Thursday, October 1, 2009

Our Trip to New York - Eleven Madison Park

Miranda has done an excellent job of the details of the menu. Cindy felt is was BETTER than Tomas Keller's Per Se but I can't go that far - it was wonderful and showed great talent but TK is still the top of the game to me.
I will share here some of the comments from the NY Times Food Critic who gave Eleven Madison Park a very rare 4 start rating in the times Last month.
THE FOLLOWING IS QUOTED FROM Frank Bruni's Article "A Daring Rise to the Top" published in the New York Times, August 12, 2009
"Eleven Madison Park, which opened in 1998, now ranks among the most alluring and impressive restaurants in New York. It has reached this pinnacle because its principal owner, the indefatigable Danny Meyer, made a key move in 2006, bringing aboard the chef Daniel Humm, and because together they decided — out of pride, it seems to me, more than any commercial calculation — that this restaurant could and should shine as brightly as any other.

It already had the setting: that theatrically tall, marble and nickel-walled hall in the old Metropolitan Life Building, with grand windows onto the verdure of Madison Square Park. It already had a deep, broad wine list. It just needed a bit more polish in its service and a lot more sparkle in its food. Over the last three and a half years, it has received precisely that, in measures that increased steadily since the arrival of Mr. Humm (and, soon after him, a new general manager, Will Guidara, and a new wine director, John Ragan, who has wisely supplemented familiar treasures from France with less familiar ones from other countries).

Mr. Humm’s French-grounded cooking, which bridges the classically saucy decadence of the past and the progressive derring-do of a new generation, drew notice from the get-go. He hadn’t been in place long before the city’s gluttons were atwitter (in the old-fashioned sense) about his way with suckling pig. He served it as a dense, tender brick of confit below the most crisply fatty sheet of crackling imaginable. But instead of resting on his suckling laurels, he took this wrinkle of his reputation and ran with it, developing a tasting menu with five consecutive courses of suckling pig, including belly cooked sous vide and a roasted rack of tiny, exquisite chops. I sampled this last month, and it was superb.

The menu allows you to chart paths of varying lengths, from three standard courses, each of which you choose, to a “gourmand” experience of 11 unspecified courses that Mr. Humm selects for you. But even the briefest route includes numerous detours, because he has a particular enthusiasm for succinct, intense add-ons to be experienced before or between the principal dishes.

For example, every dinner begins with a five-piece row of single-bite amuse bouches, one with foie gras, another with salmon and another with sweetbreads nestled in a crunchy cornet.
Some of his best work comes in small packages, like a cup of “sea urchin cappuccino” that was presented as a little surprise during a meal whose climax would be a flawlessly cooked blue foot chicken for two with a brioche, foie gras and truffle butter stuffing under the glistening skin.
The cappuccino’s inclusion of cauliflower mousse below a peekytoe crab salad, sea urchin roe and a sea urchin foam made with cream and Cognac seemed to allude to (and perhaps borrowed from) a famous Joël Robuchon dish of cauliflower cream, lobster and sea urchin.
But Mr. Humm’s version was an altogether frothier and more indulgent affair, and whenever it threatened to become too much, a tart, astringent note flickered, reining everything in. The difference between good and great cooking of this kind is often knowing where the creamy, buttery, unctuous tipping point is — and stopping just shy of it. Mr. Humm does that expertly.
Mr. Humm’s judicious flirtations with molecular gastronomy have intensified over the years, to exciting effect. One tomato salad comprised liquid spheres — those quivering, explosive orbs made famous by the Spanish wizard Ferran Adrià — of white buffalo mozzarella and red tomato. Another floated a fleecy tomato “cloud” (tomato water whipped with gelatin) over a patchwork of red and yellow cherry tomatoes.
Mr. Humm supervises the sweets in addition to what precedes them, and with most he finds the right middle ground between hyper-imaginative artistry and molten chocolate pandering. Accessorizing the gooey chocolate centerpiece of one dessert with both caramel popcorn and a popcorn-flavored ice cream did that trick nicely."

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