In photos: Jean-Georges, New York.

I must admit, one of the main reasons I wanted to dine at Jean-Georges was because of an episode of Friends (where Chandler managed to snag a last minute reservation for his & Monica’s anniversary). I am rather obsessed with Friends, but that’s another story for another day.

Of course, I wouldn’t have made a reservation had there not been good reviews for the restaurant.. I’m not that Friends-mad! And obviously, the fact that it holds three Michelin-stars was a factor.

In keeping with my ‘trying to be more efficient at blogging’ thing, this will be a a photo-centered post.

p.s. We dined here in mid-December 2011.

Bread. Good, but not great. (Nothing can beat Eleven Madison Park’s warm, flaky bun goodness. )

Amuse: Flavours of fall. From L to R – Cheese & truffle spring roll with lettuce; Salmon smoked with chilli; Sweet potato soup with apple & basil.

Scallop sashimi with crispy rice and chipotle mayo. This was my favourite dish of the meal. There was something so simple, yet so good about this.

Sea urchin on black bread, with jalapeno. I was impressed at the freshness of sea urchin – I normally am not a fan but was won over by this.

Crab dumplings with celeriac & meyer lemon tea. This was light and refreshing.

Comte risotto. This came with the (extravagant) option of having white Alba truffles shaved atop the risotto, which I decided against.

Chicken leg confit with parmesan crust, artichoke & lemon sauce. I order anything with artichoke in it. It’s another one of my obsessions, having only discovered the wonders of artichokes in the last year.

Caramelised beef tenderloin, with comte beignets, spinach & wasabi pea puree. Is it wrong that I enjoyed the beignets more than the beef?

For some reason, I didn’t write down the name of this dish! From memory, this was a chocolate pear cake, with shaved ice in the bowl. I can’t for the life of me remember which alcohol was used in the shaved ice, but I do remember it being extremely boozy.

Chocolates, one of which was adorned with ‘JG’.

Macarons. Again, I didn’t note down what flavour these were – oops!

Vanilla marshmallows. These were delightful. The restaurant stores them in giant glass jars, and cut them for you with scissors at the table.

Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West
New York
NY 10023
www.jean-georges.com

NB: This site houses the 70-seat Jean Georges dining room (which is where we dined), and also Nougatine at Jean Georges (a more casual bar-style dining room).

As the restaurant was just next to Central Park, we took a slow stroll across the park (and ended up in the Upper East Side). I didn’t have my tripod with me and it was getting quite dark, but I wanted to share a few photos I took at the time, even though they are not of the best quality.

Man, I ♥ New York.

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The Modern, New York

One of R’s friends went to New York last week, and we gave her a list of restaurant recommendations… which included The Modern, the restaurant at MoMa (The Museum of Modern Art). This helpfully reminded me that I had yet to blog about our meal there (that took place almost 7 months ago!), so here goes:

NB: We ate in the bar area, as the restaurant (which I believe holds a Michelin star – but I might be mistaken) was unfortunately closed for lunch!

Bread rolls – I enjoyed the mini baguette rolls more than the sourdough, I think it was the novelty of miniature rolls!

Quail terrine, with a fennel and grapefruit salad. A delicious start to the meal. Loved the inclusion of pistachio bits in the terrine.

Artichoke soup, with pearl barley, almonds and ricotta salata. I always order artichoke dishes whenever they are on a menu, and this soup didn’t dissapoint. The accompanying biscuits were buttery and crumbly, just how they should be.

Crispy Atlantic cod, celeriac Granny Smith apple salad, and sauce gribiche. A slightly “healthier” take on fish and chips, where light celeriac/apple cubes replaced the chips. (Secretly I think I’d prefer some fat-laden chips though.) The cod batter was deliciously crispy, and the cod itself perfectly cooked.



Long Island duck breast, with peppercorn crusted apples and pistachio truffle dipping sauce. This was SO DELICIOUS I could have eaten another plate. By far the best pan fried duck I’ve ever eaten, hands down. I also loved the peppercorn crusted apples – they were so good that I would choose this over potato wedges/fries (believe me, that rarely happens).

Pan-Seared Skate with crispy rock shrimp, creamy grits and brown butter vinaigrette. All I can say is: YUM. The brown butter vinaigrette was an inspired sauce for the dish.

