Eleven Madison Park

Dinner at Eleven Madison Park on Saturday with friends.

The restaurant opened in autumn 1998 to acclaim by critics and patrons alike. It, along with its sister restaurant Tabla (featuring Indian-fusion cuisine), is located in a landmark Art Deco building owned by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

As you enter, your eyes are drawn up to the high ceiling and then down to the inlaid granite floor, which is (relatively) new but in keeping with the 1930’s style of the space, designed by Peter and Paul Bentel. The more intimate bar area has a pleated gold-leaf ceiling, and throughout there is blond wood with repeating leaf patterns, much like the leaves of the ginko and linden trees that grow in Madison Square Park right across the street.

Chef Daniel Humm, formerly of Campton Place in San Francisco (click here for a blog review of CP from February 2005 and here for a review by SFgate’s Michael Bauer in August 2003), Le Pont du Brent (Brent, Switzerland) and Gasthaus zum Gupf (Rehetobel, Switzerland), has taken the place of Kerry Heffernan at EMP. Mr. Heffernan has since moved on to run Hudson Yards Catering, the newest venture in Danny Meyer‘s New York restaurant empire.

Chef Humm continues EMP’s tradition of luxurious French cuisine seen through a prism of American modernity, while branding a California-inflected stamp on his food.

The restaurant has a choice of a tasting menu ($120), a three course meal (2 savory, 1 sweet) for $76 and a four course menu (3 savory, 1 sweet) for $88.  We opted for the latter.

Amuse-bouches.

Left to right:  Toro and olive; sweetbread tempura, cucumber and caviar, Meyer lemon; infused goat cheese mini-napoleons.  Sorry, not the best pic.

Gougères.  Done right, these are ethereal cheese-flavored puffs of air enclosed in a pastry shell.  In the wrong hands, they can be grease-laden lumps of lead.  Guess which description best fits.  😉

2005 Pouilly-Fuissé, La Frarie (Mâcon, France).

2001 Domaine Jean Chauvenet, Nuits-Saint Georges (Côte de Nuits, France).

Parsnip foam, lobster veloute, shrimp, pear.

Ceviche of diver scallops and Nova Scotia lobster, radish salad with Satsuma tangerines and vanilla-infused sea salt.

Not shown: terrine of foie gras with plum gelee, golden raisins and hazelnuts, and brioche toast points.

Slow-cooked dayboat Chatham cod, saffron and dill fumet, “petit ragout de fruits de mer”.

Poached Nova Scotia lobster, Florence fennel, chamomile.

Suckling pig confit, braised cippolini onion, baby leek w/chives, plum chutney, potato foam, five spice powder.

Herb roasted Millbrook Farm venison, salsify, black trumpet mushrooms.

Tea menu.

Chocolate souffle, chocolate sauce, caramel popcorn, salted caramel ice cream.

Fourme d’Ambert, pear-vanilla mousseline, frisee salad, balsamic reduction.

Lynnhaven Farm “chevre frais”, bread crisp, pickled porcini mushrooms, fleur de sel, Capezzana olive oil.

Mignardises.

Out of 10?  A VERY strong upper range 8 to low 9.  Though the dinner was quite spectacular, the suckling pig confit stole the show. In fact, I’m still dreaming about it. Someone at our table described it as a “non-sweet candy bar made for adults” and I couldn’t agree more. Ultra-crisp skin that crackled and shattered into pieces at the touch of a fork atop meltingly soft and tender meat. Sheer heaven.

From early reports, Chef Humm continues to wow and amaze.  It won’t be long before he gives many top restaurants a run for their money.

Eleven Madison Park is located at 11 Madison Avenue (East 24th Street), in the Flatiron district in Manhattan.

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