With a surprising break of glorious weather last weekend, I had a new surge of energy and determination to enjoy the rest of summer—this fortuitous sign coincided with our anniversary few days ago. I’d managed to make a reservation at Eleven Madison Park, a restaurant I’ve want to go ever since executive chef Daniel Humm got raving reviews. We dined at Eleven Madison Park when it first opened and loved it. I remembered the lobster main course was superb, the service was perfect.
With much anticipation, we walked through Madison Square Park on a Saturday early evening for a 6:45 pm reservation, the only reservation we could get for this specific evening. We usually make 8 pm reservations, but for this special occasion, we adjusted our schedules for the day. We were greeted by a few lovely female hosts dressed in suits, who escorted us through the magnificent high-ceiling space to our table right under an enormous west facing window. The soft evening glow poured into the room with perfect lighting to document the evening.
We started with our favorite cocktails—classic gin martini. M likes his with extra lime twist, and I take mine with olives. When the captain handed us the menus, he asked about any dietary restrictions (M’s a pescatarian. I have some too.) One of fun elements of prix fixe menu are the little surprises not mentioned on the menu that just appear at your table. The staff shortly brought tuna done two ways, foie with strawberry geleé, veal cornets, beet marshmallows, carrot mousse, etc. All were scrumptious. Then came the amuse-bouché of strawberry gazpacho with a multigrain crouton, another successful opening act that got us ready for the main event. But before that, crusty baguette and fincelle accompanied by goat’s milk butter and cow’s milk slow churned butter.
The menu has choices to suit most whims—and this restaurant, unlikely many, is flexible in accommodating some customization. There is also a seven course tasting menu. My appetizers was an Organic Rabbit Rillettes with foie gras, cherries and pistachio bread and M choose Peekytoe Crab Salad with pickled daikon radish, crustacean mayonnaise and summer flowers. The creaminess of the rilettes contrasted with the sweet tart cherries and crispy pistachio bread was light, balanced and perfect harmony of flavors. M’s crab salad was fresh, sweet and the taste of the ocean was intensely enhanced by the dab of crustacean mayo. The tables were spaciously set, noise level lively but soft, it was grand with an easy comfortable feel. We took our time to savor every bite and the service was spot on with minimal intrusion.
I selected Roasted Cochon de Lait with bing cherries, sweet onion and mustard for my main course. It was sous-vide to perfection—tender with still a nice bite in the texture of the meat. The intensity of pork came from the pork jus that the captain drizzled on the plate. The flavors of the ingredient were all pronounce but nothing felt heavy about the dish. The jus was perfection and did not cling to the lips as a poorly made sauce would. M’s choice was the Nova Scotia Lobster Lasagna with heirloom squash and lemon verbena. Again it was packed with the utmost tantalizing flavor from the ocean and he can still taste the fresh and sweetness of the squash. As you can imagine, we were both speechless and want to savor every chewing moment.
Dessert was quite a challenge to select. The choices between flavors and interesting textures got us into a bit of quandry. Even M who always tends toward fruit base desserts was thinking about the chocolate choices. We end up with two chocolate desserts, M selected Bittersweet Chocolate Crémeux with black sesame, caramelized banana and yuzu, mainly because of the combination of flavors, especially the yuzu—which turned out to be a study of intense flavors and contrasting textures. With the captain’s help, I chose Milk & Chocolate, a dehydrated chocolate mousse and dulce de leche. The texture was most interesting. The chocolate and milk being the crunchy part, almost malt-ball texture, and the creamy sauciness was delivered via the dulce de leche ice cream. It might look like a Pollack painting but the kid inside me wanted to pick up the plate and licked it.
We were then presented a choice of mini-macarons as petits fours. As the waiter saw my eagerness, she offered to give us two of each so we can both taste everything. There were green tea (not matcha), Earl Grey, peanut butter and jelly, chocolate, lemon, coconut and strawberry, which had an exterior surface that resembled a really strawberry. Even though these were 3/4 inch mini-macarons, I nibbled on them bit by bit to try to understand the flavor profile. (My Mactweets gals would totally understand the method of my madness here.) We were also presented with a glass of brandy to sip on while sampling these macarons. The captain left the bottle and said help yourself to it. Hmm, don’t mind if we do.
As we exited this grand historic interior space of a former insurance company, it was a perfect Summer evening with M to celebrate our anniversary—at a restaurant I hope we’ll return soon. Like for my birthday.