You may remember that in 2013 I went to Eleven Madison Park. It was then and there that I had THE BEST F*CKING meal of a lifetime. There have been many meals since then that certainly deserve to be up there with Eleven Madison Park, but none have really taken my breath away quite the same. I chose to revisit EMP hoping The Annoyer could experience the same greatness. When I visited in 2013, EMP was #5 on the World’s Best 50 Restaurant list, the highest rated American restaurant. When I booked the reservation in February, it had risen to the #3 spot. Shortly before we dined here in April, it had risen to the very top spot. It felt really special to be dining at the #1 RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD, for my birthday to boot. The restaurant is slated to close for a month-long renovation. In celebration for all they have accomplished, the meal we were having was presented to us as their “greatest hits” of the last 11 year, during which time Chef Daniel Humm helmed the kitchen.
Gourges grated gruyere (2006)
Wonderfully light and delicately cheesy.
Sea Urchin Cappuccino peekytoe crab and cauliflower (2006)
The uni, crab, and cauliflower all have their own inherent sweetness that created a marvelous concoction of balanced flavors. The puff pastry tuille was a fun textural complement. It was like the best crab salad of your life. YUMS!!
Little Neck Clam clambake with velouté and parker house rolls (2011)
This was a fun reinterpretation of a “Long Island clambake.” Not being from the East Coast, I can only pretend to know what one of these entails. Either way, I still found the presentation to be fun and creative. Real seaweed was served table side steaming away. At the center was a small teapot of silky delicate and flavorful clam broth.
While each clam was but a small bite, it was satisfying and delicious in its own right.
Clam with spring herbs.
The clam salad here was served with fava beans and pickled radishes. It was probably my favorite of them all.
The Parker House roll was soft, buttery, and bite sized. I wished for 5 more.
Prawn roulade with avocado and yogurt (2007)
Chef Humm has such a skill making things taste both simple, yet delicate and perfectly flavored and balanced. Being a shrimp fan, I was totally in love. YUMS!
Foie Gras torchon with maple syrup and pain d’epice (2004)
The foie gras was nothing short of perfection. Creamy, livery, savory and sweet from the maple syrup encased in the center. Aside from being very delicious, this torchon was significant in the history of EMP. It was first served to Danny Meyer (restauranteur and previous owner of EMP until 2011) while Chef Humm was still working in SF. He credits the move out to NYC to the success of this very dish. YUMS!!!
Carrot tartare with rye toast and condiments (2012)
This was a familiar favorite that I simply adored during my last visit. I was glad The Annoyer was able to experience it. Locally grown carrots are ground table side to be served like a tartare, as a homage to the great steakhouse of NYC at that time serving beef tartare. You are free to add as few or as many of the ingredients below. The squeeze bottles contained mustard oil and a spicy carrot vinaigrette.
Pickled quail egg yolk, mustard, sunflower seeds, dried smoked blue fish powder, horseradish, snap peas, chives, pickled mustard seeds, and sea salt.
Mixed all together with the carrots made for a most unique and interesting dish. I guess I was not as wowed with the dish this time, but certainly The Annoyer expressed the impressed wonderment I was expecting. He felt this was probably one of his most favorite dishes of the night. For EMP, this has become one of their signature and iconic dishes.
Turbot poached zucchini and squash blossom (2007)
The turbot was another familiar dish, though last time it was black bass that was served in this fashion. The presentation was stellar, using the zucchini to mimic fish scales. Unfortunately, the fish was rather salty. The creamy but tangy sauce helped to lessen that, but it was not enough. It was the one black mark in an otherwise flawless meal.
The service at EMP was outstanding. Days before our reservation, the restaurant reached out to me to ask if I had any special requests. I asked to have a table with good lighting for my blog and if it would be possible to have a kitchen tour. Half way through our meal, they took us back to watch the magic happen.
I would have been happy with that alone, but while talking to us about the behind the scenes action, they crafted a fun drink using liquid nitrogen for each of us. They noticed The Annoyer was not partaking in any alcohol that evening and were sure to make him a non alcoholic beverage to complement my very faintly alcoholic one.
Peach Arnold Palmer
Tasty, refreshing, very light on the alcohol. It was more about show and presentation than anything, but I was delighted enough.
Winter in Provence black truffle, celery root, potato and chèvre frais (2009)
Some more tableside preparation for our next dish. One bottle contained black truffle and celery root and the other a really fancy mashed potatoes. It was finished with a celery root and black truffle vinaigrette.
I can’t say that I’ve had food that was sprayed out of bottles into a bowl before. A totally unappealing dish by appearances alone, but it was intensely flavorful and rich. I joked it was like the most delicious baby food I’ve ever had. Savory, creamy, hearty, delightful. Having teeth is overrated. YUMS!!!
Suckling Pig confit with rhubarb, leeks, and cipollini onions (2010)
The skin on the suckling pig was out of the world crispy and perfectly rendered. The leeks and cipolini onions added more delicious savoriness. The rhubarb provided some balanced sweet tangy notes.
Chicken poached with black truffle and asparagus (2010)
Apparently the sous-vide technique was all the rage in 2010. Black truffle was stuffed under the skin. It was accompanied by small medallions of potato and asparagus. The dish felt very classic. For chicken, it was very well done, but hardly stood a chance against the suckling pig.
Milk & Honey dehydrated milk foam and bee pollen (2010)
I was so in love with this simple dessert of milk and honey. It was like milky iciness meets creamy ice cream-like concoction with a sweet fragrant floral center of oozing golden honey. Words cannot do this one justice. YUMS!!!
Chocolate palette with peanut butter and popcorn ice cream (2008)
The chocolate was flawless and I didn’t actually mind the peanut butter component. The best part was the popcorn ice cream!
Mignardises raspberry linzer, chocolate hazelnut, pistachio financier, blackberry macaron, tropezienne, olive oil pate de fueille, passionfruit bon bon
The passionfruit one was probably my favorite.
Interestingly that they still end the meal with this wretchedly strong brandy. It does have an apple aroma, but it burns going down the throat. I could not have more than a sip. Our waiter told us more people finish the entire bottle than we would think.
Eleven Madison Park Granola
I’m glad this part of the meal remains unchanged, and actually got upgraded with a cooler jar. This was another aspect of the meal that did not impress me as much since I’ve actually succeeded in recreating the granola at home.
While a little bit of the awe and wonderment I carried with me from my first experience at EMP was slightly lost during this meal, it being my second visit with a few repeat dishes, I was still very happy with the food and experience here. The meal was unique in that each description of the dishes came with a bit of restaurant history. You really experienced the evolution of the restaurant through the food. Some dishes felt dated, like the winter in provence and sous-vide chicken. But some dishes will forever and always be his signature creations, like the carrot tartare, which frankly should go down in the books as one of the best and most creative dishes ever made. Taken altogether, the menu is a great representation of Chef Humm’s hard work building EMP into the restaurant that it is today. While the food was flawless, save for the salty turbot, the service was equally impeccable. The attention to detail was superb. This place is totally worthy of 3 Michelin stars as well as its top place in the world.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here