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Eleven Madison Park


donbert
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I can vouch for FG's argument that this is a wise decision. I was there recently, and the desserts my partner and I had were weak.

The restaurant should try to get someone in the Ducasse/Per Se mold, if only to have a better sync with Humm's cuisine.

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I had two tasting menus there this week and I can say that Chef Humm is just about as talented as a pastry chef as he is a chef of the savory dishes. The dessert at the second tasting menu was especially strong. My guests at the table kept talking about it; very impressive. I think they're well on the way though at searching for someone.

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I agree that this is a good decision. We went last month for my birthday and I am allergic to both chocolate and fresh citrus and every single dessert had them both. It didn't help that I had given up ice cream for lent. So I ordered some bland almond cake that was supposed to come with white chocolate (i know technically not chocolate but i don't take chances) but they left it off. It was dry and worthless. Who wants to celebrate their birthday without dessert?

But in other news, I still have one of the sour cherry brioches from the restaurant on my table and it still look tasty. I think it is time it went in the trash.

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I had two tasting menus there this week and I can say that Chef Humm is just about as talented as a pastry chef as he is a chef of the savory dishes.  The dessert at the second tasting menu was especially strong. My guests at the table kept talking about it; very impressive. I think they're well on the way though at searching for someone.

While I know that the "food line" and the pastry department are very different animals, it would be refreshing to see an exectuive chef setting the agenda for both - that is, if he/she is talented enough. I am also interested to see how Humm makes out in the coming weeks/months while they find a replacement pastry chef for EMP.

Can anyone think of another (high-level) restaurant in NYC that has one chef in charge of both the food and the pastry programs?

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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One chef is pretty much always in charge of both the savory and pastry programs. In just about every chef-driven restaurant I can think of (as opposed to, say, a steakhouse), the executive chef sets the culinary agenda. If the pastry chef can't get with that agenda, the pastry chef is out. So it's more a question of level of involvement. The standard arrangement is that the executive chef and pastry chef consult often, the pastry chef comes up with various ideas, accepts input from the executive chef, prepares items for tasting, and the executive chef ultimately approves or vetoes desserts. That's the system by which desserts evolve stylistically to mesh with the savory cuisine.

Most executive chefs, however, do not have the expertise or time to play pastry chef at a top restaurant. There are a few out there in the Western world, especially in France where it's common for chefs to cross-train early in their careers and where you have a lot of restaurants that are open five days a week for dinner only, but it's uncommon. Even if Humm has the talent, Eleven Madison Park is a seven-day, lunch-and-dinner operation. There's no way a single human being can handle the whole thing, which is of course why they're searching for a new pastry chef. I would have to taste Humm's desserts to comment, but my guess is that they're better than what was being served before (the bar was low, though) and not as good as what a great pastry chef would do.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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There are a few out there in the Western world, especially in France where it's common for chefs to cross-train early in their careers and where you have a lot of restaurants that are open five days a week for dinner only, but it's uncommon.
Sorry, I should have clarified, although FG lays it out nicely, that this is more of what I was asking about (re: one chef with two toques). Humm was trained in Europe, which, I suppose, may explain his flexibility.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I would have to taste Humm's desserts to comment, but my guess is that they're better than what was being served before (the bar was low, though) and not as good as what a great pastry chef would do.

Having eaten there twice last week, I can attest that the desserts are differently better than they were before under the prior pastry chef in support of what you say.

Edited by DutchMuse (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...

Why is it that in a year that has included tasting menus at Per Se, Blue Hill @ Stone Barns, Cru, Country, Picholine, Aureole, Gordon Ramsay, L'Atelier and others, the meal I keep coming back to again and again is Eleven Madison Park? That little foie gras and truffle macaron. That salmon. That suckling pig. They haunt my dreams! :biggrin:

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Why is it that in a year that has included tasting menus at Per Se, Blue Hill @ Stone Barns, Cru, Country, Picholine, Aureole, Gordon Ramsay, L'Atelier and others, the meal I keep coming back to again and again is Eleven Madison Park?  That little foie gras and truffle macaron.  That salmon.  That suckling pig.  They haunt my dreams!  :biggrin:

Unfortunately, a visit to Eleven Mad. weeks ago yielded painful memories of insanely tiny portions, a weak signature (the suckling pig confit, which was way too dry), mediocre dessert and strangely indifferent service for a Meyer operation.

