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Three Michelin Stars, New York

Reviewed by Justine Murphy, CEO of mymuybueno – March 2017

In an Art Deco building just off Madison Square Park, best friends Daniel Humm and Will Guidara work together to create a menu that draws inspiration from local culture, history and ingredients. Just after my visit the restaurant was ranked in first place in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017. Eleven Madison Park went from one star in the 2010 guide to three Michelin stars in the 2012 guide and this is an exceptional achievement, even in the US context. Chef Dmitri Magi was running lunch service on my visit.

Walking inside Eleven Madison Park is just incredible. It is a magnificent, breathtaking room full of light and tulips and has an amazing Art Deco feel.

Black and White – Savoury Cookie with Apple and Cheddar. This was served on my table inside a little white box and I had to unravel the thread to see its contents. This was very nice and had a lovely centre.

Shortly afterwards, a wooden box modelled on the same pendant lanterns hanging from the ceiling appeared. Inside the four wooden stacks lay a treasure of four different Amuse Bouches.

Celery Root with Black Truffle. This was braised celery root with black truffle and a celery root purée. It was absolutely delicious and very pleasing on the eye.

Rutabaga with Celery and Walnuts. This featured different variations of rutabaga (otherwise known as swede) both candied and pureed. It was served with apple and celery relish and shaved horseradish and walnuts.

Salsify with Garlic and Thyme. Pickled salsify with a black garlic purée with salsify crumbs and thyme. This was amazing.

‘Pickled salsify with a black garlic purée with salsify crumbs and thyme.’

Parsnip Pie. This was presented on hot coals and was a light and perfect parsnip pie with grated dehydrated celery root. This reminded me of a dish from Geranium

At this stage, I was offered the selection of options for the eight-course tasting menu – a choice of duck, oxtail, mushroom, lobster, kohlrabi, scallop, butternut and bone marrow, foie, and sweet potato. I wanted them all, however, but I settled on scallop, duck and butternut.

Caviar – Benedict with Smoked Sturgeon, Diced Ham, and Pickled Egg Yolk. This was quite an apt dish for those who follow my travels when I stay in hotels. It has become a tradition for me to order an Eggs Benedict for breakfast at least once in each hotel that I stay in, (The Berkeley, London being my top spot so far). Therefore I was very excited about the arrival of this dish and couldn’t wait to tuck in. This was Eleven Madison Park’s interpretation of an Eggs Benedict – just a slightly more indulgent one. Mini muffins, rich hollandaise, shavings of cured egg, Californian caviar, smoked ham and pickled quail egg yolk. This was an exceptional dish with very well balanced flavours.

‘I was very excited about the arrival of this dish and couldn’t wait to tuck in.’

A beautiful, wholewheat, croissant-like bread came next, which was made in-house, steamed and glazed, rich and light. It was served with a cultured butter topped with cow’s milk cheese.

Scallop – Marinated with Leek and Potato. Beautiful scallops from Maine, served with charred leeks and pickled potatoes. An addition of pickled leeks really worked and added the right dimension of sharp acidity to the dish, complementing the sweet scallop well.

‘Pickled leeks really worked and added the right dimension of sharp acidity to the dish.’

At this stage in my dining experience I was two pairings of wine in. I had pre-selected their tasting menu with wine pairing in advance and I always choose this option for both two and three Michelin star visits to enhance the experience and my palate. I trust the chef and sommelier to compliment each other in their selections of both ingredients and wine. However I felt disheartened by this point because, during both pourings of wine, the sommelier did not explain anything at all about each pairing. I love hearing about why that particular wine had been matched with this particular dish and about all the different notes which compliment the different ingredients, therefore elevating the dish and experience. My visit to The Greenhouse had captured this perfectly. I did give the sommelier the opportunity to share something about the wine, other than just simply to pour it, but he only shared some information about the history of the vineyard and not the wine itself. For a three Michelin star restaurant and voted World’s Best Restaurant shortly afterwards, I definitely expected the minimum from a sommelier here. This detracted somewhat from my experience.

