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 wait staff and the luxe Art Deco space -- with cushy banquettes and cathedral ceilings -- helps take the sting out of the $340 per 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.
Creme fraiche smooths the bivalves’ briny edges without overpowering the oceanic bite. The “wine” pairing is lemony Southampton Saison Deluxe beer, which is unassailably perfect.
Your host, general manager and co-owner Will Guidara beckons you into the kitchen for your liquid nitrogen course. Applejack brandy freezes into sorbet that sublimates into a bracing yet ethereal spirit on your tongue.
Back at your table, the linens have been replaced and set with a lobster tail poached in Meyer lemon butter, a charred leek and a dark gash of shellfish bisque made with black garlic, squid ink and shellfish stock.
Dewazakura Ginjo sake ($11) adds a cherry blossom sting to complete the effect.
House-smoked sturgeon, firm and oily, arrives with a tin of Sterling Royal caviar. Consider a fizzy flute of Pierre Gimonnet Champagne for $19.
Meyer, who continues to seed Wall Street, Main Street and Kuwait with more Shake Shacks, would be proud. He transferred ownership of the restaurant to Humm, 36, and Guidara, 32, after it received its third Michelin star late last year.
Change was already in the works. Two Septembers back, Eleven Madison Park’s management tossed a quarter of the dining room’s seats, hiked the entry-level dinner price to $125 and streamlined the menu.
Guests who don’t opt for the longer unwritten tasting get to pick four courses from a list of sixteen ingredients.
There are no menu descriptions and no supplemental charges. No need to do mental math for the langoustine course, because it doesn’t cost extra.
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.
That’s your light preparation. A snappy Austrian Riesling (Jager 2009) is the right pairing.
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.
This is all calls for a muscular American Rhone blend, so get the job done with an Esprit de Beaucastel from Tablas Creek, California ($75 for 375 ml, two or three glasses).
Dinners include infinite amuses, intermezzos, petits fours and parting gifts like 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. Rating: ****
The Bloomberg Questions
Price: $125 for four courses; $195 for tasting; lunch, $74 for four course, $125 for tasting.
Sound Level: Subdued; rarely over 70 decibels.
Date Place: Same-side banquette seating for intimacy.
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.
Back on My Own Dime? At the bar.
Eleven Madison Park is at 11 Madison Avenue. Information: +1-212-889-0905; http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience. *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse sotto voce. 56 to 60: Speak up, please. 61 to 65: Lean in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: Heads turn because you’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)