Dinner last night at Eleven Madison Park.
Had the full tasting menu with standard wines pairings.
Every dish was deeply layered with aromas, flavors, and textures that pulled you in.
I really tried not to take (too many) pictures, but we did write notes and attempted to keep track as best as possible to the descriptions. Often there were just too many ingredients or references to catch on the first run-downs by the service persons. I wanted to enjoy the experience without being too concerned with reporting, but sometimes I can't help myself. Anyway...
The highlight for us may have been the opening “tea” (I believe called - A Celebration of Onion) which was so concentrated with onions, leeks, rice, jalapeño, and a few other ingredients. I could have just had this all night. And from there through the dessert it was a series of dishes that were as visually pleasing as they were on the palate.
The wines for the most part were spot on. Selections from Italy, Spain, France (Champagne and Loire), everything was for the most part subtle and well considered. I found one course was not entirely to my taste from a pairing point of view, as the wine and the dish were independently delicious, but together they sort of clashed and the components canceled each other a bit. Elio Altare Barbera d’Alba is just a massive example of this grape - despite the Somm's insistence that it was "very juicy". There is acidity in this wine, but the spices and bitter aspects in the dish compounded against the tannin (yes tannin) in the Barbera and made each taste stiff and angular, and quite frankly dull, when in combination. Being picky here, but after the food cleared our palates the wine shined again. A simpler wine might have accomplished the goal.
Oh, and I did get served one wine that was corked and had to return. It was kind of a shocking little lapse of service to put that wine out, especially considering the fact that our entire meal was monitored by an army of highly trained and attentive service pros. Minor bumps in an altogether fantastic evening.
My afterthoughts on the food were a little mixed. Everything was outstanding - not a question on that front. But sometimes I think you can overwork the "art" and overwork things that were perhaps best left a bit simpler. I thought some of the dishes just had one or two, too many elements. Many dishes combined cuisines or ingredient inspirations from varied cultural influences, and on a couple of occasions this simply fell a little flat for me. Just one or two ingredients in the dish. As a whole concept, though, this was an extraordinary experience with too many ingredients to keep track of.
PS: the bread service is better than they say. So good we had it twice.
One of the handicaps that I have with working in the wine business, is that I know what the wines are and what they cost. So when I went to EMP, I was expecting to be wowed by the wine pairings (we had the standard pairing, not the reserve), and I think in general, I was simply pleased. No real surprises, just very good wines. As mentioned above, the wines were well considered especially with the style of the food, but when I did the math, there is a fair amount of serious profit in the wine pairing flights per the charge ($145pp), especially when you take into account the ~ 2oz pours. Don't get me wrong, the pour volumes were spot on and there are no complaints about that. All I am saying is that for the amount poured, there was a lot of margin. But that is to be expected, I suppose. The regular wine list is 229 pages, so feel free to order bottles if you like.
The top tasting wine of the flight for me was the first served - Gatinois Champagne, a very good mid-priced Champagne made from GC vineyards in Aÿ. Absolutely delish.
By the way, EMP is entirely vegan, if you were not aware.
We need more restaurants of this nature in the world.
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.