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Eleven + One at Eleven Madison Park

Actually, it was more like twenty, but who's counting?

Eleven Madison Park

By now, everyone knows that executive chef Daniel Humm picked up the James Beard Foundation"Best Chef: New York City" Award. That, however, wasn't the case when we stepped into Eleven Madison Park for an early and eventually memorable dinner.

Welcome to Eleven Madison Park from Nick Cannell on Vimeo.

First impressions are important and Eleven Madison Park does an excellent job here.


Eleven Madison Park

EMP is a beautiful space. I don't even feel qualified enough to properly describe it, but I'll give it a shot. There are giant windows that bathe the restaurant in a ton of natural light during the day. Through the windows, you can catch the tops of the trees across the street at Madison Park. The tables are large and spacious, just far enough apart from each other for you to have your privacy, but not so far as to make you feel like you're on an island. There's a lively bar populated by Credit Suisse bankers taking a break from deal making upstairs and injecting good background noise into main dining room. But really, enough about the space. We came for the food and there's a lot to go through.

EMP offers a three course prix fixe, a Spring tasting menu, as well as "Eleven," Chef Daniel Humm's selection of eleven courses. We chose the "Eleven" and for good measure, threw in a twelfth course. We'll go ahead and refer to the rest of the dinner as "Twelve."

Cheese Gougères
Cheese Gougères

We were presented with these cheese gougères as we looked through the wine menu. They were tasty, light, and just enough to jump start the palate.

Arnot-Roberts Hudson Vineyard, North Block Syrah 2006
2006 Arnot-Roberts Hudson Vineyard, North Block Syrah

900 pages later, we settled on this bottle.

Arnot-Roberts Hudson Vineyard, North Block Syrah 2006

I didn't capture a picture, but EMP uses a lot of unique decanters and it was fun watching the different ones used throughout the evening.

Soon after the wine arrived, a long tray of hor d'oeuvres arrived at the table.

Hor d'Oeuvres at Eleven Madison Park

Carrot Marshmallow
Carrot Marshmallow

Tuna Tartare and Bonito Croquant
Tuna Tartare

Foie Gras
Foie Gras

Morel and Egg Quiche Tartlet
Morel and Egg Quiche Tartlet

Sweetbread Cornet
Sweetbread Cornet

The hors d'oeuvres were all good, but the sweetbread cornets stood out for us. I could have eaten a hundred of them without flinching. There was a decent amount of tweezer work put into each of these morsels of yum.

Before we jump into the food, I decided to have a derby julep, created by Jason Littrell of Death & Co.

Derby Julep

Did it fit into our dinner plans? No. Did I care? Not really.

With our drinks ready and hors d'oeuvres completed, we jumped into our dinner.

Course One: Sterling Royal Caviar

Course One: Sterling Royal Caviar
Sterling Royal Caviar with spheres of smoked Sturgeon and Salmon Cream

I will admit, this was my first encounter with spheres. And yes, it was a flavor explosion in my mouth. I can't wait for the next sphere to pop in my mouth.

Course Two: Santa Barbara Sea Urchin

Course Two: Santa Barbara Sea Urchin
Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Custard with Green Apple and Shellfish Ragout

I kept thinking I'd somehow crack the shell and they'd have to bring me another, but alas, nothing cracked. The concept behind the dish is to have the three different ingredients represent three different temperatures: cool, warm, hot. Each spoonful was rich, tart, and briny, a great combination.

Amuse Bouche:  Garden Pea & Mint Lollipop
Amuse Bouche: Garden Pea & Mint Lollipop

It arrived in a patch of grass and I wasn't sure what to expect, but a bite of the lollipop revealed exactly that: a hard shell with a soft center tasting like garden peas and mints. The amuse bouche was playful and fun, a theme that we'd continue to see the rest of evening.

Course Three: Spring Out of Winter
Spring Out of Winter: Variations of Asparagus with Jamon Iberico

Course Three: Spring Out of Winter

This was one of my favorite courses and I'm not even a big fan of asparagus. The combination of flavors and textures, the delicate nature of the dish, everything about it was on point. Who knew I'd fall in love with a veggie dish? Yes, it did have ham and that helped, but still, a great representation of the seasons.

Course Four: Foie Gras
Foie Gras Torchon with Tete de Cochon, Picked Spring Vegetables & Horseradish

Course Four: Foie Gras

Course Four: Foie Gras

A beautiful presentation which easily could have been a meal in of itself. EMP is liberal with their portion sizes and it's evident when you have this course. The plating of the dishes was done so well that it was almost difficult to take your fork and knife to the plate, almost.

Bread Service

Bread Service

The only weakness in my book was the bread service. The butters, especially the goat milk butter, were fantastic. However, the breads we did get were a little harder than expected.

