parmesan shortbread cookie. It is chilled. Absolutely delicious.
Roasted eel with foie gras in between crispy swiss chard. A swiss chard sandwich. I loved this. Unique with a really intense interesting combination of flavors. Someone worked really hard to get this to our table without breaking it.
Set inside an eggshell is a sabayon with chives and pieces of sturgeon. It is a three bite treat. Each bite was different. The first was creamy and salty, the next you couldn't taste the salt but the taste was richer and the next added a few pieces of sturgeon to it. Yum.
Thinly sliced toasted everything bagels with smoked sturgeon (white fish), caviar over whipped cream cheese, sour and half-sour pickles (I could have taken home a vat) with a plate with sliced eggs and iceberg lettuce with a drizzle of Cesar salad dressing and bread crumbs. They must have had fun coming up with this course.
At the beginning of the meal we were asked to choose 4 things from the menu. 3 savory, 1 sweet. You choose from the ingredients on the menu so I picked Langoustine, Tilefish and Pistachio. Everyone else picked something different. We were given the option of having the special of the evening as a substitute for one of our courses. We went for that, it was a whole duck. This was the langoustine. Poached langoustines with thinly sliced fennel, one poached cherry and a creamy clam fennel dollop.
Served with a variety of condiments, thinly sliced rye bread (where I would have loved to take a loaf home), mustard oil and one other oil which I can't recall. We each mixed everything together. Clever and interesting but not my thing. Everyone else really loved it.
At this point we were taken to the kitchen for a treat. Ok, this is not happening for every patron. I was with two women who are part of the food world. I so love their company. After all, how many people can you sit through a 5 hour meal with an keep the conversation flowing? This is one side of the kitchen.
A twist on a clambake. This pot had a rich buttery clam broth in it that we each poured into our bowls. On the side was a zucchini bread wrapped in corn husks and pieces of clam, tomato and corn in another bowl.
A whole duck roasted with lavender and honey. I wish they had given us the whole carcass after our pieces were carved. Probably not the vibe they'd like to present having people rip into the carcass but worth thinking about.
Then out came the cards for a little 3 card monte. We each chose a card, with the cards facing down. We gave the ones back we chose and shock underneath our cheesecake was a chocolate filled with the card we chose.
I have written before that I am so over the fancy meals. We even discussed at dinner if there was a plane sitting in front of the restaurant that could take you anywhere you wanted to go eat, where would that be? I said I'd like to go to local restaurants around the globe where you could wear cut off jeans and a t-shirt. There is so much happening in food in our country and around the globe at the local level. My favorite places are restaurants that I continue to return to time and time again. With that being said, I do love Madison Square Park because we need to have a restaurant like this in NYC. An elegant eating experience that pushes the envelope while still tasting good. It is like couture fashion. It is important. Also, the two entrepreneurs behind it are smart, thoughtful and are doing something they are so passionate about. I will certainly be back.