Eleven Madison Park is the world’s best restaurant. Now that’s one topic sentence! Three Michelin stars, 4-star New York Times reviews, countless culinary awards, and a 2017 ranking as the #1 restaurant on the planet… What to write about a restaurant that has been unanimously praised, acclaimed, even eulogized by the world’s most respected food critics. We’ve all heard and/or dreamed of Eleven Madison Park – I’ve been fortunate enough to have eaten at New York City’s top fine dining establishment – twice. First in 2013, for what would be considered a special occasion. Looking back, that meal remains, to this day, unforgettable. Four years later, I’ve had the privilege to taste its exclusive Spring 2017 retrospective menu before the restaurant’s temporary shutdown for renovation. The special eleven course menu highlighted some of the most significant dishes served by chef Daniel Humm over the last eleven years. It has, however, taken almost double that time to get to where EMP is today.
The restaurant first opened in 1998 by New York empire-restaurateur Danny Meyer. At the time, it was a sophisticated but accessible French-American brasserie (you know, where Carrie is eating steak when Big tells her he’s engaged to Natasha!). The current iteration of Eleven Madison Park is just about a decade old, after Swiss-born Daniel Humm took over as chef in 2006. In 2011, Humm and partner Will Guidara purchased the restaurant from Meyer, and the rest is history.
Diners are required to fully pre-pay $295 for the food portion via Tock
As part of EMP’s “endless reinvention” motto, chef Humm has regularly revamped not just its dishes but the format of the meal itself. Over the years, the menu evolved from a relatively affordable à-la-carte to several tasting-menu formats, from $125 to the $295 (!) 8-course menu served today. When I first went to EMP, a highly ambitious 14+ course menu was served. Since 2016, Humm and Guidara adopted a more minimalist approach, halving the number of courses, cutting down on the introductory speeches, and adopting more a spare and simple style of plating.
Wine pairings start at $175 – Great extensive wine selection & by-the-glass list
Although I went back for their special 11-course retrospective menu, I still felt nostalgic of my first meal at Eleven Madison Park 4 years back. What had made it so memorable was the playful, almost whimsical courses served one after the other, each telling a different story of NYC. Every dish highlighted a specific ingredient grown or produced in the New York State, with several special nods to local staples and symbols. EMP felt like an unmatched, truly “New York” fine-dining experience, as opposed to another French-inspired Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant with the expected truffle, foie gras and caviar (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that).
Expect a 3-to-4-hour dining experience
This time around, every dish was indisputably refined and exquisite, but the clever, innovative, personal je-ne-sais-quoi that I remembered was gone. The menu is still inspired by the agricultural bounty of New York and its culinary traditions, but in a much more predictable way. I missed the cheese course in a picnic basket that reenacted a Central Park outing, the reinvented NYC staples like the black & white cookie or pretzel, and I longed for their legendary duck entrée (how is that dish not part of their introspective menu?). Oh and the bread! The drool-worthy, flaky bread & butter I’ve been reminiscing about for the past four years was no longer part of the tasting. Which probably added to the fact that we left EMP – hungry! 😕 This might sound like a rant but it most definitely is not – Eleven Madison Park is sensational. But I feel like I’m allowed to burst a bit of their bubble after their #1 rating…
Ask for a kitchen tour when you confirm your booking – if you’re lucky it will be your most special moment
Check out the rundown of the 11-course special retrospective menu, highlighting Eleven Madison Park‘s best dishes since 2006:
Eleven Madison Park is an exceptional dining experience – but just maybe not the best in the world! The food execution is flawless (hangry part aside – bring the flaky bread back Dan!), the flavors are exceptional, and the service is perfectly rehearsed and professional, without being a slight arrogant. What I particularly enjoy about EMP is the fact that despite the fancy white-tablecloth dining, it’s surprisingly laid-back and lively. The iconic location in a Manhattan landmark Art Deco building just off Madison Square Park is striking (it’s a Relais & Châteaux), although the original old-school decor is, indeed, in much need of a makeover! I cannot wait to check out the refurbished dining room and kitchen when the restaurant reopens.
No tipping establishment – service is included in tasting menu pricing
Whether it merits its #1 restaurant in the world title or not, Eleven Madison Park is surely a once-in-a-lifetime New York culinary journey, superbly commingling outstanding hospitality with exquisite food, in an iconic setting. It is definitely a special occasion type of gastronomic experience, but if you – understandably so – cannot afford such a splurge, Eleven Madison Park offers a five-course bar menu for $145, or you can have a preview of chef Humm’s talent at The Nomad a few blocks away.
Open every day:
Lunch: Fri–Sun noon–1:00pm
Dinner: Mon–Wed 5:30 pm–10:00 pm, Thurs–Sun 5:30 pm–10:30 pm
EMP will be under summer renovations and reopening in the fall of 2017. In the meantime they will be moving to East Hampton for a more casual pop-up EMP Summer House.