It’s finally here! My thoughts on the #1 best restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park (EMP).
First things first, some background on EMP. Located on the corner of 11th Madison Avenue, at East 24th street sits an inconspicuous revolving door with four leaves above the door, as seen above. Eleven Madison Park has received the coveted three-star Michelin Award since 2012. In 2017 it was also named the number one best restaurant in the world by The Worlds 50 Best list. Mind you, EMP was rated number 50 back in 2010. In just seven years, they were able to take the crown of number one. Alright enough about the awards, let’s get into what makes this restaurant so spectacular. An average meal at EMP is about 8-11 courses, depending on the season and what your food allergies are. Each course is a small serving, but just enough of food to enjoy. You will not leave hungry, but you will also not leave stuffed.
As soon as you walk through those doors you enter a beautiful art deco space. EMP recently went through a hefty renovation that lasted about three months over the summer. The owners, Daniel Humm and Will Guidara kept many of the design aspects that make this restaurant so unique. I, unfortunately, did not take a picture of what the decor is like inside. I do have an older picture from last year that still shows what a beautiful, simple restaurant EMP is.
Today, you can still find the ceiling adorned with those beautiful chandeliers and a large painting on the back wall. Although the restaurant is large, it only seats 80 guests. Not including the 3 private dining rooms upstairs. Back to walking through those revolving doors (I’ll get to the food!), A hostess immediately greets you upon entering and asks to take your jacket. One of the cool things about EMP is that there is no set dress code. If you dine at the restaurant, you will see most people all dressed up, but I have worn jeans to the restaurant and they are totally cool with it. The staff said that as long as the guest is comfortable, so are they. My party was led to our table and the hostess already was aware of our food allergies and asked if there was anything else that could make the night special. I had asked to meet the chef, Daniel Humm…he was not available, but we did get an amazing experience instead. I will talk about that later.
Okay, let us talk about that food, shall we? The first course was a small box with some savory snacks inside.The presentation of everything is just exceptional. Inside this little box was a Black and White Cookie with Apple and Cheddar. This was a perfect way to start the night. Little bite-sized snacks that had a very unexpected flavor. The smooth cheese complemented the apple flavor perfectly. It was a nice mix of salty and sweet.
Next on the menu was four different hors-d’oeuvres treats. Personally, this was the best part of the dinner.
Starting from the top left and going clockwise was a Sweet Potato Tart with Black Garlic. The flavors of this little slice of pie were incredible. A little crunch with a soft bite of the sweet potato layering took you right into that Autumn feeling. Next, (my personal favorite) was a Roasted Chestnut with black truffle on the inside. I regret eating this in one bite because it was just exceptional. I expected this to be similar to Lindt chocolate with a burst of flavor inside. Instead, it was something even better. I never really had chestnuts before, so I did not know what to expect. The chestnut was a lot softer than I imagined it to be. You bite into this and you get a delightful flavor of black truffle. Anyone that knows me, knows that I LOVE truffle. If you have never had it, it is basically one of the best ingredients on the planet that is made from mushrooms. I could write a whole extra blog post just on eating truffles, but this post is not about truffles. Continuing on, (bottom right) was the perfect fall dish. Cut-up Apples with Caramel and Foie Gras. Who knew mixing foie gras and caramel would be so delicious? I could easily trade candy apples in for this. Can someone make this happen? Finally was the Fall Game Pie with Pearl Onions. There were so many flavors packed into this little bite-sized snack, onions, beets?, crust, I don’t even know what else. I know I am supposed to be writing about what I ate, but I honestly do not even remember. Just take my word for it, it was good. Next up, Cheesecake with Sturgeon, Caviar, on an Everything Bagel Crust.
