Eleven Madison Park. This restaurant needs no introduction. Four stars from The New York Times. Three Michelin Stars. No. 4 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. If you’re lucky enough to get a table, which is quite difficult to do, and a quick search on Opentable revealed no availability at all for the next 4 weeks, then you can be pretty confident that you will sit down to one of the best meals of your life.
I went to Eleven Madison Park over 10 years ago, which was during a different time, before all the accolades came rolling in. To me, it seemed like a pretty standard fine dining restaurant serving solid but very corporate food. Everyone kept telling me that so much had changed since then, but I was still anchored to my early, uninspired memories there. And it didn’t help that I was on an odd double date at the time, where a friend of ours wanted to sit next to us but keep the conversations separate.
I finally got my act together and returned to the new and improved Eleven Madison Park, which happened in the most random way. Chase Sapphire was selling tickets to cardholders to an exclusive tasting dinner event at Eleven Madison Park for $210 a person, and Ruoxi was all over this, calling Chase immediately for tickets as soon as he saw the event posted. $210 for a 5 course dinner with wine pairings, tax and tip included. I would say this is one of the best fine dining deals, ever.
We invited two of our dear friends, Liz and Dan, to enjoy this dinner with us. No awkward “separate but equal” double date this time! The event was held in a private room upstairs, and in the first hour, over light drinks and passed hors d’oeuvres, Chef Daniel Humm personally greeted and mingled with each one of his guests. For someone who has won so many awards, he is surprisingly very humble and low-key, which I thought was great. He wasn’t one of those over-the-top, haughty personalities that you see on Food Network or Top Chef, thank god. After about an hour of noshing on small bites, we were ready for the tasting to begin.
The food absolutely lived up to expectations. The best way to describe the cooking here is seasonal New American. You can see some inspiration from the Old World cuisines, particularly from France, but the interpretation is a very clean and balanced one. Nothing is over salted or too rich, even if there’s foie gras involved, and there’s a purpose to every ingredient, which means you can actually taste everything. I found this clarity particularly impressive. And I also liked the restaurant’s classical approach to cooking. There’s no molecular gastronomy bells and whistles here, and there doesn’t need to be, when the food alone speaks for itself, quite eloquently.
It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I still have a soft spot for Blue Hill, but this is right up there with it. If you need a reason to splurge and celebrate in the city, I can’t think of a better place. I’ve posted pictures of each course of our tasting menu so that you can get a glimpse of what to expect if you ever do the tasting there. I’m sure the menu will change depending on seasonality, and perhaps a few tweaks were made for the Chase event, but I do know that the meal will be good, regardless of the time of year or the reason.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave (between 24th and 25th St)
New York, NY 10010