Course Five: Atlantic Halibut
Seared Atlantic Halibut with Smoked Spring Garlic and Crayfish

Course Five: Atlantic Halibut

If restaurants could prepare Atlantic Halibut the way EMP did, I'd never order Chilean Sea Bass again. The Atlantic Halibut was incredibly tender and buttery, and melted in your mouth the moment you bit into it.

Tableside Preparation

Course Six: Nova Scotia Lobster
Poached Nova Scotia Lobster with Young Carrots, Ginger, and Vadouvan Granola

Course Six: Nova Scotia Lobster

One of the more impressive aspects about EMP's Gourmand Tasting was that each dish was better than the next. The poached Nova Scotia lobster did not disappoint. There is a precision to the EMP staff that was fun to watch. Whether it was the specific routes they took through the dining room, the table side preparations, or the ironing of the table linens, the movements and actions of the staff were like a carefully choreographed performance. This video of EMP never gets boring watch.

Eleven Madison Park from Nick Cannell on Vimeo.

Course Seven: Earth and Ocean
Earth and Ocean: Slow Cooked Poussin with Hawaiian Blue Prawns and Seaweed

Course Seven: Earth and Ocean

This was an interesting dish and as soon as it was set in front of us, we reminisced about Ludo Lefebvre's Chicken Royale. Would it be as tender? Would it be as good? Yes and yes. At first glance, it didn't even look like chicken, based on the way it was presented, but indeed, a very unique dish.

The below video shows how the poussin is prepared.

The Art of Sous Vide - Organic Poulard with Black Truffles and Autumn Vegetables from Nick Cannell on Vimeo.

Course Eight: Colorado Lamb
Herb Roasted Colorado Lamb with Sucrine Lettuce, Garden Peas and Oregon Morels

Course Eight: Colorado Lamb

This course was actually Colorado Lamb prepared five ways. In addition to the obvious, there was lamb ravioli, lamb sausage, lamb short rib, and sweetbreads. Was it a lot of lamb? Yes, but it was incredibly good.

At this point, you started feeling the weight of all the previous courses settling into your system, but the EMP team does a great job of spacing out the courses, allowing you to recover before heading into the next course.

Tableside Carvery

Course Nine (Supplement): Grimaud Farms Muscovy Duck
Lavendar Honey Glazed Grimaud Farms Muscovy Duck with Asparagus, Ramps and Strawberries

Course Nine (Supplement): Grimaud Farms Muscovy Duck

As you'll recall in the beginning, this was a Gourmand plus one tasting and the duck for two was the plus one for our party. Our waiter had a chuckle when I asked if we could add the duck to our tasting. Neither of us realized just how big the duck would be.

Waiter: "Of course you can, but you won't finish it. You'll have it for breakfast tomorrow."
Us: "So, we shouldn't order it? Is it excessive?"
Waiter: "Most definitely, but you should order it, it's fantastic. You'll be taking it home, everyone does."
Me: "We'll see about that."

Needless to say, we ate the whole thing. In addition to the duck breasts that were carved and plated tableside, a small dish duck confit was prepared in the kitchen and brought back to the table for us (not pictured). I strongly recommend this dish, regardless of whether you go down the a la carte or tasting menu path. The presentation and taste were both exemplary. The duck was seasoned well, the skin crisp, and the meat tender and juicy. Donald duck would not be happy.

Another video from the EMP site showing a similar duck dish.

The Art of Sous Vide - Roasted Duck with Endive, Orange & Ginger from Nick Cannell on Vimeo.

Cheese Service

Course Ten: Fromage

A cheese cart to rival that of Bistro LQ's! At this point, I couldn't remember which three cheeses I had. I recall asking for: medium/soft, briny, mixed and that's exactly what I got. The fig tart was great. The raisin walnut bread that came along with the cheese course was excellent and helped redeem the bread service at EMP. This was the perfect transition into the final two courses.

Course Eleven: "Soda Pop"
"Soda Pop" with Tangerine, Grapefruit, Pomelo and Lemon

This dish literally pops when you take a bite. I already knew what I was in store for, but it was fun watching the table next to us experience this dessert. I can eat 10-15 tangerines a day, so I really loved all the different types of citrus that were part of this dessert. Plus it looked cool.

Course Twelve: Milk & Chocolate

Course Twelve: Milk & Chocolate
Milk & Chocolate: Variations of Flavor and Texture

I was not ready for this. It was awesome. It was not as rich as the dish suggests, and the different textures were very fun. I always enjoy a dish that brings a lot of surprises and this is one of those dishes that accomplishes that. Each bite was different and you never knew what you'd expect.