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Why is it that in a year that has included tasting menus at Per Se, Blue Hill @ Stone Barns, Cru, Country, Picholine, Aureole, Gordon Ramsay, L'Atelier and others, the meal I keep coming back to again and again is Eleven Madison Park?  That little foie gras and truffle macaron.  That salmon.  That suckling pig.  They haunt my dreams!  :biggrin:

Unfortunately, a visit to Eleven Mad. weeks ago yielded painful memories of insanely tiny portions, a weak signature (the suckling pig confit, which was way too dry), mediocre dessert and strangely indifferent service for a Meyer operation.

This just shows that no restaurant, no matter what the level, will please absolutely everyone. My experience was similar with Aaron's (although I would take exception with the foie gras macaron, which was soggy on my visit) - the suckling pig was memorable. It's those chicken boudin that haunt me.

On another note, I would have to say that my meal at Cru two weeks ago (I have yet to post on that thread) was not as memorable or special as those that you two have enjoyed.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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the pastry chef comes up with various ideas, accepts input from the executive chef, prepares items for tasting, and the executive chef ultimately approves or vetoes desserts.

i'm going to say that for most 3 and 4 star restaurants in manhattan this is false more often or equally as often, than it is true

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  • 2 months later...

My girlfriend and I decided to come here this past Friday for a blowout meal as we are moving away New York in a couple weeks. We opted for a 4-course prix fixe since a number of dishes from the gourmand menu did not appeal to my girlfriend's tastes(she has a very sharp palette, but has a number of dislikes) and I like bigger and more complex dishes.

I thought the food was excellent overall, with a couple of dishes that weren't quite superb (but one can't expect every dish to be spectacular). I know a number of dishes have been described before, so I'll refrain from description unless there was a new dish.

Hors D'oeuvres

This has been described upthread, so I don't have much to add other than I thought the black truffle/foie macaroon (which was sweet, but worked very well with the foie and truffle) and goat cheese/meyer lemon galatin were excellent and the different flavors matched very harmoniously.

Amuse Bouche

Strawberry gazpacho with Hawaiian prawn

I was worried that the gazpacho would be too sweet, but luckily it was not. It was very mild and the cripsy and salty prawn at the bottom of the bowl offered a nice twist. One of the best amuse bouches I've encountered in some time.

Course 1

Foie Gras

The structure of the foie is the same as FG described earlier, except the torchon was replaced by a mille feuilles with bing cherries and pistachios. The mille feuilles was excellent, with a very mild foie flavor that matched well with the cherries. The foie brulee, however, was the star of the show. The sweet top of the brulee made the creamy and slightly salty foie gras that much better. I thought this was a great rearrangement of a dessert for a savory course and the best foie I've ever had. My gf had the heirloom beet salad, which I assumed was quite good because I wasn't able to try it.

Course 2

Chilean Turbot

The plating was quite whimsical, as a filet of turbot was covered with circles of squash (in the tuna hors d'oeuvre) to recreate scales. The filet was cooked perfectly, but the flavor was too mild and was not very inspiring. My gf had the nova scotia lobster which I was able to try, which was okay. The lobster unfortunately was overcooked and a bit tough, but the jus on the bottom (I think it was fennel and chamomille, but I'm not sure) was excellent (especially with bread).

Course 3

Muscovy Duck

Superb. The servers presented the whole duck to both of us prior to carving (which I hoped was tableside, but alas, it was not to be), and then plated in 3/4-inch slices after carving. It was everything you could ask for in a duck, crispy skin, tender meat. The sweet skin (glazed in honey) was a perfect harmony with the slightly salty inside. One of the best duck dishes I've had in some time (and I eat duck all the time). There was a side dish of duck confit, but I thought it was overcooked and a touch too salty.

