Eleven Madison Park: Greatest Hits (feat. Wine Pairing)
Hello! And, welcome back to Ngo Your Meal. Today, I'm excited to share our FINAL review of 2017. As you may already know, the crown for the World's Best Restaurant in 2017 was given to one of New York's most renown fine dining institutions: Eleven Madison Park. That being said, I found it fitting to end the year with the best of the best.
For your reference, Eleven Madison Park is owned by Will Guidara and Daniel Humm (chef). Humm started working at EMP in 2006 when the restaurant was still owned by Danny Meyer. Today, EMP focuses on American and Modern European cuisine. I came here with my parents and Steph on June 8th, 2017. EMP was closing for renovation the next day and reopening in September with a revamped kitchen, an enhanced dining room, and a new menu.
To celebrate their achievement and to mark the end of an era, the tasting course on the evening of our visit showcased classic dishes that have appeared on their menu throughout the years. My dad and I got the wine pairing (additional $175 per person). Spoiler alert: I got obliterated. I don't think I've ever gotten that wasted at a three-star Michelin restaurant.
I highly recommend it.
Address: 11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010
2006 Gougeres with Grated Gruyere
2006 Sea Urchin Cappuccino with Peeky Toe Crab and Cauliflower
2011 Little Neck Clam Clambake with Velouté and Parker House Rolls
2007 Prawn Roulade with Avocado and Yogurt
2004 Foie Gras Torchon with Maple Syrup and Pain D'Epices
2012 Carrot Tartare with Rye Toast and Condiments
2007 Turbot with Poached Zucchini and Squash Blossom
2009 Winter in Provence Black Truffle, Celery Root, Potato, and Chèvre Frais
2010 Poached Chicken with Black Truffles, Potato, and Asparagus
2002 Suckling Pig Confit with Rhubarb, Leeks, and Cipollini Onion
2010 Milk and Honey with Dehydrated Milk Foam and Bee Pollen
2008 Chocolate Palette with Peanut Butter and Popcorn Ice Cream
Bruno Dangin, Prestige de Narcès, Crémant de Bourgogne, France 2014
Brooklyn Brewery, Sorachi Ace Saison, Brooklyn, New York
Manzairaku, Yamahai Junmai, Hakusan, Ishikawa, Japan
Tirecul la Gravière, Cuvée Madame, Monbazillac, France 1998
Empire Estate, Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York 2015
Pichler-Krutzler, Grüner Veltliner, Frauengärten, Wachau, Austria 2015
Punta Crena, Vigneto Ca Da Rena, Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Italy 2014
Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Couvent des Thorins, Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais, France 2014
Alois Kracher, Burgenland, Austria 2015
Ferreira 20 Year Tawny Port, Portugal
St. George Apple Brandy
To start, we had some Gougeres with Grated Gruyere Cheese (see above). A gougere (pronounced "GOO-GEE-AIR" - more or less) is a savory pastry made with dough and cheese. This is the only dish, since 2006, to have never left the menu.
These were like little cheese puffs. The cheese was fully integrated into the dough, which was a bit confusing. It wasn't just stuffed with cheese. Am I eating cheese that looks like dough? Am I eating dough that tastes like cheese? It was great.
Next, we had a Sea Urchin Cappuccino with Peekytoe Crab and Cauliflower (see above). This was the first amuse-bouche added to the menu in 2006. It's served in a martini glass, which is pretty cool. On top, you'll notice a sea urchin foam, light and flavorful. Beneath the surface, there are generous cuts of sweet Peekytoe crab meat.
Our first drink to pair with the sea urchin cappuccino was a 2014 Bruno Dangin, Prestige de Narcès, Crémant de Bourgogne (see above). This French wine is a bubbly made with 100% pinot noir grape. It's made the same way as champagne but it's made in Burgundy. Nice.
Next, this awesome dish blessed our table. Above, you'll see EMP's Little Neck Clambake. This was EMP's first communal course that was introduced in 2011. The server poured seaweed water over the hot stones. As the steam rose, we noticed that the scent was reminiscent of the ocean.
The clam velouté (pronounced "VE-LU-TAY") (see above) was like a clam chowder but imagine something more creamy and smooth. It had an intense clam flavor but it wasn't overly thick or heavy. A velouté is actually a French sauce made with flour, butter, and fish/meat stock. The term itself means velvet.
The dish also came with a few different variations of clams as well as some Parker House rolls. The inside was fluffy and buttery while the outside had a soft crust.
