In our quest to try out top restaurants in city, with the kids, we went to 11 Madison Park last night. David Humm, the Executive Chef has been getting high accolades and recently a 3 star review in the New York Times so this seemed like a worthy pick.
I have always loved the space at 11 Madison. High soaring ceilings ( an old bank ), beautiful flowers that reach to the sky, fantastic art work of the Flatiron Iron area and park, light pouring in the large windows and comfortable banquette seating.
The food is nouvelle on many levels. Not only are the ingredients interesting and fresh, the plating is like a piece of art. What you order is not what you expect. What you get are small masterpieces on a plate. Sort of reminiscent of the 80's.
They start you off with a small plate of four mouth sized appetizers. Perfectly sized. Think of going to a cocktail party and what is passed at the beginning. Triple layered delicate square crackers filled with dots of goat cheese was delicious. The taste of the cracker came through afterward. Another cheese was probably used to make that cracker. Small sliced meringue puffs, sliced in half and filled with fois gras. The girls could have done with out that one. Beautifully presented was the tuna. Rare sushi grade tuna wrapped in layered small slices of cucumber and topped off with green roe. The one bite lingers in your mouth. Last which was all of our favorite was the phyllo wrapped sweetbreads. Wrapped in the figure of a small bag that you would use to pipe pastries with a green scallion piece to close off the top. Deep fried and incredible. If they were passing those out at a party, I'd be following the server around all night.
Next course was another treat from the chef. We discussed this at length on how he made this. If anyone has the recipe, please send it our way. Strawberry gazpacho. Rich flavorful gazpacho yet strawberry flavored with oil dripped on top and tiny pieces of croutons and a small shrimp. Gazpacho always has that vinegar flavor and spices and so did this but the strawberry added a whole different level of complexity. Absolutely delicious.
Next were the appetizers we chose. I have recently got into beets. I prefer the golden ones but it is the one food that I never really liked but I went with it last night. On a rectangular plate, roasted squared beets served over a rectangular piece of soft goat cheese drizzled with olive oil. Simple, elegant and good. The boys ordered the same thing. Gnocchi, which were light, served with a combo of prawns, calamari, pieces of cucumbers and a lemon buttery sauce. The flavor was really good and the combo of textures were really interesting.
Dinner was next. In some ways I am sorry that nobody wanted to split the duck. A couple of them came out of the back and they were just beautiful. A golden crispy duck that had been cooked or possibly just served with a large handful of lavender shoved through the duck. The presentation is pretty impressive in itself. But, alas, nobody wanted to go for it. Fred and Josh went for the suckling pig which is a specialty of the house. Shaped in a rectangle type brick (think of a snickers bar) is pulled pork confit on the underside and a crispy top of skin that breaks like a creme brulle. Served along side a plum chutney and a large piece of green onion over a spicy jus. The girls went with the fish. For Jessica, two square pieces of halibut served in a bowl with asparagus and black truffles. Really simple and light, almost too simple and light. Emily went with the loup de mer. A piece of loup de mer with a crispy skin served in a soup bowl that had a interesting broth infused with saffron and endive flavoring. Interesting. I went with the veal. Two pieces of veal. One small conical piece of veal on one end in between a swath of perhaps a mashed root vegetable going over to another piece of veal that was crispy on top over a small round piece of root vegetable. Next to the plate was a small fricassee of small square potatoes, peas and morels piped into a froth. All good and interesting combos. Hunn is very into squares. Everything is cut perfectly but lots of squares.
Dessert was yet to come. Fred went with the cheese plate. Josh opted for the roasted Asian pears which were sweet and served with a tea infused ice cream which was weird tasting. The girls and I went with the chocolate. A large long squared piece of chocolate over a peanut concoction with salty peanuts sprinkled around it and cocoa bits. Delicious. You basically can't go wrong with chocolate and peanuts as far as I am concerned.
One last treat, from the chef, was the cookies served like lollipops. A small sugar coated donut filled with passion fruit. Wow. The other was a meringue cookie filled with chocolate but the best was a chocolate cookie filled with peanut butter. Each were bite sized just like the appetizers to finish off the meal.
I found the treats from the chef the best part. The main courses were mixed. The fish wasn't that interesting and although I liked the veal it wasn't a total wow. What is a wow is the way the plates are put together. For the kids, it was an interesting experience. Reading the menu and then seeing what comes are totally different than what you envisioned. For foodies, it is worth the experience. But as a whole, the food is almost too delicate. Small portions. I would think most men would be hungry a few hours later. There is a reason that places like Little Owl or the Spotted Pig have continued repeat business. You get a meal that is reminiscent of home cooking but gourmet home cooking. Although I applaud 11 Madison. It isn't a place that I would patron many times over the year. 11 Madison is more like a foodies find. Go to the website and take a look at the beautiful pictures. We were all fascinated with each plate and the combinations put together. That was the most fun.