Kieran and I just got back from a week in New York. To say I loved it would be an understatement. We’re already planning to go back next year; it’s such a vibrant, interesting place that I don’t think you could ever get bored of it. We certainly didn’t get bored of the food. We went from Michelin to street food, from Korean to pizza and back again. You may be surprised at which food we preferred…
Firstly, 3 Michelin starred Eleven Madison Park.
This restaurant only has one taster menu; there’s no a la carte. So everyone has the same thing, which presumably would mean that the menu would be innovative and the food would be perfectly cooked since they only have one menu to concentrate on. Hmmm.
The set menu consisted of 16 courses for $195.00 per person, not including tax. With drinks and tip, we dropped about $600.00 for two of us. I probably enjoyed about 5 of the courses, out of the 16. Disappointment is a bit of an understatement.
The first course was a box of black and white cookies, which I’d not heard of, but they’re apparently a ‘thing’ in the states. These looked like sweet black and white cookies, but were in fact, savoury.
The next course was an oyster, which I enjoyed, but Kieran doesn’t like them so he was non-plussed.
The asparagus custard course is where the meal began to kick off and I started to look forward to what was to come. Both the flavours and the presentation were delightful. It was smooth and light, and the caviar underneath was a lovely surprise.
The potato and garlic mousse in the clam dish was brilliant and had loads of flavour. I liked the little moments of lemon flavour that came through. The fave beans provided texture, but I couldn’t taste the clam.
The next course was underwhelming. More shellfish, which we’d had for the last two courses. I was hoping for some actual fish for one of the fish courses, but alas, there was none to be found. This course also had clam, which we’d had (but not tasted) in the previous course. We were told to eat the shellfish before enjoying the chowder. The presentation on the shells meant that eating the whelks and clams was a fiddly process, though they were fresh and pleasant. I poured the chowder into bowls before noticing that we had not been provided with spoons. Were we supposed to eat it after all, or merely enjoy the aroma?! After being perplexed for a minute or so, I picked up the bowl and drank it. Have no idea if we did it right. It was thin and tasted of seafood.
We were then served some bread with a duck fat butter, which was very tasty. A foie gras terrine arrived a couple of minutes later, with truffle cream and asparagus jelly. Now, I don’t eat foie gras for moral reasons and think that it’s a very controversial thing to serve someone who hasn’t asked for it. This has happened to me before in another restaurant and I’ve refused to eat it. However, the waitress did, at the start of the meal, ask us if there was anything we didn’t eat and I completely forgot to say that I don’t eat foie gras, so it’s really my own fault. Being so delighted to have something in front of me that wasn’t a clam, I admit that I wolfed it down. I bloody love liver and shamefully for me, this was probably my favourite course.
Next, a waiter came and attached a grinder to our table. Great, I thought, we’re having some kind of tartare, possibly tuna, or steak. Imagine my excitement when he brought out a couple of carrots and began to grind them at the table. He then smeared some on a board of condiments, told us to mix it all together and enjoy it.
I’m sorry, but I defy anyone to eat mashed carrot mixed with an egg yolk, horseradish, sunflower seeds, chives and mustard seeds and tell me they’ve eaten anything other than posh baby food. The only reason that it was presented in the mix-it-yourself fashion and the carrot was ground in front of us, was to try and pretend that we’d not just been served a mashed carrot. Imagine if it had been served already ground and mixed in the kitchen. It would be an unappetizing, orange blob; which is exactly what it looked like when we’d finished mixing it. It tasted exactly as it sounds, like mashed carrot. The chef here clearly thought he was being innovative, but I was just annoyed that he thought this was good enough. I hated it.
Thankfully, we were back to edible food with the next course. We were also back to shellfish. This course was actually one of the best. The lobster was cooked perfectly, the sweetbreads were delicious and the bisque was full of flavour. I’d never tried a morel mushroom before and they’re delicious. Really woody and deep.
Next was the creamed nettles. I didn’t enjoy this course at all. In fact, I actually got so bored of it, that I left some on the plate. That NEVER happens. I even ate all of the carrot goop from earlier. It was just bland. The little globules of goat’s cheese were nice, because I like goat’s cheese. But I just couldn’t be bothered eating two piles of nettles, that had no discernible flavour. Kieran thought it was ‘nice’ though and ate it all. At least it wasn’t another clam.
The next course was a duck broth. This was bloody delicious. It was packed full of rich, duck flavour. Why serve it by itself though?! This should have been the broth that was poured around something more interesting in the middle.
Next was the main course. We got a choice between beef and duck and we chose the duck. We got a sliver of beautifully cooked duck breast, crusted with spices. This was served with a fennel salad, which was also lovely. There was also a little ‘shepherd’s pie’ type dish on the side which was braised leg in red wine, with ‘creamed potatoes’. The potatoes layer had WAY too much cream in it. It was runny. Runny potatoes aside, this was a really nice part of the dish. Apparently there was also foie gras in there, but I couldn’t taste it.
Next was the cheese course, served in a basket. I thought this presentation was quite fun as you had to unpack and lay it all out yourself. I was disappointed to find only one type of cheese, which was a strong flavoured, but tasty brie (I assume – could have been camembert). With that, we got pretzel bread and pale wheat ale to wash it down with.
The next course was a drink that was made for us at the table – an egg cream malt soda. It was nice, sweet but refreshing.
We then had a celery flavoured cake with apple sorbet and walnut crumble. It was nice. The sorbet was a highlight.
This was followed by a mango cheesecake, which was served by the waitress doing a card trick to reveal the flavours of the chocolates, which was nice touch. Kieran thought it was a cheap trick that didn’t add anything. One thing we did agree on was that neither of us particularly liked the dessert. I gave Kieran my chocolates. I actually gave away chocolate, people.
The final course was chocolate pretzels (that weren’t made of pretzel bread, more like some kind of cookie), sweet black and white cookies and some godawful apple brandy.
Overall, we were very underwhelmed. How this restaurant has three stars, based on the menu we ate, I have no idea. We had read such great reviews such as this one from Will Travel For Food which helped us pick this restaurant to eat at, but this was when they had their old ‘grid’ based menu, so perhaps with the new set menu, they have lost their way. We’ve eaten two stars in Rome before, and one of the 13 courses we had il pagliaccio outshone the entire menu here. I don’t know if the american michelin reviewers hand out stars willy nilly, but I’ve never been so disappointed by a supposedly luxury dining experience.