Overall, I thought the savories were superb. The word that came to my mind when eating everything was harmony; there are different flavor combinations, but everything seems to work as a cohesive whole. The only thing that wasn't cooked well was the lobster, but it wasn't awful, and the highs were definitely outweighed the lows.

I had a "Araguani Grand Cru Chocolate symphony" and my gf had a peach souffle which were pretty good, but nothing to write home about and certainly did not match the savories.

What I found surprisingly bad at EMP was the service, which I found odd because I've received excellent service at GT and Tabla. Here's a list of service gaffes I found and a theory about the cause which you can debunk below.

1.) Originally I had a 7:30 reso, but had to work late, so my gf tried to change it about 15 minutes a few hours before. They couldn't change (which wasn't a big deal), but throughout out meal the restaurant was no more than 60% full. Maybe the tables were for VIPs, but not a big deal.

2.) when we were seated, we were taken to a back-right alcove, which was empty save a party for 8 and a B&T crew of 4. I was expecting to sit in one of the two-tops in the corner but we got a flat-bench chair in the middle, with the cushion bench being a bit too worn. Again, this is not a big deal, but once as they started filling the restaurant, other (middle-aged) couples were seated first in the corner seats.

3.) We asked for wine pairings from our server with our meal and he obliged, but he didn't a) ask for the sommelier to come over, b) didn't ask to specify a price range and c) didn't ask us our preferences. He merely walked away and after chatting with the sommelier returned few minutes later stated that pairings had been made. The wine/pp ended up about half what I would have spent had our server asked about a price range, but that's neither here nor there (except maybe getting a sommelier). I'm not sure if I really would have minded, except both of the corner tables were greeted by the sommelier and asked about their preferences. Granted, the other tables were ordering bottles, so maybe I'm expecting a bit too much in this regard

4.) Along the same lines, the sommelier never asked if we liked the pairing, but he asked other tables if they liked his selections.

5.) The server did not come with the serving of the courses to describe the courses, but would come at odd times in the middle of the course to say "Buon Appetito". I tried not to watch the other tables too much (and spoil my meal), but from what I could tell, the server seemed more prompt at other tables.

6.) The wine glasses were presented to us prior to the dessert course, but the wine did not come with desserts. We waited until the server came, who promptly realized the mistake, but I thought after all the other problems, I thought this gaffe was sloppy.

I feel that the problem with a number, but not all, of these problems was that my girlfriend and I were significantly younger than the rest of the crowd (we are in our early 20s). We were dressed above average for the people in the dining room and I think we were nice to the staff. I don't think the service was atrocious, but compared with another restaurant at the same price point (say JG), I found the service not only to be inattentive, but willing to cut corners given my age. I was wondering if other members of the eG community (especially younger members like tupac) think if the problems are related to age.

I am loath to say that dinner was awful, but I did feel that the lack of care did bring the experience down a few notches.

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That's so funny--we were there at the same time as you and your girlfriend: You might have missed us, we were the couple in the corner table to your left hand side (so only 1 other corner table available). Our dinner started around 6:15 (I was late) and we left probably midway through your savories (around 9ish).

I don't have anything to add to your description of the food--though I think in total we loved the desserts somewhat more than you two did. Overall we can't wait to get back to EMP.

Regarding the service level, respectfully, I'll say that I think we felt fewer bumps than you did. We, too, look fairly young relative to our age and I didn't notice our service being appreciably different from the other people in the restaurant, though I have felt this way in other establishments so I totally get where you're coming from. The waiter did not show up to describe the food to us at any time, either. In yet another example of how everyone's mileage varies--this just felt relaxed to us, and allowed us to enjoy the pacing of our meal a little better. (Not a slam on your opinion, of course!)

We were quite pleased with our server, though, for giving us more time between our savory course and our dessert so that we could finish our bottle.

Speaking of our bottle of wine, like you, I did think the sommelier was a little underwhelming. He did not immediately come to us either--our server called him over when we had a question about a particular wine. Luckily, we were very happy with our selection, feeling that we had taken a chance without any real substantive input. I think he could have been a little more helpful in describing the New York Madeira that we selected for dessert--i.e. in offering any description whatsoever. I wonder if he is new or just having an off-night.

