11 Madison Park has been on the top of many peoples lists for a long time. It has been granted 3 Michelin stars for the past 10 years, and was recognized as the best restaurant in the world in 2017. I have been lucky to have dined there on several occasions over the years, but knew I had to pay a visit once they announced they were going fully Plant-Based (they prefer that over vegan) in May of this year. The plan was to open back up in June when NYC started getting back to “normal” with an 11 course celebration of all things veggie.
If you have been a reader of the blog for a while, you know I am both Vegetarian as well as Gluten-Free. I am used to having restaurants propose alternate dishes for me on Tasting Menus, so in this case I was really looking forward to getting the full experience.
As soon as the re-opening was announced, along with the date reservations could be booked, I set an alarm on my phone and got ready to score a table. This was to be a celebration dinner for my youngest son, who completed a program at Le Cordon Bleu London in 2020. His original celebration had been booked at Noma in Copenhagen in late March 2020, but those plans had to be postponed. He was as excited to see how Chef Daniel Humm would rise to the challenge of a 3 star plant-based extravaganza, as I was. The doubter in our small group was my meat-loving husband who grumbled that it was surely going to be a disappointment.
When the reservations opened up I was able to get a table at 5:30 pm on June 16, the third day they were open. We didn’t mind the early table as we knew the meal would last at least 3 1/2 hours. I felt extremely proud of myself for being ahead of the curve, as I read that there is currently a 15,000 person wait-list for a table.
11 Madison Park is at the corner of Madison Park (which was alive with activity on a sunny Wednesday evening) in what used to be the lobby of the old Met Life North Building. There has been some redecorating and updating since my last visit, and everything looked beautiful.
A couple of days before our reservation, the Maître D’ reached out to me to see whether we were celebrating anything special. I explained we were coming to celebrate our son’s accomplishment, and asked if it would be possible to have a glimpse into the world renowned kitchen. She noted that because it was so early in the re-opening that it might be difficult, but she would try.
Aside from the stunning interiors and the artistry and magnificence of the food, the highlight of 11 Madison Park is the staff. The professionalism and genuine enthusiasm of every single member of the team is truly remarkable. The memo was out that our son was celebrating his graduation from Culinary School, and he received congratulations from each and every person that assisted us (a large number of people)! They were not just going through the motions, they were engaged and authentic.
From the moment we were seated, we felt very well taken care of. We ordered drinks, with the guys ordering Bourbon followed by wine pairings. I started with a virgin Spritz (I was on driving duty). I can’t reiterate enough how exemplary the service was.
There are no menus presented beforehand, though we did receive one at the conclusion of the meal. We were asked whether there were any aversions (allergies were taken care of prior) and my husband opted out of the eggplant dish. He was still a skeptic as to whether the meal would be worth the $335 price per person (not including drinks).
I am not going to expound on each course, rather I will let the photos speak for themselves. The skill and creativity of each dish is evident.
Every ingredient was as perfect as it could possibly be, bursting with flavor.
Celtuce is a type of lettuce I had never had before, but I expect that there will a rising interest in this tasty ingredient.
Tonburi , otherwise known as caviar of the field is a Japanese superfood similar to quinoa that has existed for over 1000 years. It looked, and had the mouthfeel of caviar. By the smile on my husband’s face, I knew he was slowly coming around. The innovation and presentation of each dish was hard to resist.
Following the Tonburi course, our wish was granted, and we were escorted into the kitchen. It was as well-choreographed as a ballet. Everyone had a job to do, and there was a minimum of unnecessary sound or movement. We were able to observe the goings on while we sipped a special cocktail. Best of all, my son as able to spend some time chatting with Chef Humm who could not have been more gracious. It was really a special opportunity.
As far as I could see , visits to the kitchen were being kept to a minimum, so we truly appreciated the gesture. When we arrived back at the table we were presented with one of the most instagrammed aspects of the dinner I have seen. The sunflower butter and homemade bread were out of this world.
The smoked daikon was such a unique, but not overpowering flavor.
The squash dish was a sight to behold, with a delicate flavor that matched the delicate appearance.
The fried sweet stuffed sweet pepper was scrumptious, especially when paired with the accoutrements.
The showstopper presentation was the Aged Beets in Red Wine presented in this clay pot which was cracked open table-side.
Anticipation was growing.
Not the most attractive sight to behold, but the smell was intoxicating.
Once it was plated and glazed with the red wine sauce, it felt as substantial as a meat course, but so much healthier. At this point my husband proclaimed it one of the best meals he had ever had.
My son and I enjoyed the eggplant course which is prepared over the course of 2 days. It was complex and full of umami flavor. My husband had a substitute of Parsnip steak wrapped in Kale, though I think we got the better dish.
The side dishes tasted as though the were just delivered from a local farm.
By this time in the meal we were pretty stuffed, so it was lucky that the desserts were on the lighter side.
To be honest, the weakest link of the entire meal was the Blueberry Elderflower. It was good, but not my favorite.
Dessert was saved by the chocolate sesame pretzel, which was sort of like Halvah.
Before the drive home I ordered a cappuccino, the only time cows milk is allowed in the restaurant is if the customer desires it with coffee.
As in the past, each patron is sent home with a jar of house made granola to enjoy for breakfast. A perfect way to extend the bliss from dinner.
11 Madison Park was absolutely terrific. My son and I had very high expectations, and they were surpassed. My husband had very low expectations, and he is singing their praises louder than both of us. It is pricey, but if you have a special occasion to mark, or you just want to celebrate the lifting of restrictions in NYC- get on that waiting list or book a future date so you have something to look forward to. It’s worth it!!