Although I spent my birthday at Le Bernardin, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in New York City (and maybe the world), that wasn’t my favorite dining experience on my trip to NYC. This was. I had been to Eleven Madison Park once before, a couple of years ago and had been wanting to go back ever since. Danny Meyer, the great New York City restaurateur, opened EMP in 1998. In 2006, the restaurant was changed from a French bistro to a fine dining establishment to better fit the grandiose Art Deco space it’s located in. When the first review from the New York Observer stated the restaurant needed “more Miles Davis”, a little research on what that meant concluded with a series of words most often used to describe the great jazz legend that now hang on the entrance to the kitchen and act as words of inspiration to the whole staff:
2006 was also the year Daniel Humm (voted Best Chef New York City, 2010 by the James Beard Foundation) took over the EMP kitchen. Lunch at EMP was the last meal of a 4-day orgy of memorable dining experiences in NYC, and what a meal it was! I love the new “minimalist grid” menu which lets you chose the main ingredient of each one of your courses then lets the kitchen work its magic around that ingredient. We went for the 4 course menu, which – as you will see in the pictures below – ended being more like a 10-course magical meal.
The meal started off with 3 appetizers before we even got to the bread service and our meal. I could have eaten 10 times the amount of each one of these appetizers. In fact, I could have made a whole meal out of each and every one of the dishes served that day.
The bread service is an absolutely fascinating ritual at Eleven Madison Park. I watched it at our table and then again at a few tables around us and it was just as mesmerizing every time. The goat butter is divine and the home-made bread delicious.
POST DESSERT MIGNARDISES
Just in case we haven’t had enough food and were still hungry…
BEHIND THE SCENES
Dining at EMP is not just about the food, it’s about the whole dining experience. Every single member of the staff is lovely, friendly, polite, knowledgeable, attentive and is there to make your dining experience memorable. I’d like to think that they were extra attentive with our table because it was my birthday and also because I was so enthusiastic about being there! The lovely birthday wish on my dessert plate was a great surprise, and so was an invitation to take a tour of the kitchen! We started in the service area, which was built this past fall with the purpose of eliminating the service stations in the restaurant thus reducing the noise level. The service area is where the bread trays and different kinds of coffees are prepared and where all the silverware and Limoges dinnerware are stored.
From there we moved into the kitchen, which was busy with 20 or more people all working their stations in preparation for that night’s dinner service. Chef Daniel Humm was away that day but on the kitchen walls was that Miles Davis poster among other words of wisdom and inspiration.
Another surprise awaited us in the kitchen… Mark (the pastry sous-chef, aka the alchemist) made us a frozen Hemingway daiquiri right before our eyes using liquid nitrogen while we watched the kitchen action. The frozen concoction included some grapefruit foam and pop rocks at the bottom of the glass for an added surprise!
That frozen daiquiri was the cherry on top of the amazing sundae that was that lunch. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a delightful dining experience. Eleven Madison Park now has a permanent place on my New York restaurant list, in fact it probably has the top spot on my list of all-time favorite restaurants. I am already planning my next trip to the big apple because I can’t wait to go back!
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY
212 889 0905
Monday–Friday noon – 2:00pm
Monday–Saturday 5:30pm – 10:00pm