Citrus Carpaccio with lemongrass gelée and green apple basil sorbet. I never would have thought that a few simple segments of grapefruits and oranges could make for such an elegant dessert. I liked the crispy ‘sugar’ halve that came with the dish, as it added extra texture to the dish.

The Modern: bar area. It had emptied significantly when I took this photo, it was extremely busy around lunchtime, and were were lucky to get a table within 20 minutes. I highly recommend planning ahead, and booking a table! You can always wander back to the museum after you finish your meal.

The Modern Bar Room in a nutshell:
– Simple yet delicious food, I enjoyed every single dish!
– Has the bonus of having MoMA next door, and believe me when I say MoMA is a MUST visit.
– Gets very busy: reservations are definitely recommended
– Service was lacking at times, I suspect they reserve their A-list team for the restaurant perhaps?
– If I get a chance, I’d go back – but I want to try the restaurant next time around!

The Modern
9, West 53rd Street
New York 10019
themodernnyc.com

New York: Lobster rolls, Korean fried chicken, Burgers, and Arepas!

I ate a lot (and I do mean a LOT) when I was in New York, but one of the most memorable foods I tried was the lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster.

I mean, just look at that baby. Chunks of perfectly cooked lobster, sandwiched between the lightest bread roll imaginable – and they even fry the roll in butter so it’s perfectly crisp. They keep it simple at Luke’s, and the roll is simply seasoned with a dash of pepper and some mayo – but my goodness it’s good. It was utter perfection. I’d heard a lot about lobster rolls (mostly from Catty), and now I know exactly why she was raving about them.

The only bad thing about those lobster rolls are the fact that I can’t get them here. Hawksmoor Seven Dials do have lobster rolls on their menu, but I honestly cannot stomach paying £25 for a lobster roll, especially not when it only costs $15 in New York. Sigh. Luke’s Lobster has absolutely spoilt me, for life.

There are several branches of Luke’s Lobster around New York – I went to the one in the Upper East Side, as well as the one in East Village. Whilst the Upper East Side store has more seats and had a better atmosphere, I preferred the East Village one. This is primarily because there was an excellent arepa bar right next to Luke’s Lobster East Village…

Luke’s Upper East Side
242 East 81st Street (southwest corner of 81st St and 2nd Ave)
212.249.4241

Luke’s East Village
93 East 7th Street (northeast corner of 7th St and 1st Ave)
212.387.8487
www.lukeslobster.com/

So Luke’s is next to an arepa bar. But what are arepas? I won’t lie, I had no idea either. Stephane mentioned Caracas Arepa Bar to me, and I was intrigued by it as its definitely not something I’ve seen in London. They are very popular in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. The best description of arepas are probably found on Caracas’ website:

Pale gold arepas, made from scratch daily, they have been described as “dense yet spongy corn-flour rounds, pitalike pockets, corn muffins, cake-swaddled mélange, white corn cakes, Latin sloppy Joe, sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty, soft and smooth within, golden crispiness, tasty treats, burrito-killer, panini-killer, wheat-free, gluten-free crisp on the outside, steamy-soft in the middle…”

Their menu is divided into several sections: Arepas, Empanadas, Salads, Plates, Sidekicks, Beverages and Desserts. The arepa section of the menu is designed for quick ordering and serving, and are coded A1-A20.

Papelón con limón ($3.50) This was a refreshing blend of dehydrated sugar cane and limes – this was very good, and brought me back to my younger years *cough* where I used to drink it (I fondly remember it as “air tebu”).

We also tried Yoyos ($5.50), which were described as fried sweet plantain balls stuffed with white cheese on the menu. It sounded so strange that I simply had to try it. I mean, plantains and cheese? Really?? But you know what, it wasn’t bad at all! Taste wise, it reminded me of kuih kodok, a Malaysian kuih made from bananas and flour.

But of course, I was here for the arepas – which were delicious. We tried a a few different flavour combinations, but my favourite was the A20 – La Sureña ($ 7.50). This arepa was filled with grilled chicken and chorizo, paired with avocado slices, and topped with enigmatic spicy chimi-churri sauce. Caracas also has a special sauce which can be used with pretty much everything you order – and you know what, it was seriously addictive. I have no idea what was in it, but I suspect it was a mixture of herbs and possibly mango/papaya. R loved the sauce, and liberally doused his arepa in it.

