Every time I spend over thirty dollars on a meal, I imagine how Mama Cho would react if she saw the bill. I always carry a sense of guilt at the end of the experience. I feel wasteful, I picture the number of Two Bros Pizza slices that could have been inside my voracious stomach.
On the other hand, the best part of my week is when I see my weekly NYU Meal Plan hit 0 on Thursday nights. It’s not as pleasant when my bank account hits $0 though. But this week, I made exception for a chance to sit down at Eleven Madison Park (a $97 exception for a Four Course Prix Fixe + a Flood of Amuse-Bouches and Petit Fours). Many of my friends still think I’m irresponsible, but I rationalized that (since Jon was crazy enough to join me) everything will be okay.
Upon entering the building, the GM greets us at the door (Chef Humm and GM Guidara were working on their project at the NoMad Hotel and weren’t present at the time). Service was still exceptional.
The best part about the experience is that every different plate conjures up of wonderful past memories. The box of savory Black and White Cookies not only excites my taste buds at the beginning of the meal, but it also reminds me of the first time I had cheese and crackers.
The Quail Egg feels like a breakfast in a bite. It’s served with delicious apple celery tea which reminds me of the of the Korean vinegar drink that my mother and my sister used to drink to cleanse their bodies. EMP’s version is quite delightful.
The fritters were one of our favorite amuse bouches. I remember our server explaining every aspect of each dish, but as soon as the food starting pouring out, my mind just went numb. For the longest time, Jon and I assumed these fritters were upscale fish sticks with lemon zest. To this day, we still think about having a basket of these beauties.
Although Jon and I were participating in the four-course menu, our server, Marybeth, was gracious enough to present us with Eleven Madison Park’s interpretation of a clam bake. At this point, Jon and I were dying with joy. The couple dining beside our table gave us suspicious “what are these kids doing here” looks, but we couldn’t contain ourselves. A dose of water creates a steamy, salty aroma. It reminds me of the Cho family’s visits to Annapolis for Blue Crabs.
If the world had to live on bread and butter, I’m lining up at EMP. The warm, soft rolls are accompanied by a rich, creamy butter. If my stomach wasn’t full already, I would have stocked up on lots of bread.
The Four Course Menu Starts Now
The four course menu displays a 4 x 4 Grid. Each row has a list of 4 ingredients to choose from. After selecting two appetizers, an entrée and a dessert, the chef designs your courses based on your preferences. They will accommodate your essential dining needs. Jon and I have no limitations so we decided to let the chef showcase his/her talent without any restrictions. Come on, it’s Eleven Madison Park, y’all.
In the spirit of an “EMP Omakase,” Jon selected the Hamachi. After tasting a morsel of his beloved yellowtail, I was filled with envy. I became infuriated that Jon wouldn’t hand over his plate.
Yet, there was no chance that I was going to give up my dish. Oh bless the ducks that were fed to create this wonderful concoction. The buttery liver is a slice of heaven.
This was my favorite dish of the afternoon. The butter poaching makes the lobster undeniably soft and succulent. Although my mouth wasn’t as turned on by the burnt taste on the leek roots, the rest of the stem was quite enjoyable. I also enjoyed the addition of the squid ink which neutralized the richness of the shellfish.
I stumbled upon a very delicious day for the sacred cow. The selection was a 55 Day-Aged Ribeye. The marbling makes the steak glisten and the dry-aging breaks down the proteins, creating the softest cut of meat.
As we approached the homestretch, we received a surprise invitation back into the Eleven Madison Park Kitchen. Jon and I were amazed. My head was spinning. This was truly an honor.
We were ushered in to the Eleven Madison Park Observation Deck. The manager explained the daily routine of the kitchen and briefly talked about the chefs who stage at the restaurant. We spent a good amount of time learning about what the entire staff eats before service (most likely the best home-cooked meatloaf and pasta in town).
During this time, the Pastry Chef treated us to delectable Egg Cream and deconstructed New York Cheesecake. I’ve fallen in love.
Upon entering, the sign reiterates the objective of the kitchen: (Cool, Endless Reinvention, Inspired, Forward Moving, Fresh, Collaborative, Spontaneous, Vibrant, Adventurous, Light, Innovative)
Jon absolutely picked the bolder menu. He opted for a deliciously-stinky cheese dessert. By the look on his face, he was quite satisfied, AGAIN.
For me, I ended my meal with a chocolate snowball. The sweet/savory elements blended miraculously. The dish embodied Chef Humm’s saying that a bit of salty goodness elevates the sweet components.
The food was exceptional and the service was flawless. In many fine dining institutions, the staff can be obsequious or (worse) pretentious. However, the staff at EMP is attentive and passionate about creating a heartwarming experience for everyone. Today, I’m perfectly content.