Alright, I know I said the chestnuts was the best dish, but this actually may have been the best. Pictured above was something I did not even know would taste so good. If I was at a dinner party and someone said they made cheesecake with caviar and sturgeon, I probably would have done a hard pass. I am happy that I tried this dish! As a New Yorker, if someone incorporates bagels into my food, I am going to have to try that. I will try my best to describe this dish. Picture a crunch an everything bagel, topped with a cheesecake texture pie, layered with sturgeon, mixed with caviar (salty fish flavor), and a cold mussel drizzle (kind of like cold milk) drizzled on top. That actually doesn’t sound appetizing now that I write about it…just take my word for it. Another perfect dish; I wish I could eat this every week. Next up, Mushroom layered with Barley and Garlic. I had no idea what to expect with this dish. I am honestly not sure if this was beets on the mushroom. Personally, I find beets revolting, but this was delicious. Perhaps this was just prepared so well, that it I actually enjoyed the beets for a change. Under this layering of whatever it was, were mushrooms seasoned with barley and garlic. Again, I can’t say this enough, it was just a perfect mix of flavors.
The ONE dish I personally didn’t find appetizing. This is Tilefish with Parsnip and Pike Roe. The tilefish was a bit too salty and fishy for me. I know I ate caviar earlier, but this was just not tasty in my opinion. I gave it to my friend who found this to be one of the best dishes of the night. I can’t like everything I eat. Well, moving on!
Can you really go a meal without having some bread and butter? Who knew such a simple dish that you have with almost every meal at a restaurant can be so good! The bread was warm and doughy and melted perfectly in your mouth. We were given a side of butter and Salt, that was from the Hamptons. You really didn’t even need the butter. The bread was perfect on its own, the butter almost took the flavoring away from the bread. Sometimes less is more.
My apologies, there were a couple dishes in between the next one, but for some reason, I didn’t take a picture. I got distracted! Next, we ate Pumpkin that was roasted with seaweed and bacon. Bacon and pumpkins? Yes, and it was very well-prepared. They roasted a pumpkin and wrapped it with bacon and seaweed. The actual dish didn’t have the bacon visible, but you could definitely taste it. On the pumpkin, they poured a light honey broth that topped off the pumpkin perfectly. The main course! I am the only one at the table that decided to go with a vegetable in lieu of the veal or lobster tail. I did get some looks from the rest of the party about why on earth I decided to go with a vegetable instead of the other choices. This was celery root though, and I LOVE celery root. Yet another amazing dish. The root was soft and the barley crust was an excellent complement.
This right here was a cheesy masterpiece. You are looking at a doughy Pretzel with New York Cheddar, Mustard, and beer-infused cheese sauce. Basically, everything that you should consume with a pretzel, mixed together and poured on top. How can you not like this?
If you have made it this far, congratulations! But, I am not done yet, a couple more dishes to go.
Again, for some reason, I neglected to take a picture of one of the desserts. I know, how do you miss the most important meal! That’s a good question… I really don’t know. Next up, was an apple cider donut with apple slices stuffed inside. It was hot, but not scalding, and sweet, but not too sweet. It was really just another perfect fall plate.
Finally, you are served chocolate pretzels with all you can drink EMP Apple Brandy. The brandy was a perfect way to end the night. Unfortunately, this brandy is exclusively crafted for EMP and cannot be bought elsewhere. St. George Spirits teamed up with EMP and made a perfect dessert drink. It has subtle hints of apple that perfectly top off an incredible meal.
So now, 2 and a half hours later since we started the meal, our Maitre D comes over to our table to see how well we liked everything. As I mentioned before, I had requested to meet the man behind these dishes, but Mr. Humm was unavailable. We instead, much to my surprise, got a special tour of the kitchen!Where the magic happens. It was so quiet back there, everyone was keeping to themselves and working efficiently. The kitchen was also unbelievably clean. You could literally eat off the floor.
We were treated to one extra special dessert. I took a picture this time!
These little cones were actually cooking over hot wood logs. They warm up the cones and add warm liquid caramel topped with whipped cream. You pop them in your mouth with one bite and WOW, it was spectacular. It was really cool to have this extra dessert that most people don’t get to eat in the dining room. Truly a wonderful way to end the night.
I am truly thankful that I was able to share this food with my father, my work boss, and my best friend. I was looking all year to share this food with these wonderful people. It was really an unforgettable night.
Please note, I am not paid whatsoever to write these reviews. I venture to these places and pay for them myself. If you enjoyed this article, please comment below and share with your friends! As long as people keep reading, I will keep writing.
Later this month, look out for my review of the Polo Lounge at the Westbury Manor in Long Island. An amazing catering hall that knows how to entertain and feed their guests.