Back last Wednesday (my actual birthday was yesterday, Sunday), I splurged my own lunch early for my birthday at Eleven Madison Park. I remembered liking this place a lot when I visited here over a year ago (for their tasting menu, not counting Restaurant Week) and I’m still hearing raves about the food.
So, I thought it’s about time to come back to this place since this place is suited for special occasions and/or business lunches. The latter is more predominant when I went there. Almost every table, people were dressed in suits. I only spotted one party with a casual look (i.e. nice jeans and shirt) toward the latter end of my two-hour lunch. Despite of what seems like a corporate crowd, the conversations were still lively.
Going all out for my birthday, I ordered the Gourmand menu which started with the amuse bouche of a bold lobster bisque, with a small disc of crab meat and chestnuts. Taking a spoon of each element, I never thought of a soup ever being so intense, melding so well with the sweet crab meat and the crunchy chestnuts playing as little high notes to this symphony of flavors. All I could think of was “Wow.”
Then we move on to the bread service, where I chose a picholine olive mini-baguette served along with their unsalted butter. The bread was noticeably of better quality than what I had from the previous visits – über crisp crust meets salty, moist crumb. The unsalted butter from Vermont was very soft, creamy and spreadable. I would eat the entire thing but I needed to save room for the remaining six courses.
The first course, garden potatoes with Balik salmon and watercress, was quite amazing. The tiny, baby, confitted potatoes, draped with thick slices of Balik salmon, small mounds of salty salmon roe with a small swath of potato foam. The potato foam was lightener of all the heady components of the dish while the saltiness of the salmon was balanced out by the potatoes.
Moving on to one of my favorite courses, the foie gras terrine with golden pineapple served along with a lightly toasted round of rum-raisin brioche and pineapple curd topped with pineapple foam was a dish that’s reached to orgasmic proportions. If you do like foie gras, this is one of the best examples served in New York City. The creamy, earthy liver contrasted with the acidic and sweet pineapple cubes. Topping it with the accompanied rum-raisin brioche and the pineapple curd and foam, it lightens the denseness of the foie gras.
The seafood course was the Maine diver scallops and Hawaiian prawns with cauliflower and crustacean jus. I never thought of seafood being so sweet. The diver scallop was beautifully caramelized and the prawns were perfectly cooked. Both were intensely saccharine that it astounded my mind. The cauliflower played along the sweetness of the seafood, as well as adding a subtle crunchy note.
I’ve requested to substitute the Four Story Hill Poussin dish with the Vermont Suckling Pig Confit with Cipollini onions, plum chutney, and five spice jus, since I remember eating the former the last time I tried their Gourmand menu. Thankfully, there weren’t any issues substituting that dish. Anyway, this is the suckling pig of my dreams. The crisp, crackly pig skin meets fork-tender, sweet pork meat, adding the caramelized Cipollini onion and plum chutney created fireworks on my tongue. I think tears were about to well up in my eyes as I ate it. It’s no question that it is and meant to be the signature dish of EMP.
I finally moved on to dessert. By now, my stomach is saying to me “I’m full” but I can’t refuse dessert. Actually, I don’t think I ever have. Anyway, this milk chocolate palette with Bosc pears and chestnuts was good but wasn’t as remarkable as the savory courses were. The palate was crisp and the Bosc pears and chestnuts added some dimension to the sweetness and crunch to the dessert but it lacked that “wow” factor.
To conclude this two-hour lunch fest, I was bestowed with a long, narrow dish of mignardes. They’re two sets of miniature, bite-sized cookies – a wee raspberry chocolate macaron, pistachio-raspberry financier, a butter cookie filled with lemon curd and a rich chocolate peanut butter cup. Frankly, I liked the mignardes more than the dessert I had earlier.
After finishing my mignardes, I asked for the check and paid and strolled my way out, astounded about this amazingly delicious meal.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue (off of 24th Street)
New York, NY 10010 (map)