**** (4 stars)
I had the greatest meal of my life at Eleven Madison Park. I also had the second greatest here. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend their new format. There are still 16 complex courses, and the service is still masterful yet friendly. But the emphasis on theatre rather than flavor has taken it down a notch. Some courses seemed repetitive, and there were very few “wow” moments. I’d trade the table-side magic act (lame) and the carrot grinding for a few of those one-bite orgasmic wonders of the past.
The carrot course was actually one of the best. It offered a dozen ingredients to add to the freshly ground carrot. I selected mustard and mustard seed. If that sounds like haut cuisine, you need to get out more. And it would have been just as good if the carrot was ground in the kitchen rather than on a hand grinder clamped to the table.
Another theatrical course that was a bit more successful was the “picnic basket.” This was a fun idea, where you took ingredients out of the basket and set up your own picnic. The second best food came out of this. It was a freshly made soft pretzel with house-made mustard. There’s a theme here. Madison Park makes good mustard.
The various shellfish courses that started the meal were simply repetitive. And why did we have to all have the same meat course, when they were individually plated? Surely there are enough two ounce portions of lamb and duck in the kitchen to be able to mix it up?
Sadly, the great bottle of cognac that used to end the meal is also gone, replaced by a local apple brandy.
In short, Eleven Madison Park is still a good restaurant, but it is no longer THE restaurant. I’ll certainly go back… but not until the concept changes again.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010