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.

Tomato gelee with gooseberries.  The gelee was layered in flavors that worked well with the poached gooseberries but I did not love this dish.  It was a bit too salty.  

A cucumber ice (think of the shaved ice trucks around town) mixed with lapsang souchong tea, shiso leaves and grapes.  Interesting mixture of flavors.

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.  

Smoke with sturgeon
Underneath this glass was smoked sturgeon over apple woodchips which was part of the next course. To me, it was a take on brunch.  

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.

Rollswithlamintated flour
We were then each served a roll made out of laminated flour with two types of butter on the side.  The rolls were made like a cinnamon roll.  Delicious.

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.  

Out next is their take on tartare using carrots instead of beef.  The tartare is prepared at your table.

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.

Here is another side.  

Love this sign in the corner that overlooks the sous chefs.  

Making drink
We stood behind a small bar and were made a gin drink.  I am not a gin drinker but this was amazing. The smoke was making this hard round ball that she put in the drink.

When the ball was cracked open it tasted like these fruity ice cubes mixed together with a syrup and gin…delicious.

Tilefish with poached turnips, radishes and dill.

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.

Slices of perfectly cooked duck with a salad of apples and quinoa on the side.

A picnic basket filled with long salty warm pretzels wrapped in paper, gooey cheese. grapes, mustard and a beer to split.  Really just fun.

How about a malt made at your table?  Egg cream with vanilla and seltzer.

Pistachio was the other course I chose. Pistachio ice cream with grapes, golden raisin and sauternes.

Huckleberry goat cheese cheesecake with hints of lime.

At this point we were exhausted and looking to go home but just wait.  Chocolate covered pretzels with sea salt.

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.

Mine was blackberry.

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.

I particularly loved how they wrapped up the meal going full circle with the black and white sweet cookies.  A total treat.