Eleven Madison Park
Last week, I had one of my food dreams come true; I dined at Eleven Madison Park. Touted as one of the best restaurants in the world, it's been on my list for years. And much to my luck, we had an opportunity to experience the wonders of this famed establishment. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. Both Will and I left the four hour dinner surmising that it reminded us of a decadent dream. The aromas, tastes, and treats still linger in our memories.
The restaurant is situated upon Madison Square Park in the Metropolitan Life North Building, an Art Deco masterpiece. As you enter the sanctuary, it's easy to pause and take in the soaring ceilings, golden hues, simple Art Deco ornamentation, and a room abuzz with excitement and chatter. You are immediately greeted and escorted to your table; there is no host stand, reservation book, or menus being passed out (only a wine tome).
Servers part the seas as one walks through the dining room. I found myself at points being an observer, eyeing the gracefulness of the front of house, weaving in and out of banquettes, perfecting every diner's experience with the utmost attention to detail. Everyone is an actor playing a role of the play. You are the audience member who pays the exorbitant bill, but gets to indulge over the course of an evening.
We began the meal with drinks; I had a glass of champagne from the champagne cart and our host ordered a lovely bottle of Napa Cabernet. The decanting process involved a cart with a live flame, rod iron tongs, and wax. One has to see it to believe it, but the intricate and laborious pony show worked, and I have the cork to prove it.
After drinks were accounted for, our server verbally went over the evening's "menu," which is a curated set of many small plates and tastes. Starting the evening, we snacked on an assortment of canapes and then had a playful "brunch" course with caviar, eggs Benedict, and mini English muffins. Probably the most expensive brunch meal I've had, but one of the best. The tin of creamy egg topped with salty sturgeon caviar sandwiched between buttery muffins was savory and delightful.
Other moments included seared foie gras; lobster prepared tableside with smoked and steamed fennel, and clams, in a fragrant Bouillabasse; delicata squash with bone marrow; and honey and lavender glazed duck breast.
Dessert featured Baked Alaska, aflame on the table and finished in the kitchen. We also played a little game of "name that milk" in mini chocolate bars, and snacked on chocolate covered pretzels with our own bottle of apple brandy.
The attention to detail was unmatched. We departed with an individual print out of our menu as a souvenir and our own canister of the famed granola, which I wish I could stock pile.
When reflecting on the experience, I keep coming back to the service and overall vibe of the restaurant. While it's definitely showy, it's not stuffy. Our party remained relaxed, impressed, and comfortable throughout.
Eleven Madison Park exceeded my expectations in ambiance, service, and food. I would highly recommend the splurge for a special occasion. While I await my next visit, I'll keep just keep dreaming of returning to that whimsical night.