If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know I went to Eleven Madison Park when I was in New York last week. I started planning where I’d go for my “fancy” meal during the summer and I had my heart set on EMP. It wasn’t easy to get a table. The tables for November/December were available to book from October 1st at 9am. I, like many others, was frantically refreshing the page at 08.59 in order to get a booking. I wanted to go on a Friday night but within 30seconds it was sold out. I got a table at 6.30pm on a Saturday night. I would have liked to go earlier in the day so I could get better pictures, but alas, it was not to be.
Eleven Madison Park has 3 Michelin stars and was ranked 3rd best restaurant in the world according to The Worlds 50 Best list. It offers a tasting menu that varies between 10-12 courses. There is a choice for 3 of the courses. They don’t have a menu on their website so I was intrigued to know what I would get. I arrived about 45 minutes too early because I’m an eager beaver and I didn’t want to be late. So what do you do when you’re way too early for a 3 star Michelin restaurant? You wait in McDonald’s of course!
On arrival, the maître d’ greeted me and said: “Ah yes, Ms Caulfield from Dublin”. I asked her how she knew I was from Dublin and she winked and said: “We do our research”. If their goal was to make me feel special then it worked! She walked me to my table and explained that the meal would be approx. 3 hours long and consist of 11 courses. She pointed me to a box on the table which was my first course.
Inside the box was a black and white cookie filled with apple and cheddar. I was off to a great start.
My next course was a mushroom course. Forgive me if I get these mixed up. I was very much out of my depth here. They explained every dish to me as they came out but tbh, I was so in awe of everything that I didn’t take a huge amount in. I know this sounds stupid but I felt like I was drunk with excitement. The four mushroom dishes were: Hen of the Woods with Amaranth and Horseradish, Beignet with Black Truffle, Pickled with Apple and Shallot and Tarte with Black Truffle. The Beignet with Black Truffle was what I thought would be my favourite. It was a type of arancini and pretty much the only thing I knew from what they called out. My favourite from this course, however, was the ‘Hen of the Woods’ which is a maitake mushroom. Having never tried one before I didn’t know what to expect. From Googling it, it seems it’s got some sort of magical powers. No wonder I was buzzing for the whole meal.
The third course was caviar. This was my favourite of the entire meal. Benedict with Potato, Leek and Hollandaise. The egg used here was quail egg. Like, how can I possibly eat eggs benedict again now? It was perfection.
It was served with mini English muffins. Each course was served by a different chefs/waiters/waitress which I thought was pretty cool.
The next course was foie gras. My eyes lit up when they said this. I absolutely adore foie gras. It was seared with brussels sprouts and lemon. I never ate brussels sprouts as a child (or adult) but if they are cooked with foie gras then I’m completely converted.
At this point, they asked me if I’d like a tour of the kitchen. I was hardly going to say no. Off I went with my camera and they had a section set up for me.
They invited me to try their house wine. As in their house wine, that they make. I hate wine. I think it tastes like feet but my god this wine tasted like heaven. It was served with I think was a foie gras truffle with coconut.
The kitchen was not what I was expecting at all. I’m not really sure what I expected, though. I think I’ve watched too many episodes of Ramsey Gordon’s Kitchen Nightmares. There was no screaming or shouting. Everyone had their place and everything looked like it was done with military precision.
Back at my table, my next course was honeynut squash. Not butternut squash, honeynut squash. They have, with the help of Cornell University, genetically modified a butternut squash to make it sweet. WTF? I know, right? It was served with sage, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds and a side of bread.
The bread had obviously just come out of the oven. It was piping hot and deliciously fresh.
The next course was the fish and one of the courses I had an option for. I couldn’t tell you what the other option was. As soon as I heard lobster I was sold on that. Lobster, butter poached with Rutabaga and Pear. Rutabaga is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. It was at this point that I wondered if it would be acceptable to lick the plate.
Next up was a real showpiece dish. Celery root cooked in front of me in, wait for it, a pigs bladder.
It was served with a black truffle jus. I can’t imagine the vegetarians being happy with this one. I can safely say I’ve never had anything cooked in a pig’s bladder and probably will never come across it again.
Next course was another course where I was given an option. Again, haven’t a clue what the other option was. I hear duck, I go for duck. It was honey and lavender glazed with turnip and huckleberry. I had a nasty experience with lavender ice cream before where I spit it straight back out. My first taste of this dish, I wasn’t hugely gone on it but after the second taste, I was hooked. I didn’t think the combination of duck with lavender would work but it does.
Next was the cheese course. It was a tart with apple and mixed green. The cheese inside the apple was cheddar and I think there was a bacon marmalade or jam there as well.
The dessert dish was the 3rd course I had an option for. Baked Alaska originated in the area (I didn’t know that!) so I had to go for that. Again, this was another show stopper of a dessert. It had citrus, vanilla and rum. They flambe it in front of you and they let me (because I’m clearly special) do it myself. They then took it away to slice up and serve.
I was a little too heavy handed with the rum because there was a tad too much of it on it for me.
The final course, another dessert course I had at Eleven Madison Park was a game called ‘Name That Milk”. They gave me 4 bars of chocolate and I had to guess the animal of the milk the chocolate was made from. The options were Cow, Buffalo, Goat and Sheep. I got 2 right. I couldn’t finish the chocolate. I was absolutely stuffed. I could only manage to eat half a square of each bar.
After 3 hours, I was finished. They sent me on my merry way with a chocolate pretzel and some house granola. It was a fantastic experience. One I won’t ever forget. It wouldn’t be for everyone and it’s not cheap but if I had the chance I’d do it again. The food was fantastic, the staff were brilliant, the whole experience was exceptional.