A15 Los Muchachos ($7): grilled chorizo, spicy white cheese with jalapeños and sauteed peppers

A18 La de Pernil ($7): roasted pork shoulder with tomato slices and a spicy mango sauce

A word of warning though – arepas are NOT date food. It gets messy, especially if you order an arepa with a stew based filling. So yes, not a good place for first dates. Otherwise its a total win.

We also tried an empanada, just because. The De Carne Mechada ($5.75) was filled with shredded beef, and was pretty good. I have to admit that my favourite bit of the the whole thing was the crispyness of the perfectly deep-fried pastry. So calorific, but oh-soooo-good.

Caracas Arepa Bar (Manhattan)
93 1/2 E 7th Street (corner of 1st Ave)
212.529.2314
http://www.caracasarepabar.com/

One of the other things I was really looking forward to trying was Korean fried chicken. I’d been told to try Kyochon, and so I did. And I almost cried with joy (and heat) when I took my first bite of their delicious DOUBLE fried chicken wings. That right people, double fried. These were by far, the best fried chicken wings I have had. Ever. The double frying process makes for a very crispy chicken wing, and I wolfed everything down, skin and all. I usually try to not eat too much chicken skin, but Kyochon chicken skins were too good to not eat. After all I couldn’t let R have all the fun now could I?

The chicken wings come in two flavours, Soy & Garlic and Hot & Sweet. You can either get them in Regular ($17.99) or Large ($25.99). I honestly cannot remember how many wings were in the Large box, if anyone knows please let me know. There were at least 20, I think. But yes, the flavours. I am forever grateful to the lady at the counter who suggested we order half and half (we were going to get an entire box of spicy wings), because the hot wings were very, very spicy. I was tearing up, my nose was running, and my mouth was on fire. So if you’re not someone who can tolerate ultra spicy things (I love chilli, but this was honestly too much for me!), I would highly recommend going for the Soy & Garlic version. Much more enjoyable when you’re not feeling like you might just burst into flames at any moment.

I believe Kyochon also sell some other food items, but I have no idea what they are. All I wanted (and tried) was the chicken wings. There is also Bonchon (just a few steps away) that serve Korean fried chicken, but I didn’t get a chance to try their version. They *so* need to bring Korean fried chicken to London….

Kyochon
319 5th Ave (corner of 32nd Street)
http://www.kyochon.us/

And of course, I could not have gone to New York and not tried the burgers at Shake Shack. I’d checked out their menu beforehand (because that’s exactly what food obsessed people do) and was particularly intrigued by the Shake Stack.

I’m not surprised I was intrigued by the sound of it. The Shake Stack ($8.50) is one of the BEST burgers I have ever sunk my teeth into. It was essentially a cheeseburger served with a crisp fried portebello mushroom, topped with melted muenster and cheddar cheese. There was also the usual burger toppings – lettuce, tomato and their very own ShakeSauce. I always choose to add a portebello mushroom to my burger when I’m at Byron (I like the extra meatiness it brings to the burger), and having it deep fried with a crisp crust was simply a-ma-zing. I thought the beef was good, but not as good as the beef at Byron – but when it comes to the topping/crispy portebello mushroom/cheese stakes…. Shake Shack wins. Hands down.

We also tried the Cheeseburger (Single $4.00, Double $6.50). One thing I noticed about the burgers in New York was how good the cheese was. I’m not sure what cheese they used, but there just seemed to be more of it, and it seemed a lot more flavoursome than the cheese we get in burgers back in London. This cheeseburger was no exception. Whilst it was good, it just didn’t have a crispy portebello mushroom…

Shake Shack also do Frozen Custards, which is a mix of soft serve and ice cream. They cycle the flavours, and there is a daily special – which means you could go there every single day of the week and get a different flavour each day. I must admit that I didn’t get a chance to try this, but I will definitely aim to try it the next time I find myself in a Shake Shack. That is the down side of constant snacking… there’s less space for heavy duty things like shakes.

Shake Shack (Theater District)
691 8th Avenue (southwest corner of 8th Ave and 44th St)
646.435.0135
http://www.shakeshack.com/

I also have to mention Five Guys Burger, which was only a few blocks away from our hotel. Whilst I didn’t think they were as delicious as the Shake Shack burgers, what I liked was how you could personalize your burger. When ordering, you get a whole list of toppings to choose from, and you can pick as many/as little as you like. So beware if you order a cheeseburger, and say “no” to toppings – that will mean you don’t even get lettuce with your burger!

