Cuisine: American, International
Location: USA, New York – Gramercy/Flatiron, opposite Madison Square Garden
One of the privileges of coming to New York is that it happens to be home to some really delicious food, and is also home to some world class restaurants. Today, I was fortunate to be having dinner at 11 Madison Park, the fifth ranked restaurant in the world. The restaurant is in a select group holding 3 Michelin stars, the most a restaurant can achieve in the recognition of culinary excellence.
The restaurant is situated in the Credit Suisse AG Building, right next door to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower and across the road from Madison Square Garden. Entering the building and then seeing the restaurant, you get the feeling they somehow transformed the foyer into a sectioned off restaurant. Well they certainly have done an excellent job with what they had to work with. The smart modern interior with the high ceilings gives the impression the restaurant is much bigger than it is.
We were being treated to a 17 course degustation so let’s get in to it:
Course #1) Cheddar – Savoury Black and White Cookie with Apple
Started with a little snack, a soft cheddar and savoury black & white biscuit with apple which is yum. I’m really hungry so this just whets the appetite and gets one salivating.
Course #2) Sea Urchin – Snow with Smoked Cantaloupe and Conch
Sea urchin snow, Greek yoghurt, smoked cantlope and conch – wow, looks deceiving like powder, but one spoonful and you have the taste and freshness of the sea. Delicious.
Course #3) Tomato – Gelee With Summer Beans and Saffron Oil
Tomato water gelee and tomato water jelly, saffron, summer beans, goats cheese – the tomato water takes a little getting used to but is very refreshing. The dish is a play on a salad and it tastes just like one. I didn’t care for the foam as much as the gel but it’s a clever dish.
Course #4) Surf Clam – Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon, and Green Garlic
Surf clam, Yukon potatoes, fava beans, Meyer lemon, green garlic – soft, light, subtle clam flavour. It’s like eating a soft melted cheese that has been aerated. Really delicious, excellent flavours, like a light clam chowder.
Course #5) Littleneck Clam – Clambake with Whelk, Parker House Roll, and Chowder
Oysters, apple and ridduchio, cous cous, Parker House roll, clam chowder – each is suggested to be eaten in order and the flavours just build. The apple dish is refreshing, the cous cous has more body, the bun is so delicious (I appreciate a good bread), and then the milky consistency of the clam chowder is just delicious.
A slight break in proceedings with the presentation of in house bread rolls and butter with the second butter infused with duck fat. The roll is so soft and flaky (we’re told it’s a similar process to making croissant) and despite containing wholewheat flour, is not heavy. So delicious and love the butter. The duck butter is very subtle but just as tasty.
We were very well looked after as we should, service was second to none. My friends had ordered drinks and for a few, a drinks trolley was wheeled to our table where we watched the wait staff carefully prepare the drink. It’s not all about the eating or drinking, there’s the theatre too.
Course #6) Lobster – Salad with Tomato and Lettuce
Tomato confit, goat’s cheese, lobster claw stuffed with tomato and lobster, tomato soda – well the soda tastes just like tom yum soup without the spice. The tomato confit with the lobster cream combines beautifully to create a creamy refreshing flavour.
Course #7) Foie Gras – Seared with Summer Berries, Rye, and Nasturtium
The foie gras came in two varieties: terrine or pan seared. I went for the latter but also got a portion of the former which had been bruleed. The terrine was smooth but not too rich with a lovely crunch from the brulee. However, after eating foie gras in Paris, I really loved the pan seared version in front of me. It has a real meaty consistency and the outside tastes similar to the skin on a BBQ chicken. Really enjoyed the dish but the berries seemed out of place. As the foie gras wasn’t rich, the tartness wasn’t required.
Course #8) Carrot – Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments
This dish is a take on steak tartare but using carrot instead of steak mince. A bit of fun to be had with this dish as you mix all the ingredients together and keep adding ingredients till the dish is to your taste. Great flavours once all the ingredients are combined and mixed. With some crunchy rye bread, pretty good.
Course #9) Striped Bass – Poached with Zucchini and Squash Blossoms
Striped sea bass. The arrangement of the zucchini on the fish to resemble scales is clever and looks to be a painstaking process. However the effort is well worth it because this piece of sea bass is fantastic! With the squash blossom vegetables on the side, this is one of my favourite courses thus far.
