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.  



Comments (Archived):

  1. Michelle Vaughan

    Thanks for the update on 11 Mad. It use to be our fave place for anniversaries, but I don’t know if I can sit through 5 hours of food anymore. It’s just too much. Humm should offer a 2 hour tasting menu as an option.With El Bulli gone, I think 11 Mad wants to be the resto to replace it. And, as you said, it’s the haute couture of food.But it’s food theater, not a genuine meal experience where there is flowing conversation. Am pretty sure I echoed this on your post on Alinea, Chicago.Restos such as Annisa, Corton, Daniel and Gramercy Tavern are all winners in my book because I can remember the experience and the dishes. The service is not like a magic show and we left not being so over-stuffed. I don’t know how high-end Japanese restaurants serve Omakase so seamlessly, but perhaps 11 Mad could find figure it out. Maybe it’s 5 hours versus 1 hour of eating… and 11 Mad is about eating art, not dining.That said, 11 Mad has it’s place in New York. Plenty of people would jump at the chance to experience Humm’s food in that gorgeous dining room, and I am thankful we had the chance a few times before the whole conceptual tasting menu went live. He’s amazingly talented.It’s fun to look at your photos, thanks for the post!

    1. Wavelengths

      I have never enjoyed someone else’s meal so much! It was almost like being able to sneak bites off your plate.Thanks for sharing.

    2. Gotham Gal

      i think you can do it in 3 hours. remember…i went into the back for a while

  2. Stuart Willson

    Wow. I haven’t been since ownership changed hands, but will now make it a priority. By fancy meals, I’m not sure if you’re referring to the price/decor/dress code or the way in which the food is devised/constructed, but personally, I feel like the influence of El Bulli and Noma on NYC has been mixed, and that far too many people are trying to create whimsical, inspired and crazy dishes that are beyond their level of competence. You and I have experienced this at least once. 11Mad, obviously, is very competent. I’m rambling now, but related, someone recently asked me about my meal at Atera (whimsical but good) and I honestly couldn’t remember much about it, while I can, with detail, describe a Saturday afternoon cacio e pepe and the montepulciano that accompanied it at say, Lupa. So, perhaps I’m just simple.

    1. Gotham Gal

      as a rule, i am simple but on occasion you gotta bust out!

  3. kirklove

    Been trying to get in there for a while and tried for our anniversary. No dice. Seems crazy, though not sure I’d dig it actually. I’m way done with that kind of dining. Like you said it’s great, just not for me and my style.We ended up going to ABC Kitchen. Really liked it. Strikes a nice balance between fancy and homey.

  4. CarriePryor

    I enjoyed the old 11 Mad format but your post makes me want to try the new approach. We are really into old fashioned cocktails and the one you had looked great!

  5. LE

    This piqued my curiosity”schooling both Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, the entrepreneurs behind the restaurant, to stick to the food and get rid of the shtick.”So I dug up the article:http://www.nytimes.com/2012…And found this:While people come to Eleven Madison from all over the world, those who live in the city may have to fight back the impatience and urge to interrupt that come with the keys to every New Yorker’s first apartment. The narrative tone isn’t sharp, it isn’t quick, it isn’t wised up, and it assumes the listener knows nothing: in other words, it’s not a New York voice. By the end of the four hours, I felt as if I’d gone to a Seder hosted by Presbyterians.So this really comes down to proper training of staff. I would think it’s certainly possible for the staff to identify who is a New Yorker and who isn’t. As well as identify regulars vs. first time diners.One of the suggestions I gave to a manager of a local restaurant that we go to frequently is to stop having the waiters always say “is this the first time dining with us?”. I said “why don’t you know we’ve been here before? You have our name when we make the reservation why is there no system in place to identify frequent diners”?So the issue here really isn’t “cut the shtick” as much as it is a management, training and systems problem. The shtick is fine when applied to the right people (a guess like people from the midwest).The meal looks great by the way!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Totally agree

  6. JLM

    .I may have to go weigh myself because I feel like I gained 5 pounds reading the article.Well played!.

    1. Gotham Gal


  7. gsilberman

    WOW…looks amazing !!!!!!!

  8. William Mougayar

    Great…as if we were there with you. I’ve been to Eleven Madison only once, but didn’t have an elaborate dinner like that. They are definitely in a class of their own.

  9. maileen

    Once went for lunch there, by myself. Not connected to the food industry at all, just a regular worker bee looking for a break from a grueling week in the trenches of cubicle life. Got treated to a tour of the kitchen with a special drink. So yes, this treat is available for non-foodies too! Good customer service.

    1. Gotham Gal

      that’s fantastic….and that is how it should be.