Danny Meyer has left Eleven Madison Park. His signature service has not.
Sure, chef and co-owner Daniel Humm serves outstanding French-American fare. But it's the hospitality, at once studied and effortless, that secures Eleven Madison Park's place among New York's great restaurants.
The telepathic servers and the luxe Art Deco space -- with cushy banquettes and cathedral ceilings -- helps take the sting out of the $340 a person you're spending for a wine-paired tasting menu. That buys you 17 courses, 13 glasses of wine and one giant kettle of New England clam chowder.
You dispense it yourself into Japanese-style teacups.
Too much work given these prices? I'd call it self-regulation.
House-smoked sturgeon, firm and oily, arrives with a tin of Sterling Royal caviar. Consider a fizzy flute of Pierre Gimonnet Champagne for $19.
Guests who don't opt for the longer unwritten tasting get to pick four courses from a list of 16 ingredients. There are no menu descriptions and no supplemental charges.
More Foie Gras
Let other establishments issue "no substitution" decrees. Eleven Madison Park encourages guests to help tailor the bespoke culinary experience.
Your waiter asks for preferences. I tell the kitchen I'm a spicy sort of guy. Out comes curried cauliflower four-ways: roasted, sous-vide, pureed and crumbled into a lemony couscous. Fantastic.
I ask for foie gras. Out comes sea urchin, caviar and duck liver torchon, three rich delicacies under the adult supervision of a puckery apple gelee.
Humm's not done yet. Dry-aged duck for two, Beijing by way of Provence, is the belt-loosening deal closer. The breast, perfumed with lavender, has a crackling lacquered skin. The fat is rendered; the flavor, bold and gently gamy.
Then comes the parfait: bowls of potato mousseline, white fluff hiding leg confit and still more foie gras.
Dinners include infinite amuses, intermezzos, petits fours and parting gifts such as salty yogurt lollipops (no thanks), goat cheesecake (now we're talking), orange egg creams (too sweet), olive oil egg creams (luscious and salty) and white truffle ice cream balls (sensational).
It's impossible to leave Eleven Madison Park without feeling that you've experienced greatness. And it's not just the brandy talking -- a bottle of Guillon-Painturaud (or sometimes applejack) is left on your table at the meal's end for free pouring. Smooth, indeed.
Eleven Madison Park
WHERE 11 Madison Ave.
PRICES $125 for four courses; $195 for tasting; lunch, $74 for four course, $125 for tasting
INSIDE TIP Wines by the glass ($9-$35) and pairings ($95- $145) best the bottle list for the long menus.
SPECIAL FEATURE Killer coconut sorbet for dessert