I am very lucky.
When Eleven Madison Park was the recipient of the “World Best Restaurant” title for 2017, they were booked out for the following months. I was lucky enough to avoid the mad rush for reservation.
I had my dinner on November 23rd, 2016, only a few months before their rise to fame. How awesome was that?
Upon being sat at out table, I was greeted with the usual Black and White Cookies (we ate it before I could take a picture) and the tower of amuse bouche. The Mushroom Tarte with Black Truffle was intensely earthy from the mushroom and black truffle, slightly offset by Chef Humm’s usage of acid to create an amazing and balanced bite. The Hen of the Wood, however, was a disappointment, being too crumbly and lacking in any strong flavor. The Pickled Apple with Shallot was a solid bite, having a clear refreshing punch of sweetness and tartness. The most phenomenal and one of my favorite items of the night, warm Beignet with Black Truffle, exploded with intense truffle flavor inside my mouth.
The first real course of the night was Eleven Madison Park’s famous take on “Breakfast for Dinner,” an interpretation of a classic Egg Benedict with caviar, smoked egg yolk, and hollandaise. The richness of the egg yolk was perfectly balanced out by the acidic hollandaise and the briny quality of the caviar, creating a magical eating experience.
One of the strongest preparation of foie gras I have ever tried. A small, perfectly seared piece of foie gras topped with crispy fried brussel sprouts.
Then comes the bread service. Hot and flaky rolls were accompanied by soft roasted honeynut squash, prepared tableside. A sweet squash was combined with butter and mixed seeds to create the most amazing accompaniment to the house rolls. (The chef at our table bragged that the squash was a collaborative effort between their farms and Cornell University)
Next came the fish course of the night. Gently poached striped bass was paired with tender clams and an acidic fennel consommé. The beautifully moist and rich fish was balanced by the tartness of the consommé. The clams added a layer of ocean flavor.
My favorite dish of the night was, much to my surprise, a vegetarian dish. An homage to Paul Bocuse’s chicken, the turnip in this dish was cooked with an intense truffle sauce inside a pig’s bladder in order to seal in flavors. The dish was prepared tableside by the host, cutting open the bladder to release an intensely aromatic truffle scent. A powerful truffle sauce and truffle paste accompanied the turnip to make a truffle overload.
Chef Humm’s signature dish did not disappoint. The flavor of honey and Szechuan peppercorn balanced each other to great effect, accentuating the deep flavor of dry aged duck. The amazingly crispy skin alongside succulent, rare duck meat was a phenomenal combination.
The cheese course was average. A flaky crust was filled with warm cheddar and topped with a sweet roasted apple. The tart is paired with a bitter green salad to compliment the sweet and rich cheddar. The cheddar, however, was too subtle to stand up to the assertive green flavor, became a very unbalance and forgettable dish.
This dessert more than made up for the previous dish. Delicious crème fraiche ice cream was covered with a crispy layer of chocolate tuile. The bitterness of the chocolate perfectly complimented the creaminess of the ice cream, all perfectly enhanced by the textural contrast between soft and crunch. A truly amazing dessert. (My partner’s poached pear dessert can be seen in the back)
The meal ended with housemade chocolate pretzels and EMP’s own apple brandy.
Overall, I understand why so many considered EMP to be the best restaurant in the world. Creative food and flawless service have made EMP a destination restaurant. The most important aspect of EMP that not many other restaurants have is the ability to make every single customer feels that they are special. Whether through extensive communication or going the extra step of making every single experience personal, EMP has always been able to exceed even the highest of expectation.