The number one restaurant on the planet is Eleven Madison Park, in San Pellegrino’s revered top 50 World’s Best Restaurant list. But are they resting on their laurels? No, in fact they are closing down until the fall to renovate their kitchen and dining room.
American Express Centurion held a private dinner on June 10th with a menu designed exclusively for the evening. Eleven years were celebrated with the most iconic dishes served over those wonderful years.
Daniel Humm, part owner and chef has received numerous accolades over the years – four stars in the New York Times and seven James Beard Awards, including Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Restaurant in America. He also has three Michelin stars, as well as being number one in 2017. His partner Will Guidara, who became the general manager of the restaurant in 2006, has helped transform it into the fine dining destination that it has become. In 2011, Will and Chef Daniel purchased the restaurant from Danny Meyer and began their rise and journey together. So, when I heard about this opportunity to eat at the “last dinner”, I jumped at the chance.
It is hard to believe that this gorgeous Art Deco space will be changed, but they will keep the pendant fixtures.
Our evening began with a cocktail hour upstairs in a private party room, beautiful glass windows overlooked the iconic restaurant. They poured bottomless glasses of Dom Perignon from 2006, the year they bought the restaurant. We mingled with the other guests who flew in from all over the world, 85 people in total. A cornucopia of small bites were passed, from foie gras macarons to cornets of sweet breads, and thimbles of hamachi wrapped with cucumber and topped with tobiko. There was beet marshmallows, sweet pea and carrot lollipops, and an array of beautiful creations.
We were given place cards and were seated with a lovely couple from Calgary. Only four seats were allotted to the Canadians. What followed was a nine-course tasting menu with eight additional superb wines, either from 1998, the year the restaurant opened, or 2006, the year the duo took it over. Daniel and Will gave a small speech and talked about the restaurant’s history, and its future plans, as well as introducing the dinner.
The first course was a sea urchin cappuccino with peekytoe crab and cauliflower. This was the first dish made for the original restaurant. It was served to guests as an amuse-bouche. They poured a 1998 Dom Perignon P2, the year the restaurant originally opened. The next course was my personal favourite, an eggs Benedict served with Petrossian caviar, ham and hollandaise, presented with miniature brioche. Next up, we were poured a Domaine Blain Gagnard, Montrachet Grand Cru 2006 to go with our prawn roulade with avocado, lime and yogurt. Our fourth dish was a rich foie gras filled with maple syrup (great for the Canadians- ‘eh’), and an apple roll to spread the liver on. It had the perfect pairing of Chateau Climens 2006 – Premier Cru Sauternes. The most visually appealing course was next, the turbot that was poached and topped with zucchini “scales”, and a side of squash blossom, stuffed with ratatouille. We had a J-L Chave, Hermitage Blanc from the Rhone valley that paired perfectly. Then we switched to meat, with Chef Humm’s famous crispy, suckling pig, a confit of rhubarb, and leeks and the sweetest cipollini onion I have ever tasted. We enjoyed a 1998 Luciano Sandrone Le Vigne, Barolo from Piedmont to accompany. Next up, the most tender poached chicken (sous vide), with black truffles, potato, and asparagus. It was served with another outstanding wine – a burgundy from 1997, Domaine Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France. To end this extravaganza, we had the chef’s famous milk and honey dessert, which was not my favourite course of the evening but was totally saved with the 1998 Chateau D’Yquem (a personal favourite wine of mine). It is a wonder I could walk a straight line after this meal … thank goodness for Uber. Each table was served a plate of the most beautiful miniature petit fours.
Eleven Madison Park was not the best meal I have ever had, it didn’t produce an altered state of consciousness or anything, but it is still one of New York’s temples of fine dining. However, the wines we had paired with dinner were a standout and it was still an absolutely memorable evening.
I was surprised that a three-star restaurant and voted the best in the world didn’t offer a place for women to put their handbags. I was also shocked to see to bathrooms run out of toilet paper, which was not replaced. Further, I wondered why wines were not offered to be refilled if we finished our glass. And, if I am being honest, the food could have been served hotter. But, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to serve 85 people a meal of this caliber, at the same time. These things are remediable details.
The meal was still a total indulgence, providing a culinary adventure that was expertly served in a magnificent art deco setting. Everything that adorned the plates was thoughtfully conceived and gorgeously executed.
They are opening up a pop-up in East Hampton for three months this summer, during the restaurant’s closing so they can update the kitchen and dining room. They could really leave everything as is, but this legendary restaurant has a commitment to continue its exceptional attention to detail and refined dining.