Certainly the restaurant whose staff was working the hardest among my New York visit restaurants, 11 Madison Park stood out as the group who were hustling the hardest to provide an outstanding three-star experience.
NEW YORK, NY, USA
PRICE PAID: $218 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 9.5/10
If you want to see what truly world-class dining service looks like, you need go no further. 11 Madison Park gave me an amazing team of people- Jane, Aurora, Ellen, and Megan- who worked together professionally and flawlessly to create an unforgettable experience. 11 Madison Park achieved my highest score so far, 9.5/10.
The first entrant is a small gift-box when I was seated at my table. A cookie with black and white colors, apple-flavored and sweet. It was crunchy, simple, and pretty. 8/10.
Two oysters- the one on the left prepared with "apple snow," the one on the right warm with chestnut. The rocks under the right-hand side were warm to the touch, and ice sat under the left. Very cool presentation, and excellent fresh oysters. 9/10.
This is where things really began to take off- an awesome, creative presentation that arrived in a smoke-filled cover. Included was a small can of Malossol caviar, some thin baked breads, cream cheese, and pickled beets. A smorgasbord to begin with. The sturgeon was fantastic (and, incredibly smoky, as you might guess) and the caviar was excellent. 8/10.
A simple presentation of turnips in a turnip and juniper broth- the dish had a delicious vinegar zing to it and some really awesome colors. The broth reminded me of whisky and the bowl was the perfect selection to pair up with the dish. 8/10.
Another cool presentation of two butters contrasted against each other, 11 Madison Park had plain (on the left) against the same butter rendered in duck fat (on the right). The duck-fat butter was smoky and delightful, and the sea salt is from a husband-and-wife team on the Narragansett- pure, rich, and the perfect match to either of the creamy butters. 9/10.
A perfectly bizarre, natural pairing of colors and flavors- the bitter of the cabbage complimented the sweet richness of the Hudson Valley foie gras. The cabbage is cooked and marinated with the foie, and presented on a plain ceramic dish to showcase the colors perfectly. 9/10.
This was one of the coolest things that has happened in my adventure so far. I was invited for a kitchen tour mid-meal, and as I arrived back in the kitchen I was greeted with a set table that included a hand-made pastrami sandwich, and a bottle of celery soda modeled on Cel-Ray, a favorite of delis in New York.
Another dish big on showmanship- Lobster Newburg, prepared tableside with mushrooms. While preparing my meal, I was told the entire story of how Lobster Newburg came to be at Delmonico in New York. The story was fascinating, the preparation was a delight, and the dish itself was fantastic. 10/10.
Next came a celery root cooked inside a pigs bladder. Entertainingly but a bit strangely, one of the chefs brought the pigs bladder by my table as the root was cooking inside. I thought this show-and-tell was yet another example of the confident, over-the-top service style here, and I learned something about how these dishes are prepared. 9/10.
The duck- once again, carved tableside- has been aged in a bristling layer of spices for almost two weeks before being served. The effect was truly incredible- the spices soak deep into the flesh and give the duck a far most complex flavor than any I have ever tasted. 10/10.
An excellent wind-down from the heavy main courses beforehand, the Carnival Squash is roasted with cheese, and prepared with a small, fresh salad. A bit filling for so far along in the meal, but a welcome break from the mains and an original take on the cheese course. 9/10.
This next dish was curious... White wine purposely infected with Botrytis, a fungus that is normally a threat to agriculture that in this case is sought after for its pleasant taste. Also known as noble rot, it gives wines an even-sweeter taste. I certainly found that to be true of this dish, and thought that the bitter almond sorbet was an excellent pair. 9/10.
A fun, sweet prsentation of Maple ice cream, bourbon-barrel aged and with dry ice. 9/10.
Last but certainly not least, a chocolate-covered pretzel served alongside a sweet version of the greeting cookie. Charming, and rounded the night out nicely. 9/10.
I also want to mention that in addition to providing truly incredible service the entire night, the staff got word of my round-the-world adventure and put together a parting gift that included snacks and even a neck pillow. I can't tell you how touched I was by the hard work these people put into making my night special, and I will remember it forever.