Course #10) Ostrich Egg – Corn Pudding with Truffle and Buttermilk
Quinelle of truffle, corn pudding, and buttermilk served in an ostrich egg. The smell is strong and the dish resembles an egg yolk. Mix the dish up and eat and it tastes delicious. Sweet corn puree then is dominated by a strong aftertaste truffle flavour which is earthy.
Course #11 Duck – Roasted with Pistachio, Rhubarb, and Fennel
Roast duck with fennel, pistachio and a citrus jus, with a rhubarb salad. Really love the perfectly cooked duck and the jus is fantastic! But I need more so we asked and received. The crispy spiced fennel skin of the duck is so flavoursome and a textual delight to the soft tender aged duck flesh. The rhubarb salad is jarring in comparison, not complimenting the duck in my opinion.
Course #12) Greensward – Pretzel, Mustard, and Pickled Strawberries
Surprise picnic basket with everything you need in it – glass plates that look like paper plates, pretzel, blue cheese, honey mustard, pickled strawberries, pale ale. The blue cheese is rich and creamy and has a pungent flavour. With the honey mustard which is sweet and then has a kick, it goes well with the pretzel. The pickled strawberry is interesting, removing the sweetness from the fruit which is now acidic but still oozes the sweet strawberry juice. The ale tastes like beer so I gave that a miss but is probably the missing element in my meal which would cut through the richness of the cheese.
Course #13) Malt – Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer
Egg cream – assembled with the following ingredients:
Malt and vanilla syrup
Yum! Tastes very much like horlicks with a soda kick.
Course #14) Sassafras – Sorbet with Banana Cake, Caramel, and Vanilla
Frozen vanilla saltsa, quinelle of coconut, cinnamon foam, banana cake, banana caramel. A bit confusing trying to differentiate the different elements but they’re all tasty but didn’t wow. It still was a lovely refreshing and smooth dessert.
Course #15) Sheep’s Milk – Cheesecake with Mange and Peanut
Sheep’s milk cheesecake, candied peanuts, mango sorbet – the sheep’s curd has a strong flavour contrasting with the crunch of the candied peanuts. This is further contrasted in texture by the refreshingly smooth mango sorbet which was the best element of the dish. But there was more drama as the wait staff performed a card trick and dealt 4 cards after I’d removed 2. After flipping over the cards to reveal the flavour of the chocolate, we lifted up our dish which revealed another dish with the flavour of the chocolate embossed into the chocolate itself. It matched the card! Mine was mint. How did they do that? Where’s Penn & Teller when you need them.
Course #16) Pretzel – Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt
Next was chocolate coated pretzel and I got the non-alcoholic apple juice while the rest were served an alcoholic apple brandy. The pretzel was really good and the salt brings out the flavour of the chocolate. The apple juice is smooth and has a light flavour, slightly sweet, not acidic.
Course #17) Chocolate – Sweet Black and White Cookie with Apricot
Finally finished with what looked like a visual repetition of our first course, but this was sweet rather than savoury. Sweet black and white biscuit encassing chocolate and apricot. Yum.
Eleven Madison Park Food Review Summary
Verdict: I’ve never had a degustation with so many courses and while I was full, I wasn’t uncomfortable fortunately, but not far from it. It was also my first time to a world ranked restaurant and a 3 Michelin star restaurant. We entered at 7pm and left at 12:20am – yes, over 5 hrs of eating and drinking! However, it was all delivered at a comfortable pace. I loved the duck and sea bass and was amazed at what they did with tomato in creating a confit, jelly and soda. However, I can’t say I was blown away with what I ate. Maybe I’m unfairly drawing comparisons to other restaurants with courses, but the London restaurants, The Ledbury and Petreus, were far superior in flavour and far cheaper. The setting of the restaurant at 11 Madison Park is modern and smart, while the service was highly professional. Some meals had a bit of theatre and drama and while the food was prepared to a high standard and quality, in some dishes I didn’t think the ingredients always paired well in terms of flavour. There were some really clever techniques employed such as the numerous ways they utilised tomato, but in the end, it’s all about the taste and it didn’t reach the high levels I was expecting.
Eleven Madison Park Restaurant Details
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