Top (L-R): Pink Peppercorn with Caramel, Chocolate Banana
Middle (L-R): Peanut Butter, Coconut with Chocolate Ganache, Meyer Lemon
Bottom (L-R): Toasted Sesame with Green Tea, Grapefruit with Fennel


I'm not normally a big fan of macarons and when we were presented with a gigantic plate of them, I wasn't really sure I'd enjoy them. But after describing the different types that were available, I threw caution to the wind (I mean come on, they're just macarons) and we got one of each of them. They were actually pretty good. My favorites were the peanut butter and meyer lemon. I'll have to give macarons another try.

Digestif: Guillon-Painturaud Cognac V.S.O.P.
Digestif: Guillon-Painturaud Cognac V.S.O.P.

Two Glasses
Drinks for Two

To close out our tasting dinner, we were presented with a bottle of Guillon-Painturaud Cognac V.S.O.P. and told that we could enjoy as much of it as we wanted. And oblige we did. Right around this time, Will Guidara, general manager of EMP, stopped by the table and introduced himself. Earlier in the night, with texts from some guy and twitter updates from JBFA, I congratulated our server on chef Daniel Humm's win for Best Chef NYC. He was surprised that we knew he won as the staff had just been told minutes before. Apparently the story got to Will and when he came back from the JBFA Gala, he invited us to stay the night as there would be a party to celebrate the win. And oblige we did on this request too.

James Beard Foundation Award Afterparty at Eleven Madison Park

And was the party incredible! With nearly ever restaurant industry player in attendance, it was just awesome being a spectator. We enjoyed seeing Wylie Dufresne, Rick Moonen, Danny Meyer, Gabriel Kreuther, and many others throughout the night as we sipped on our cognac.

Daniel Boulud and Daniel Humm Celebrating at the Eleven Madison Park

Later in the evening, we got to enjoy this scene. Yup, that's Daniel Boulud celebrating with Daniel Humm spraying the crowd with champagne. Memorable times indeed.

Eleven Madison Park

Parting Gift

To close out the evening, ladies are given a parting gift, a small box of jellies.

EMP was of the best dining experiences I've had a chance to enjoy. It was refined, upscale, and fun, but without the pretentiousness typically associated with this type of evening. The accolades EMP has garnered is well deserved and I am glad I had a chance to be partake in such a unique evening. As many places as there are to enjoy in NYC, EMP will now become a regular stop whenever I'm in NYC.

Gourmand Menu

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Eleven Madison Park in New York on Fooddigger

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Comments (17) Trackbacks (6)
  1. Those dishes looked great. Makes me hungry seeing those dishes again at this time of the night. EMP was my favorite restaurant to date in 2010 and I can’t wait to go back again!

  2. KFP – I can’t wait to go back either. I drool a little bit whenever I look at these pictures.

    Weezermonkey – Thanks!

  3. Excellet post J. If plans materialize, I hope to be eating there before the year is done. You should have included a picture of the duck confit. We all know you can wonders with your S90.

  4. Too beautiful. I don’t know what to do with myself now.
    …and you saw Daniel Boulud spraying champagne. Jealous.

  5. wow. i am ALL kinds of jealous!!

    the pics look amazzzzing and i’ll definitely be coming here for a visit during my trip to NY in October… *droooooool*

  6. i am OFFICIALLY jealous. talk about amazing pics and a good write-up. good job :)

  7. Everything looks incredible! Beautiful post–I feel like I was there!

  8. drool, you had a pretty epic night :P

  9. Pinoy Panda – If you can believe it, I didn’t even TAKE a picture of the duck confit. I was still in shock over the size of the duck.

    Christina – I know what you can do…make a reservation, fly your butt to NYC and have dinner at EMP. :)

    nelehelen – You’ll love it!

    bagnatic – Thanks!

    NomsNotBombs – Thanks!

    icechai – Epic indeed. We killed the bottle of Cognac.

  10. I like how everyone else is jealous – but I got to try all of this a couple days after you! Muahahaha! ;D

    I AM jealous that you got to stay for the afterparty though. I mentioned that one of our servers and she was saying DB was on the bar dancing…I wish I could have seen that one.

  11. Julian,

    Your posts are always so eloquent and easy to follow! And the visuals are pure magic! Thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us!

  12. Excellent words and photos! Can’t believe I let a little stomach bug keep me from eating here last Fall. Doh! And so awesome that you whooped it up with Humm and Co. afterward. Surreal.

  13. Serious crotch shots, yo. Nice work.

  14. HOLY FUCK!!!!!! that’s all i can say that hasn’t been already said above. what was the wine with that purty label?

  15. I have experienced the full-bore, eleven course dinner at EMP as well. Although this was last summer, before the JBFA, it was just a short while after Frank Bruni had given them their fourth star. Your description really captures the essence of the restaurant. Nice writing…and nice photos!

  16. wowZAHHHHHHH that looks amazing.. i started scrolling through thinking the foie gras hor d’oeuvres and the lollipop looked amazing but then EVERYTHING started to look amazing and I lost track of everything I wanted to point out. Great pics too!

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