Lobster – Smoked and Steamed with Fennel, Clam, and Bouillabaisse. This next dish was in the style of a ‘Clam Bake’, which is typical fare of the East Coast of the United States. It was brought out on a tray in a large copper dish, which had a grate inside with a flame directly underneath. This was topped with seaweed, and it was explained that this would give a fresh flavour to the tail of the beautiful Maine lobster, which had been poached in the kitchen beforehand. Seawater was then poured over the top of the seaweed, allowing the steam to further cook the tail. This was then taken back to the kitchen for plating. Upon its return, it was a beautiful plate with the stunning the lobster tail accompanied by a potato and fennel purée, sea urchin cream, and a lobster bouillabaisse sauce. This was incredible and the roasted seaweed had permeated into the lobster, giving it a wonderfully fresh flavour.

‘The roasted seaweed permeated into the lobster, giving it a wonderfully fresh flavour.’

At this stage I ventured into the kitchen and stood at a tall table set up overlooking the ongoing lunch service. I was presented with a beautiful cocktail, which featured a quintessential New York ingredient – sumac. This ingredient grows everywhere, including Central Park, and is one I have not tried before. The creation of this cocktail reminded me of my younger days indulging in Absinthe, the ritual of which uses sugar over a spoon, which is then dipped into the alcohol and lit with a flame, allowing the sugar to caramelise (but not burn) and then water is added before it turns brown, which creates the louche effect. This is a very classic Czech or modern Bohemian technique. This version echoed this technique, but used sugar discs with sumac inside, and also featured a spice-infused apple cider, which was poured over after the caramelisation had taken place.

‘The nature of this reminded me of my younger days indulging in Absinthe.’

Upon returning to my table, I had found that the sommelier had created an interesting set-up on a table to my right. A burner, a brush and what looked like a branding device. The unknown lay ahead. It was then explained that this process was called ‘wine tonging’. This is a way to cleanly decapitate bottles of vintage port whose old corks might otherwise break or disintegrate with a use of a corkscrew. Iron tongs are heated over flames until they are red-hot, and then placed on the neck of a bottle just below the cork. A brush, much like an old shaving brush, is dipped in ice cold water then applied, and, due to the drastic change in temperature, the glass breaks cleanly where the tongs were. The bottle is decanted and hot wax is added to the break points to ensure that no one is impaled. Of course I was not having a vintage bottle of wine but they wanted to share with me this marvellous 18th century technique, and marvelled I was. I felt very honoured. As you can see, the wax-dipped glass head was imprinted with the logo of Eleven Madison Park. This was then boxed and presented to me as a keepsake. Truly special.

‘A burner, a brush and what looked like a branding device.’

Butternut Squash – Roasted with Bone Marrow and Pumpkin Seeds. Wow. This was super-pleasing to the eye. The base was a butternut squash mash with discs of confit butternut squash stacked on top, the centre was a bone marrow purée and the edges were adorned with pumpkin seeds and fried thyme. This was just breathtakingly good.

Duck – Honey and Lavender Glazed with Plum and Onion. This was a fourteen-day dry-aged duck breast glazed with honey and lavender and topped with roasted coriander seeds and Sichuan pepper. It came with two side servings, a roasted parsnip mash with lemon and juniper, and Brussel sprouts roasted with blood sausage. To the side of the duck were onion, red palm and daikon radish, all brought together by an exquisite citrus duck jus, enhanced with notes of plum, brandy and black tea. The combination of spice and sweetness with the gamey duck worked so very well. The party of flavours in my mouth was dialled up to full-blown rave. This crust was incredible, and one I have to repeat myself at home.

‘The party of flavours in my mouth was dialled up to full-blown rave.’