Just my few thoughts. Happy culinary travels wherever your next move might take you.

Edited by sadie_siamesecat (log)
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Had lunch there yesterday, the cold strawberry soup and the halibut. The soup was a little disappointing, it needed something to lift the flavor, the strawberries were probably not good enough to do this on their own. The halibut was wonderful.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I had a very good dinner at EMP last week, though not quite the transcendent experiences others here have enjoyed. My dining companion and I had the new Gourmand, which seems freshly updated for the fall. Some assorted impressions:

- Count me among those who aren't crazy about the dining room. I don't have a problem with the cavernous size, but when you combine that with the tiled floors, the room becomes way too loud for this sort of dining.

- The bread was astonishingly poor. Not to harp on it too much when there's so much else to eat, but there you have it.

- The presentation of the dishes, in general, was a little disappointing, and I hope to have links to pictures soon so you can see for yourself. It's not that the presentation was sloppy- just not as interesting or creative as I'd like, or would expect from seeing pictures of previous food. It could be that because the menu is still new, Chef Humm will be tweaking the arrangements as they go forward.

- Sea Urchin

Custard with Hawaiian Prawns, Calamari and Green Apple

I thought this was fantastic: a deeply flavored ragout with prawns, calamari, and scallops layered on top of the uni, and topped with a green apple foam to cut some of the richness. My dining companion found the tartness of the foam a little overwhelming.

- Nova Scotia Lobster

Lasagna with Fall Spices and Keepsake Farm Chestnuts

Best dish of the night for me. Succulent and sweet lobster morsels blanketed by a single sheet of chestnut flour pasta. Topped with delicious whole chestnuts and edible flowers, bathed in a rich lobster broth. Lobster and chestnut is a combination I'm going to have to duplicate on my own. My only issue is that the sheet of pasta was not particularly easy to eat.

- Vermont Suckling Pig

Herb Roasted with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Prunes

Perhaps my expectations were set too high here: this was a good dish, but I didn't consider it a highlight or signature. The pork belly was unctuously tender, but nothing about the flavors were particularly memorable.

If I were to describe the cooking at EMP in one word, I'd say "consistent." All of the other courses ranged from good to excellent, with no real stinkers.

---

al wang

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We had loved the spring & summer Gourmand/tasting menu

at EMP, the same one described above.

However, last evening we tried the fall Gourmand and found it

disappointing. It's not that anything was awful...there just wasn't

anything exciting or terribly interesting or delicious. I had loved the foie gras -

cherry dish described above. Last night the foie gras was presented

as three very thin cold slices, each on a lollipop stick [embedded in

lucite ] and covered w. a beet glaze. The desserts seemed particularly

shallow....a cassis sorbet under meringue and the traditional chocolate-

caramel-salt disk. The beignets were cold whereas formerly they were warm.

I agree w. the above poster that the presentations also seemed

less interesting or special than those of our previous experiences.

The 'ladies' at the podium are excellent and the waitstaff very

good EXCEPT that our waiter kept clearing our courses while

we were still chewing!...and on more than one occasion we

had to shoo him away as we still had our forks in hand. They were

not turning tables ...nor were we the last table there.........so this was

rather alienating.

Based on last night's experience, I will be more reserved about

sending people there. Perhaps Michelin had an experience similar to ours!

Edited by PaulaJK (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...
We had loved the spring & summer Gourmand/tasting menu

at EMP, the same one described above.

  However, last evening we tried the fall Gourmand and found it

disappointing. It's not that anything was awful...there just wasn't

anything exciting or terribly interesting or delicious. I had loved the foie gras -

cherry dish described above. Last night the foie gras was presented

as three very thin cold slices, each on a lollipop stick [embedded in

lucite ] and covered w. a beet glaze. The desserts seemed particularly

shallow....a cassis sorbet under meringue and the traditional chocolate-

caramel-salt disk. The beignets were cold whereas formerly they were warm.

