After some summer fun in the Hamptons, it’s back to business for Eleven Madison Park, which has returned to its NYC address with some big changes in store. The first is the physical renovation, in which the black booths have been removed to make way for blue fabric banquettes that open up the dining room space and make things feel more like a lively but intimate parlor room. The bar has also expanded, which is good news for those who might want to walk-in or do the less fussy 5-course $155 bar tasting experience. Even the place settings have also undergone a makeover, which you can read about more here in the NY Times.
As for the food, the fall class is full of new faces. Some seasonal newcomers include a gorgeous whole roasted pumpkin from Norwich served in a mellow dashi and a delightful pretzel bread soaked in a sauce made of cheddar and a beer from Threes Brewing that evokes the autumnal festivities of Oktoberfest. The flashiest of the new offerings is the caviar course, which involves an elaborate presentation of someone cutting an elegant piece of savory sturgeon cheese cake on an everything bagel crust served with a spoonful of special farm-raised Idaho sturgeon caviar eggs that can only be had at Eleven Madison Park. It would definitely win the superlative of Most Decadent. One of the new dishes, the little neck clam, looks deceptively simple, but you can tell that extreme skill was behind carefully layering on the clams like symmetrical scales on top of some fennel.
The only returning class members you might recognize are the signature savory black and white cheddar cookies and the fantastic dry-aged duck with a lavender, honey and sichuan peppercorn rub. Biting into the crisp, seasoned skin and the succulent duck meat of the signature dish makes for a very welcoming homecoming. The rookies make a very strong showing, however, and we might see the butter-poached lobster or the caviar cheesecake reach the ranks of classic veteran in a few years. It’s an impressive class, and getting a spot here like all elite schools in the city requires some work and potentially a waitlist, but tough admissions are worth it for the Best Restaurant in the World.