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29 September 2006

Eleven Madison Park

My final meal of note on my brief New York visit, was at Eleven Madison Park.  The first thing that struck me was how inconspicuous the restaurant is. I had been working next door to it for a couple of days, must have walked past it the best part of a dozen times and had totally failed to notice it.

It's low key exterior is balanced by the interior: a grand dining room, with a high ceiling, reminiscent of an old banking hall. It's scale reminded me of The Wolseley in London.

I had heard stories of being forced to wait at the bar, ad infinitum at New York restaurants. No such sending to Coventry here. I was offered the bar - my guest hadn't yet arrived - but I decided to head straight to the table.

Throughout the meal, the waiter was excellent. He got the mood of the table right - a fairly relaxed business meeting. He didn't bother us unnecessarily, but was engaging to speak to and knew the food and wine list inside out.

I went for the gnocchi of la ratte potatoes with celery, lemon confit and cured sardines for my starter. It was delicious. The gnocchi were light, but had enough density to cope with the flavour of the confit and sardines. I can't remember the celery. I also reckon there might have been a bit of veal stock lurking in there - one more thing to repent for before Yom Kippur.

For main I couldn't decide between halibut or salmon. On the recommendation of the waiter I went with the salmon. Compared to the quartet of salmon I had at Yasuda, I didn't really enjoy it. I know you can't compare raw sushi-grade salmon with a cooked steak, but there simply wasn't the flavour in this dish.  I felt I could have been eating any protein - the salmon did not taste of much.  Thus reaffirming the prejudice I lost the night before, that 99% of salmon in restaurants is tasteless.

The one good thing I can say about the salmon was that it was cooked beautifully.  By that I mean, only just cooked through, but otherwise I can't remember too much about it.

For dessert, I let the waiter choose for me and I ended up with a dense chocolate cake with a peanut butter caramel. The salty and sweet of caramel working well with the slightly sour cake.

To drink we shared a bottle Hubert Chavy, Les Narvaux '03 for the majority of the meal and ended up with a glass of Chateau D'Yquem '88 each at the end. In my not very informed opinion I thought the wine list tended towards the expensive, but I'm guessing they're looking for a Michelin star or similar so may feel that have to head in that direction.  Overall, including the service, it was a great meal.  I put the hiccup on the salmon down to poor ordering on my part.

Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue at 24th Street, New York, NY, 10010, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 889 0905

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What others say
New York Times - I can’t cut into such impeccably roasted duck — glazed smartly, but not too sweetly, with lavender and honey — and shut up about it. That would be a dereliction of duty. It would be just plain mean.  3 stars.
Opinionated About - Humm's "Lavender and Honey Roast Muscovey Duck" [is]...worthy of becoming Humm's signature dish, and I recommend that you hurry down to your nearest train station, or hop on a plane, and book a table at Eleven Mad in order to try it.
Megnut - It was very good, to be sure, but a let down for me. Perhaps the hype raised my expectations to an unrealistic level. Or perhaps it just wasn't to my taste.

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