The best thing about Five Guys Burger was their Cajun Chips. Perfectly fried chips, with a delicious spiced powder blend doused liberally over them. There were hints of paprika, cumin, and probably at least 5 other spices. We got a regular serving of fries (which was HUGE), became full halfway through, but still continued eating them because they were too good. And then proceeded to feel absolutely stuffed for the next 2 hours, but it was worth it. Also, I don’t think there was a time when I wasn’t feeling stuffed in New York anyhow.

Five Guys Burger
36 W 48th Street (between 5th and 6th Ave)
212-997-1271
http://www.fiveguys.com/

I think I need to start planning my next trip to New York… soon.

New York: Momofuku vs Ippudo – pork buns and ramen galore!

Time truly flies. I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 months since I was in New York, and almost three weeks since I last blogged! Before it becomes five months since my trip, I figured that I should probably get a move on and post the remaining New York posts I had planned…

I’d heard a lot about the famous Momofuku pork buns, way before I’d even planned my trip to New York. It was just one of those things that many bloggers have attempted to make at home… which obviously meant it was something I absolutely HAD to try when I visited New York.

And you know what, I completely understand the hype. These little babies were totally worth the 45 minutes we waited to get a table at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Tender melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and cucumber slices, sandwiched in between a soft, fluffy steamed bun = utter deliciousness. We ordered two each, and the only thing stopping us from ordering any more of these were the fact that we had already ordered a bowl of ramen each…

And because we simply could not stop thinking about them, we made it a point to have some on our last day in New York. This time though, we had them at the Momofuku Milk Bar (no seats, just tables and standing areas), as I wasn’t really in the mood to queue to get seats at the Noodle Bar. For some reason, the pork belly slices served at the Milk Bar looked different from the ones in the Noodle Bar (I think the ones in the Noodle Bar had a thicker glaze) – they still tasted the same though. Fat-laden? = yes. Worth the calories? = Totally.

This was one of the specials, I forgot to take take a photo of the specials board so can’t exactly remember what this was. From memory, I think this was a duck ramen dish. Whilst the broth itself was a little too salty, the buckwheat noodles were just the right consistency – springy with a slight bite to it.

Momofuku ramen – pork belly, pork shoulder and poached egg. This was good (I’m a total pork fan, as you will probably guess by the end of this post), but again I felt the broth was too salty.

All in all – I wasn’t bowled over by the ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Nevertheless, I would still recommend trying it as their pork buns are simply amazing.

The next day, it was time to try Ippudo which was another place I had heard many good things about. We met Ken (Hungry Rabbit) there for an early lunch, as Ken had warned us that the queues would get manic later on in the day. Truth be told though, queuing is not all that bad if you’ve got good company.. As long as you’re not starving or hangry, that is.

It was great to finally meet Ken though, who even took the time to show us around East Village after we finished our lunch. He also brought me to Broadway Panhandler where I errr… let’s say I bought a few things there. 😉 Thanks, Ken!

We started off with Shishito (fried Japanese peppers, served with a yuzu salt). I’ve been a fan of these peppers since I tried them in Barcelona a couple of years ago, and order them everytime I see them on the menu. Fried peppers are what they are – but dipping them in the yuzu salt made them something a little more special. Definitely a good alternative to edamame.

Ippudo’s Hirata pork buns were next – at first glance, these looked slightly ‘mean’ as there appeared to be a lot less pork in them compared to their counterparts at Momofuku. Whilst these were good, they just weren’t as good as the Momofuku ones – although the buns are served with a spicy sauce, I felt that the sauce bordered on sweet rather than spicy. The fact there appeared to be more bun than pork was also a little disappointing.

Shiromaru Chasu – The original “Tonkotsu” noodle soup topped with pork loin chashu, kikurage, menma, red pickled ginger, sesame, and scallions. Whilst their pork buns were underwhelming, their ramen was excellent. The broth was very good indeed, and had just the perfect balance of flavours. Definitely a winner.

