Just before the world closed down and I mean “just before” in March, soon after our engagement, we celebrated with a lovely dinner at Eleven Madison Park.
It pains me to pen this blog post as Eleven Madison Park, one of my favourite restaurants, remains closed and there is talk from Daniel Humm, the owner, that it may never reopen in its previous form. That would just be so so sad! I love this restaurant and couldn’t even bear the thought of it closing forever.
Anyway, as a way to reminisce, here is the amazing tasting menu we enjoyed!
Hot & Cold
There are two sets of oysters; Hot Peeko oysters with chowder and celery root and the cold Widow’s Hole oyster with a celery snow mignonette.
I actually liked both of these equally, although the chill of the celery snow mignonette was somewhat an eclectic experience. The flavours of both oysters still let the natural oceanic salinity of the oyster shine very strongly.
The oysters are served with a lovely oyster broth.
As part of the first course, the trademark beautiful flaky EMP bread is served with rich creamy oyster butter.
Cheesecake with Smoked Sturgeon
This was my all-time favourite; the smoked-sturgeon cheesecake with caviar. The key elements are brought out on a gueridon, the cheesecake is cut and plated with a spoonful of caviar placed on top and (post taking this picture) a beautiful sturgeon hollandaise is spooned on top.
This dish is a masterpiece. It’s how to do fine dining, the crumbly texture of the bagel base, the smooth creamy target cheesecake, the smoky salinity of the sturgeon and the rich minerally ocean kiss of the caviar. It’s the most delightful experience one could imagine.
Bruno Dangin, Presitge de Narces, Burgandy, France (2017)
This is a beautiful sparkling from Burgundy. It’s crisp, dry with lovely green apple and light citrus flavours. I loved it and Alexandra definitely loved it.
The next course is a choice, I opt for the Foie Gras and Alexandra opts for the Trout while I decide to try the foie gras.
Brook Trout with Radish and Sesame
L’Aitonnement, Genesis, Savoie, France (2016)
Foie Gras seared with Kohlrabi and Ginger
The richness of the foie gras with the crunch of the kohlrabi and bite of the ginger meld beautifully for a well-balanced dish.
A.J. Adam, Riesling, Dhron Hofberg, Kabinett, Mosel, Germany (2018)
This wine wasn’t my favourite, but it did have some good tropical and apple notes with a rich juicy fruit impression on the palate. The acidity and fruit made it a decent match for the foie gras.
During the service, we were escorted out to have a tour of the kitchen. This amazing the infrastructure, systems and staff required to create the dining experience. The ducks are dry-aged by the restaurant and the effort for plating is just so significant it makes you realise and value the effort of the team. A special sweet sticky dish is prepared for us to taste in the kitchen and we eventually return to our tables after a brief chat with the staff.
Lobster with Razor Clam and Sea Urchin
The dish works on all fronts; amazing aesthetics, flavours and textures; beautiful succulent lobster, the smooth “taste of sea” emulsion of the sea urchin and the slimy pureness of the razor clams.
The dish certainly left Alexandra starstruck for a while.
Evening Land, Chardonnay, Seven Springs, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon (2017)
The wine that pairs this dish is a lovely Chardonnay. It’s all about tart apples, hints of nuts and lemons to start. Its tangy acidity escapes into a long finish which leaves touches of honey and stone lingering on the palate.
Tofu with Mushroom and Black Truffle
The dish is all about the umami overload; beautiful truffles (shaved at the table), the deep tofu broth and mushrooms which leave you with a little tingle on the spine.
Mauro Franchio, Gattinara, Piedmont, Italy (2015)
This wine is an interesting pair for the dish. It’s quite aromatic with notes of florals, nutmeg and spice. The indelible flavour of maraschino cherries glides on the tongue with firm tannins and a long finish. The wine does grow on you.
For the next course this a choice; Duck or Veal. Again we choose differently, Alexandra goes for the Duck and I opt for the Veal.
Duck with Honey and Lavender Glazed with Cabbage and Pear
Clusel-Roch, Serine, Rhoney Valley, France (2018)
Veal Cheek with Onion and Mustard
This is a lovely dish which is all about the richness. The tender “melt in your mouth” veal, the beautiful puree which sits underneath and the rich jus along with the overlayed onion with the bite of the mustard.
Chateau La Coste, Coteaux d’Aix, Provence, France (2016)
This was definitely my favourite wine of the evening; a very deep red fruit flavour with hints of licorice, herb, earthiness. It was intense with some good tannins and a mild spice kick in the finish.
Potato with Bacon & Onion
BEER AND CHEESE
Beer and Cheese with Bread Pudding and Mustard
Folksbier, OBL, Helles Lager, Brooklyn, New York
This was probably my least favourite course, as I am not typically a fan of beer or cheese in large quantities. However, the dish does show some lovely flair and the tart “hoppy” cheese dressing does go well with the crumbly biscuity bread pudding.
Chocolate with Chai and Gingerbread
This dessert is an harmonious mix of chai, gingerbread and chocolate. The rich burst of cocoa, tingly gingerbread and spice of the chai round out a rather fine dining experience.
Valdespino, Pedro Ximenez, El Candado, Jerez, Spain
This was an excellent choice for the pairing – I dislike super sweet dessert wines but his sherry was on point. On the nose there was a strength of burnt toffee, spice and raisins. A super lush and oily syrup style texture on the palate with with deep notes of of sweet spices, toffee, golden syrup an almost fruit cakey style flavour.
Chocolate Preztel and Laird’s Apple Brandy
Now, this is a moment that’s pretty special to me. It’s the perfect way to finish a signature dining occasion. The pretzel is white chocolate, blended with pretzels and half dipped in dark chocolate.
We are given a bottle of Laird’s apple brandy for self-pour. We did take advantage of the self-pour and enjoyed a couple of glasses as we enjoyed the creamy, grainy texture of the pretzel with the interwoven sugar and salinity.
The idea of the self-pour bottle of apple brandy came from Will Guidara (the former partner of Daniel Humm in Eleven Madison Park) when they visited a tiny town of Piedmont. In a rather nondescript restaurant, the owner of the restaurant came to the table with a bottle of grappa and some glasses at the end of their dinner. He poured some into the glasses and left the bottle on the table, and said that the guests should drink as much as they wanted. So this began a tradition at Eleven Madison Park.
To finish were are provided with some granola to take home – the theory being, Eleven Madison Park serves dinner and lunch but is not open for breakfast, so they are keen to feed you the next day. The granola proved very useful in Los Angeles when were in lockdown.
As I pen this a tear forms in my eyes as I know there is significant uncertainty if this beautiful restaurant with ever reopens. I feel for the staff who have had their livelihoods taken from them. Especially the ones who have work visas and families who had to leave the USA when the crisis hit. It is just so sad.
I have always felt welcomed when I have dined here, the staff are so friendly and engaging and each dish is not just a culinary dish but a sensory experience and an artistic masterpiece. The choice of produce from oysters, foie grass and truffles to lobsters, ducks and veal always impress and when combined such amazing culinary skill – its not hard to understand why this is the most sought after dining experience in the USA.
I look forward to the day when this restaurant reopens and the memory of this pandemic is nothing but a distant one.