The clambake was paired with a Sorachi Ace beer from the Brooklyn Brewery. This was an interesting beer that had lemongrass and thyme notes. It was pretty interesting. I'll definitely be having more of this in the future when I see it.
Next, we had a California roll (see above). Just kidding! It's actually way more complex than that. Above, you'll see the Prawn Roulade. This dish was on EMP's menu in 2007. This one is made with Prawns, Crème fraîche, Diced Green Apples, Lime Juice, and Thinly Sliced Avocado. It was also dressed with Yogurt, Lobster Roe, and Lobster Oil on the side.
This one was seriously amazing. I didn't even want to touch it because it looked so immaculate. But, after the first bite, I could not stop eating. It's like a California roll 2.0 without any distractions.
The pairing for this dish was a Manzairaku Yamahai Junmai sake. This sake is from the western coast of Japan near Hakusan city, which is known for its clean water and air. This sake was quite robust in flavor. The word "Yamahai" describes the way the sake is brewed (without lactic acid). This process takes twice as long and bestows a nice umami taste to the sake.
After the roulade, we had their Foie Gras torchon (from 2004), which actually helped get Daniel Humm his job at EMP. When we cut open the foie gras, we were surprised to see that maple syrup started flowing out of the center. The foie gras was not too rich. It was buttery and creamy but not thick like a typical terrine. The maple syrup gave it potential as a dessert. It was delectable.
It came with Apple and Rye Bread. I needed a second serving of bread because I was savoring the foie gras too slowly. I liked this one more than the supplemental foie gras at Per Se.
For the wine pairing, we got a 1998 Tirecul la Gravière, Cuvée Madame from the small village of Monbazillac (pronounced "MON-BA-ZEE-YAK") in the southwestern part of France.
FUN FACT: I was 6 when this wine was made. This is among some of the best sweet white wines in the world. This winery's proprietors are known for their unique process of managing their humble 20-acre property. The grapes (not the stem!) are individually picked at optimal ripeness. The Cuvée Madame is only made in successful vintages. That being said, this wine is a rare find.
After the foie gras, someone started setting up a meat grinder on our dining table (see above). It was pretty funny and random. Expecting steak tartare, we were shook when the server brought out a handful of young carrots instead. This dish is from 2012 and is EMP's take on steak tartare but with a focus on carrots from the Hudson Valley. The soil in this environment is rich in nutrients and specializes in growing some of the best root crops in all of New York.
The carrots are sweeter in flavor and had been cooked in sunflower oil and Amagansett Sea Salt. The carrots were carefully ground and portioned onto each of our plates. EMP's carrot tartare was interactive in that you could build your own tartare based on whichever condiments interested you. The small plates included Pickled Quail Egg Yolk, English Pea Mustard, Roasted Sunflower Seeds, Dried and Smoked Blue Fish, Grated Horseradish, Snap Peas, Sliced Chives, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Amagansett Sea Salt, Mustard Oil, and a Spicy Carrot Vinaigrette.
As explained by our server, there was no right or wrong way to eat this dish. We were encouraged to simply "have fun". I thought that was awesome and unique to EMP.
To complement the flavors of the Hudson Valley, the wine pairing was also NY-based and sourced from the Finger Lakes (in upstate New York, near Lake Eerie and the Canadian border). This area has a lot of prominent Rieslings, including this 2015 Empire Estate.
Very shortly after the carrot tartare, we were served a fish dish: Turbot with Poached Zucchini and Squash Blossom. This dish is from 2007. From afar, the baby zucchini slices could be mistaken for scales. The squash blossom also contains a little secret made of ratatouille.
On the side, you'll see a saffron nage, which is actually a liquid used for poaching seafood. It's usually flavored with white wine and various herbs/vegetables. This liquid is then reduced and thickened to form a sauce.
This dank plate was paired with a cool Austrian wine (see above). This 2015 Pichler-Krutzler, Grüner Veltliner, Frauengärten hails from Wachau, Austria. It was light and refreshing.
Next, we were invited into the kitchen for a quick palate cleanser. PRO TIP: When you reserve, you can add in the notes section that you would like to see the kitchen. Most three star Michelin restaurants in NYC will let you do this.
The kitchen was intense. We stood off to the side for about 10 minutes as we enjoyed our frozen cocktail. Each person in the kitchen seemed to operate with purpose. It was crazy organized. I liked that. Check out the above picture of me, my family... and Miles Davis.
We also got to see Daniel Humm at work! (scroll down to see a picture).