Akamaru Modern – The original “Tonkotsu” noodle soup topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. I thought this tasted better than the Shiromaru Chasu, I suspect this was because there was a scattering of garlic oil in this.

Mentaiko (spicy cod roe) over rice – one of the small dishes that came with the ramen lunch set.

Spicy fried chicken over rice – another one of the dishes that was part of the lunch set. I preferred this to the mentaiko version, I suspect it’s something to do with the fact that the chicken is deep fried…

So… in the end, which did I think was better?

Momofuku Noodle Bar
The good: Amazing pork buns. Order two for yourself and don’t share.
The not-so-good: The ramen broth was too salty! And the queues – they have a no reservation policy.

Ipuddo
The good: Delicious ramen, with flavoursome broth. Great ambiance and more spacious compared to the Noodle Bar.
The not-so-good: Pork buns were slightly ‘meh’. And again, the queues. Definitely not a fan of these no reservation policies, sigh.

There were definitely good things about each – but if I could only visit one, I’d choose Momofuku, as the pork buns are just too good to miss out on.

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Avenue (between 10th and 11th Street)
New York, NY 10003
http://www.momofuku.com/restaurants/noodle-bar/

Ippudo
65 Fourth Avenue (Between 9th and 10th Street)
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 212-388-0088
http://www.ippudony.com/

New York: Kyotofu

I was intrigued by Kyotofu the moment I typed their name into Google. This Japanese themed dessert bar and bakery goes on the theme of “changing the world, one soybean at a time”. Soybean? Oh, yes. The humble soybean is taken to new levels at Kyotofu, inspiring a whole range of innovative (and delicious!) savoury and sweet dishes.

Barbequed unagi – The only savoury dish I tried at Kyotofu. And to be honest, it was R’s dish as I chose dessert instead. This was actually a really nice spin on the usual unagi sushi you get in Japanese restaurants. The barbequed freshwater eel was wrapped in crisp phyllo dough, and served with whole sansho peppers and teriyaki sauce.

I would have tried more savoury dishes, but I was concentrating on the desserts each time we went to Kyotofu (we went twice, both at odd times, in between meals.) Catty tried their chicken tofu burger when she visited them last year and liked it, so I’d definitely want to aim to try more of their savoury food the next time I’m in New York.

Warm miso chocolate cake. I knew I had to order this when I saw it on the menu. I mean, how could I resist the combination of a warm miso chocolate cake with a mochi center, miso caramel, and adzuki shiro-an (red bean sweetened paste)? This was absolutely gorgeous, and I think I must have let out a little squeal of delight when it was brought to the table. I never thought that miso could be paired with caramel, but it worked really well… think of it as an Asian twist on salted caramel, because that is exactly what it tasted like. The warm chocolate cake was moist, and the mochi center was a pleasant surprise.

Whilst I was enjoying my warm chocolate cake, people kept on coming in to take away their soft serve. Intrigued, I decided that I simply *had* to try some. So I did. The waiter who initially served us (but had gone on a short break) was extremely surprised when he got back to find the ice cream in front of me, asking me “didn’t you have the chocolate cake?” with a puzzled look on his face. If only he knew how much I can eat…

Anyway, on to the soymilk soft ice cream sundae, served with a fruit compote, matcha mochi, brownie topping and pocky sticks. Kyotofu cycle flavours on a monthly basis, and in March they were serving matcha and black sesame ice cream. I believe it is chocolate and white sesame this month, and I only wish I could try the white sesame version! I really, really liked the ice cream. It wasn’t too sweet (always a plus), and was bursting with the flavours of matcha (green tea) and black sesame respectively. I don’t think I paid much attention to the toppings that came with the sundae, as I was too busy eating the ice cream itself. I especially liked how it was made with soymilk, which therefore meant I could *claim* to be eating something healthy. Sort of.

Because we enjoyed Kyotofu so much, we managed to squeeze in another trip just before leaving New York. Priorities. 😀 We tried their matcha lattes (both cold, and hot) – both were good. I felt that the hot version was better, but that might have been because it was a very cold day.

Anmitsuadzuki red bean, coffee & strawberry agar, shiratama dango (mochi-like balls made from sweet rice flour) and kinako ice cream. You get a choice of kinako ice cream or a vegan coconut sorbet, but I chose the kinako (soybean flour) as it was something different. This was again beautifully presented. It tasted as good as it looked, and my favourite bit of it was the kinako ice cream. The red beans had just the right amount of sweetness, and went well with the ice cream and the dango. I love anything chewy, so naturally really enjoyed the shiratama dango. I couldn’t eat the sugar wafer though – that was too sweet and too hard for my teeth!

