Eleven Madision Park is the one NYT four-star restaurant that feels accessible to the little people. Everyone likes to talk about the lunch at Jean George being a deal. They say the food is the same in the Nougatine dining room, which is their less formal dining room, but let's face it - less formal somehow feels less good. Sitting in a different room inherently means you get a different experience. All the other four-star places are super fancy. Per Se is out of reach for me, with prix fixe being $275 or so. Then by definition Masa is like.. on another planet. Le Bernadin and Daniel don't offer a lunch that's within reach. Although now the rumor is that Eleven Madison Park is going to stop doing their super awesome $28 dollar two-course lunch menu. So of course I had to try to go before the deal of the decade comes to an end.
One thing I have to tell you folks who want to photograph your EMP food... when you make your reservation, be sure to ask not to sit in an area that's dark. Almost the entire dining room bathes in light, except this little nook in the back where you'll mostly get yellow light (from light bulbs). Yea you don't want those seats if you want to take pictures, otherwise you'll have to blow out your pictures like I did. Sadness.
With that out of the way, let's get to the food! From Kathy's blog post, I kind of knew what the things looked like even before ordering. I started off with some spatzle that had a piece of pork on top. Really I just ordered it for the piece of pork because I wanted something with carbs but still had some protein that looked interesting. The sauce that came with the spatzle had a mustardy tang to it. Someone with a more refined palate could tell you more, but I could just tell you it was creamy and a bowl of carbs really fills ya up. Oh and the pork... the pork... I don't know what they do with the skin but it has crunch. It crunches harder than a kettle cooked potato chip. Essentially it was savory pork candy. Addictive and satisfying.
Steph's sister was with us that day and she had the Tagliolini with Alaskan King Crab. It looked really delicious and she polished off her plate so I'm assuming it's pretty awesome. And here is where I kick myself because Steph had a delicious appetizer as well but I was too busy eating to take a picture. Sadness again, blogger fail. And since Eleven Madison Park is redoing the menu, they don't have a copy of the menu on their website.
Moving on to the main courses... Steph's sister had the pork dish. Here, if you visit the Eleven Madison Park page at Food in Mouth, you'll see links to other reviews. Check out the headliner picture from the one by Serious Eats. You'll see the progression of the dish from last year (around this time) to this year. Gone are the root vegetables and mushrooms. In are the little cherries. The piece of loin is the same, but for the crisp pork, it's pork belly now instead of crisped up confit of pork. This is an improvement because that skin... is crack.
Steph had the bouillabaisse. This dish looks almost exactly the same from the SE folks had a year ago, but theirs had skin. Steph seemed satisfied with her dish although two fish dishes in a row left her belly unsatisfied. I guess the lesson to take from that is the portions at fancy restaurants will leave you wanting unless you stuff your face with the carbs. So yea watch out for that... EMP doesn't do TGI Friday portion sizes.
I had the Colorado lamb. There were some peas and yogurt sauce on the side. The lamb was done three ways. One was some sort of tenderloin, one was a crisp piece of lamb, and one was little fried nuggets (of sweetbread?). See, I should pay attention to the menu at expensive restaurants when they're about to take the menu off of their website. It was a fine dish, but later on in the day I kept burping up the baby sheep that was in my stomach. Sometimes those baby sheep just kick me in the ass.
For dessert, Eleven Madison Park pulls out this dessert cart. It's very difficult to not pick anything you know, cuz it's staring at you in the face. It's $12 bucks so it's exactly an easy decision. But when it's right in your face, it's hard to say no when the entrees leave you wanting more to eat. So we all got something but since I'm a lazy fuck, I didn't crop those pictures. The chocolate caramel tart was baller though.
Eating lunch at Eleven Madison Park is pretty awesome. The dining room is bright and spacious, and the food is really delicious. Just make sure you pick something with carbs so you fill up a bit more. Who knows what the new lunch menu will look like, but rumors are that it'll be $56 for 3-courses. It's less of a deal and might take EMP out of the running for being an accessible four-star experience. I know the odds of me splurging for dinner on a four-star meal is pretty low so it's sad to hear the 2-course lunch is going to be gone. But there's no way restaurants that are awesome can afford to do lunches at $28 forever. I'm just glad that I got to try it before they got rid of it.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10010
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