The frozen cocktail was like a whiskey sour with grapes. It was EMP's take on grape soda. Here, you'll notice that the grape concoction was frozen into a sphere. We were instructed to crack open the sphere before enjoying our drink.
The cocktail had pop rocks in it too! That was pretty awesome. I'm starting to make my own cocktails at home so I may want to experiment with pop rocks as well.
When we got back to our table, we had a dish called Winter in Provence. Our server explained that Provence is located in southeastern France and is known for its beautiful summer ingredients like tomatoes. However, with this dish, EMP wanted to share the other seasonal flavors of Provence as well.
Winter in Provence was first introduced in 2009. This was the first dish that was prepared in the dining area instead of the kitchen. They called this a table-side presentation. The dish was inspired by molecular gastronomy and some of the latest technology at the time. First, our server prepared two foams, one made with potato and the other with goat cheese.
On the plate, we also had a purée of celery root, some black truffle, and a celery vinaigrette.
Our Winter in Provence was paired with a 2014 Punta Crena, Vigneto Ca Da Rena (see above). This wine comes from the Riviera Ligure di Ponente region of the western coast of Italy. The family at this vineyard has been farming here for over 500 years. This wine had a classic taste and great texture.
Finally, for our main course, we were given the option between Poached Chicken (2010) or a Suckling Pig Confit (2002). Steph chose the Poached Chicken (see above). It was prepared by way of sous-vide, a cooking technique that utilizes a water bath to slow cook meat, fish, or even vegetables. This process helps cook the meat thoroughly and, due to its lengthy procedure, it also helps tenderize the meat.
EMP placed black truffles between the meat and the skin of the chicken. It looked pretty crazy actually.
I chose the Suckling Pig Confit. This is the first signature dish that Daniel Humm brought from Switzerland. If you look closely, it seems like a natural cut of pork belly because the crispy skin still appears to be intact. However, the meat itself seemed to have already been pulled apart and then reconstructed.
Even without that silky layer of fat that I love so much, I still thought this dish was delicious. The pig came with Rhubarb, Leeks, and Cipollini Onion.
The wine for our Suckling Pig was a 2014 Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Couvent des Thorins, Moulin-à-Vent from Burgundy, France. This red wine is a Beaujolais, which means it is generally made with the Gamay grape varietal, characterized by thin skin and low amounts of tannins. This wine is light, fruity, and low-bodied.
At last, it was time for dessert. The first one was called Milk and Honey, a dish from 2010. This one came with Milk Ice Cream, Dehydrated Milk Foam, and Bee Pollen. This was one of my favorite dishes! The milk foam and ice cream were so light and airy that it felt as if I were eating nothing but pure flavor. Luscious, golden honey started to ooze out of the ball of ice cream upon shattering its fragile exterior.
This dessert was paired with a 2015 Alois Kracher from Burgenland in Austria. The late Alois Kracher was one of the most famous wine makers in Austria. The family winery is now run by his son Gerhard. The Alois Kracher wine is known for its strong concentration of fruity and honey flavors.
The second of three desserts was a Chocolate Palette with Peanut Butter and Popcorn Ice Cream. The chocolate was smooth, silky, and rich. It went nicely with the saltiness of the popcorn ice cream.
This chocolate dessert also paired well with the Ferreira 20 Year Tawny Port from Portugal. A Tawny Port is a fortified wine that has been aged in oak barrels for a longer period of time. A typical port will look dark red. The longer a tawny port spends in a wooden cask, the more the color starts to fade, as you can see in the picture above. This wine is sweet with nutty and woody characteristics. It's full-bodied and velvety, which gives it a nice elegant feel.
At last, we ended the meal with some assorted mignardises (pronounced "MIN-YAR-DEEZ"). You can choose from this selection of 6 different bite-sized desserts (passionfruit bon bon, olive oil pâte de feuille, tropezienne, blackberry lemon verbena macaron, pistachio financier, chocolate hazelnut tart, and raspberry linzer).
I went for one of each and I think the blackberry lemon verbena macaron was my favorite!
The final digestif was EMP's St. George Apple Brandy. DAMN. This was strong but so good. I loved the strong apple aromas but the taste was
intensely spirit forward. I still liked it though. I could have sat here for another hour enjoying this but, alas, I was wasted. It was time to go home.
Overall, this was an awesome meal. I'm glad we got to try some of their greatest hits with this retrospective menu. I want to visit again so I can try their updated tasting course!
Thanks for reading! Enjoy the holidays and see you in 2018!