Black sesame sweet tofu, served with a hoji-cha syrup. I had a hard time deciding between this, and their signature white tofu. I ended up choosing the black sesame version as I felt the white tofu version would be similar to “tofu fah” (one of the absolute MUST EAT’s everytime I go home). Like everything else here, there was a burst of black sesame goodness in each bite of the tofu. Despite the word “sweet” in the name of the dish, the tofu itself wasn’t all that sweet. I felt the hoji-cha syrup complemented the tofu very well, but R preferred the tofu plain – but then again, he does not have a sweet tooth. I still prefer “tofu fah” though, as it’s what I grew up eating. 🙂

I also bought a selection of their baked goods to bring back to London – again, this was influenced by the many, many people who walked in to do this each time I dined there. The photo above is of their genmaicha brown rice almond financiers (golden) and matcha green tea almond financiers (green). I absolutely loved these. Surprisingly I enjoyed the genmaicha ones more than the matcha, as the tea added an extra nutty flavour to the financiers.

Miso chocolate brownie. As you can tell from the photo, there were sesame seeds in this – I thought this was absolute genius. I’m definitely going to try making some sesame chocolate brownies very soon! I must say I couldn’t really taste the miso in this, but it was good nonetheless.

Chocolate chunk and hazelnut kinako cookie. What I really liked about Kyotofu was how they put a Japanese/Asian spin on their food. This looks like your standard chocolate chip cookie, but believe me when I say it was better than that. The kinako (soybean flour) added a pleasant nutty aftertaste to the cookies. Only way I thought this could be improved = some sea salt sprinkled on the tops of the cookies.

Mini cupcakes – chocolate souffle, matcha green tea, yuzu vanilla and apple cinnamon. Apparently their chocolate souffle cupcake was voted NYC’s best cupcake by New York Magazine – so obviously I had to try one. Whilst the chocolate souffle cupcake was good, my favourite flavour was the yuzu vanilla. The tangy yuzu cupcake had delightful notes of vanilla running through it, and like all their other baked goods, was not overly sweet.

I really enjoyed Kyotofu, and it is definitely a place I can visit over and over again. I can only imagine how often I’d pop in to get some soymilk soft serve if I was a New Yorker…. Fingers crossed I’ll get to try their tofu cheesecake, miso brittle and tofu marshmallows in the near future. In the meantime I’ll continue hoping that they may one day come to London!

Kyotofu
705 Ninth Avenue (between 48th and 49th)
New York, NY 10019
Tel: 212-974-6012
http://kyotofu-nyc.com/

New York: Eleven Madison Park

**EDIT** October 2011 – Eleven Madison Park has been awarded three Michelin stars (they previously held one star). Well deserved, and I cannot wait to dine here again… hopefully soon! They are also no. 26 in the world’s top 50 restaurants (from no. 50).  

Every so often, you have a meal that completely blows you away. The day I dined at Eleven Madison Park was one of these days.

They have a unique take on the whole dining and ordering experience, in that their menu is set out in a grid format where only the main ingredients of each dish are listed.

The idea behind this “grid menu” is to offer the surprise of a tasting menu, whilst still maintaining some control by being able to choose the main ingredient of each course. You are of course encouraged to share your preferences/dislikes/allergies with the waiter, which is in turn relayed to the kitchen. I have heard that some people are not a fan of this format as they prefer to know exactly what they will be eating, but I’m sure the staff would happily elaborate on the dishes if needed.

Gougères. These little babies were to be the start of a very delicious meal. These warm savoury mini choux pastries were very good, and I could have eaten ten of these without much of a problem. I stopped at four though, as I knew I would become too full otherwise.

Halibut dashi. This is one of the best soups I have ever tasted. The dashi had just the right amount of smoky fishiness, and the bunch of seaweed and rosemary in the cup enhanced its fishy flavours. I adored this, and almost wished that this was an actual menu item.

The halibut tea was served with seaweed lavash crackers – I could only imagine how much work (and skill) goes into creating these, as they were paper thin, allowing just a hint of light to shine though it.