Cato Corner Hooligan, Fondue with Baked Potato and Black Truffle. Cato Corner Hooligan is a type of cheese from Connecticut that is aged for sixty days and is a truly stinky cheese. The raw cow’s milk washed rind cheese was mixed with black truffle, then wrapped in gnocchi dough, dipped in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried. The dish also reatured potato and truffle crumbs on a bed of truffle purée, which brought a crunchy texture to the dish. A truffle vinaigrette salad was brought to the table in a wooden bowl, which created a ‘help yourself / family style’ relaxed feel, and this delivered on sharpness to balance the richness of the cheese and fried potato. This was beautiful but a little too rich for my palate. It was paired with an apple and grape cider, which also helped diffuse the richness.

‘Which created a ‘help yourself / family style’ relaxed feel.’

Baked Alaska with Apple Cider and Vanilla. Baked Alaska was created by the United States to celebrate the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire for 7.2 million dollars in 1867. At one point many thought it was a waste of money, but the subsequent discovery of gold and oil made it a very good investment after all.

A whole Baked Alaska was presented in front of me at the table. Smith and Cross Jamaican rum was lit in a small copper pan and then spooned generously over the top leaving the Alaska ‘Baking’. It featured cake soaked in apple brandy, caramel, vanilla ice cream and apple cider sorbet, all encased in Swiss meringue. Hubba hubba. Wow. Sadly it was taken away before I could stick my spoon in and demolish the whole thing, but then out came a perfect quenelle serving that looked like a perfect desert-filled rose, thanks to the bud-like finish of the swirls from the top of the meringue. I was speechless. This was just so good.

‘Sadly it was taken away before I could stick my spoon in and demolish the whole thing.’

The dessert wine was poured by someone else who instantly and automatically launched into an explanation about the wine, which is what I would expect. This just drove home for me how much was missing from the sommelier equation throughout.

Chocolate ‘Name That Milk’ – Pretzel with Sea Salt. This was quite literally a game of tasting the chocolates and matching each one up to the right animal on the card (goat, cow, buffalo, sheep) and guessing which milk had been used in each bar. The cow and goat were easy but I muddled the final two. This was a nice bit of fun to finish. It was followed by a chocolate pretzel and a digestif of apple brandy, made just for the restaurant from New York apples. This was 40% alcohol and took my breath away. Much of the flatware here was similar to that of Atera, handmade in clay by Jono Pandolfo, and once again, it worked so very well as a canvas to this sort of food and dining experience. A lovely glass container with their own homemade Granola was gifted to me at the end too, which was a lovely touch, and I said I’d compare it to our own four time award-winning one.

Wine:

  • Bruno Dangin, Cremant de Bourgogne, France
  • Domaine de la Pepiere, Les Gras Moutons, Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Loire Valley, France 2015
  • Pichler Krutzler, Klostersatz, Wachau, Austria 2015
  • Bovio Langhe, Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Italy 2014
  • La Croix de Carbonnieux, Pessac- Leognan, Bordeaux, France 2012
  • Aaron Burr Cidery, Appinette, Wurtsboro, New York
  • Alois Kracher, Cuvee Auslese, Burgenland, Austria 2013

Favourite dish: Duck – Honey and Lavender Glazed with Plum and Onion.

Napkin Fold: Yes

Menu to take home: Yes

Meal for two, including with drinks and service: £470.

Final Thought: What an exceptional experience. This was a magnificent meal from start to finish. Beautiful, well thought out dishes with stunning ingredients and flawless service with excellent product knowledge and understanding. As mentioned before, the one rather large let down was the lack of information given about each wine. Anyone can pour wine and for a restaurant of such prestige, the ball was quite spectacularly dropped here. It didn’t take away from the amazing food or service but it was very much noted and missed. The wine tonging helped to restore balance. I don’t summarise my reviews with marks out of ten, but if I did I would award Eleven Madison Park an eight because of this element of my experience. Shortly after my visit it received its accolade and is also closing its doors this summer for a major renovation. I was delighted to hear this, and was glad that I had experienced it at this time.

Eleven Madison Park
Address: 11 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Telephone: +1 212 889 0905
Hours: Friday – Sunday Lunch: 12pm – 1pm Dinner Monday – Wednesday : 5.30pm – 10pm Thursday – Sunday 5.30pm – 10.30pm
Website: www.elevenmadisonpark.com