  I agree w. the above poster that the presentations also seemed

less interesting or special than those of our previous experiences.

  The 'ladies' at the podium are excellent and the waitstaff very

good EXCEPT that our waiter kept clearing our courses while

we were still chewing!...and on more than one occasion we

had to shoo him away as we still had our forks in hand. They were

not turning tables ...nor were we the last table there.........so this was

rather alienating.

  Based on last night's experience, I will be more reserved about

sending people there. Perhaps Michelin had an experience similar to ours!

OK - I'm getting a little worried about this new gourmand menu. I have a reservation for this Friday and was very excited about it before reading these comments. Should I cancel and go someplace else? Or maybe we can sub a few courses for proven winners (i.e. the duck)? I would appreciate the advice as I don't want to drop $600 for 2 with the wine pairings for a mediocre meal. Thanks all.

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Some photos of our recent meal (not to mention pics of a birthday girl, her associate, and two tippling octopi.):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamngo/sets/72157602384994097/

Thanks Al. The meal looks very good but I agree its not as visually appealing as the earlier gourmand menus. Would you still recommend it to friends? I'm not sure but I may switch to ala carte and put together my own tasting menu including the suckling pig and the muscovy duck. Your thoughts? I was really looking forward to an over the top gluttonous tasting menu with wine pairings. :(

Edited by bgut1 (log)
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Some photos of our recent meal (not to mention pics of a birthday girl, her associate, and two tippling octopi.):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamngo/sets/72157602384994097/

Thanks Al. The meal looks very good but I agree its not as visually appealing as the earlier gourmand menus. Would you still recommend it to friends? I'm not sure but I may switch to ala carte and put together my own tasting menu including the suckling pig and the muscovy duck. Your thoughts? I was really looking forward to an over the top gluttonous tasting menu with wine pairings. :(

If you've never been to EMP, I'd still recommend the gourmand as worthwhile. If you've been before, and (like me), you don't dine in these sort of restaurants all that often, I might suggest trying someplace new. I think the ala carte approach might be a good way to go.

Even if the food in the gourmand wasn't over-the-top gluttonous, the wine pairing (though not cheap) was pretty excessive and decadent. It's a lot of booze, and good booze at that. :)

---

al wang

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Is anyone familiar with current BYOB policies. While I have read in the past that they were open to BYOB (with corkage of course), I just want to make sure that they are still open to it....

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Some photos of our recent meal (not to mention pics of a birthday girl, her associate, and two tippling octopi.):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamngo/sets/72157602384994097/

Thanks Al. The meal looks very good but I agree its not as visually appealing as the earlier gourmand menus. Would you still recommend it to friends? I'm not sure but I may switch to ala carte and put together my own tasting menu including the suckling pig and the muscovy duck. Your thoughts? I was really looking forward to an over the top gluttonous tasting menu with wine pairings. :(

If you've never been to EMP, I'd still recommend the gourmand as worthwhile. If you've been before, and (like me), you don't dine in these sort of restaurants all that often, I might suggest trying someplace new. I think the ala carte approach might be a good way to go.

Even if the food in the gourmand wasn't over-the-top gluttonous, the wine pairing (though not cheap) was pretty excessive and decadent. It's a lot of booze, and good booze at that. :)

My meal last night (4.5 hours worth) was bar none the best I've ever had. This is quite the accomplishment having dined at most of the "best" restaurants in the country including the French Laundry, Jean Georges, Daniel, and Le Bernadin. Noting a few of the mixed reviews regarding the new Gourmand menu, I decided to compose my own from the ala carte offerings with wine pairings. The kitchen as well as the sommelier were very accommodating. The three best dishes and probably the best I have ever eaten were the foie gras torchon with brioche and foie gras brulee, the suckling pig and the muscovy duck. In a word PERFECTION. The weakest dish of the night was the lobster lasagne. Service was impeccable and would not hesitate rrecommending to anyone seeking a once in a life meal.

Note to alwang - Chef Humm seems to have jettisoned the Foie Gras Lollipops and replaced them with the torchon. A good move as far as I'm concerned.

Edited by bgut1 (log)
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