Sturgeon sabayon with chopped sturgeon pieces, served in egg shells. This sabayon was beautifully light yet extremely flavourful, and I found myself repeatedly dipping my spoon into the shells trying to get to every last bit of sabayon.

Bread rolls. Oh, the bread. These were unlike any bread rolls that I’ve been served at restaurants, in a good way. These bread rolls were very flaky, and reminded me of curry puffs (a popular Malaysian snack). And somehow, it still had a soft and fluffy interior – I would pay good money to learn how to make these! The rolls were served with two types of butter – one made from goats milk, and the other from cows milk. I really enjoyed the goats milk butter, but R found it a tad overwhelming (he doesn’t like goats cheese either, but I quite enjoy it).

At this point, I was already loving Eleven Madison Park, and we had yet to be served our first course! Always a good sign I think. 😉

First course #1: Foie gras brulee with variations of apples. If you like foie gras, you will LOVE this. Beneath the crispy brulee topping lay the richest, most decadent brulee I have ever tasted. So, so good. The slightly sour apples provided both a textural contrast, as well as helped to cut through the richness of the brulee. I also enjoyed the crumble which was sprinkled on the apples – I think this was made from brown sugar.

First course #2: Hamachi with fennel, horseradish and meyer lemon sauce. Compared to the foie gras brulee, this sounded a little boring in comparison. Thankfully though, it did not taste boring. The fennel complemented the mild flavours of the hamachi beautifully, and the horseradish added the right amount of heat to the dish.

Second course #1: Seared cod with fennel, clams and a bergamot sauce. This was cooked to absolute perfection. The cod had been seared to give it a wonderfully crispy crust, and the cod flaked away beautifully at the mere touch of a fork. Fish is so often overcooked, and I was so pleased that this wasn’t the case with this dish. Simple yet so well executed.

Second course #2: Lobster claw and tail with edamame. This was as pretty as a picture, the sort of food you almost do not want to eat because it’s too beautiful. Almost being the key word, naturally. Again, the lobster was cooked perfectly, and went well with the smoked sauce and edamame. There were also these little crispy slivers on the plate, and neither R or I could figure out what they were. I suspect it was derived from lobster, but I may be mistaken. I was going to ask, but I got too engrossed with eating and errr.. forgot.

Third course #1: Pork (belly and loin) with mustard seeds and spatzle. Oh. My. This was obscenely good. The pork belly was tender and melted in the mouth. Nothing like well cooked pork belly to make my day. The mustard seeds added a really nice twist to the dish, and in my opinion elevated it to something a little more special. Though to be honest, the pork was cooked so well that I wouldn’t have cared if I was only served the pork belly and loin with no accompaniments.

Third course #2: Veal with winter vegetables and sweetbreads cooked two ways. You might be getting bored of all the superlatives I’m using to describe the food, but it’s hard to not use an abundance of superlatives when the food is so good. The veal was by far the best piece of veal I have ever tasted. Hands down. It was wonderfully tender and worked very well with the sweetbreads.

Pre-dessert: Tangerine with jasmine and celery. Looks can be so deceiving. This looked like a “normal” plate of tangerine granita… oh, how wrong I was. The tangerine granita had pieces of tangerine in it, and was paired with the most delicious jasmine ice cream and jasmine foam. The thing that made it special was the inclusion of micro celery leaves in the dish – I normally hate anything with celery in it (yes, hate with a capital “H”), but I really enjoyed this. In fact I think it wouldn’t have been as good sans the celery leaves. This doesn’t mean I now love celery though, mind you!

Dessert #1: Lemon frozen yogurt with lemon crumble, candied lemon and candied olive. The frozen yogurt was bursting with citrussy goodness, and was served with variations of lemon cake – a lemon crumble, a lemon cake “slice”, and small morsels of lemon cake. The biggest surprise of the dish was the candied olives, which I thought would be out of place in the midst of all the lemony goodness – but actually worked very well.

Dessert #2: Coconut and passion fruit ice cream, with papaya and bruleed pineapple. This was a tropical island on a plate. Both ice creams were refreshing and bursting with flavour (I preferred the coconut – only just!), yet very creamy. The mini meringues also were a very nice touch, and helped to add texture to the dish.

And to finish off the meal, some peanut brittle and lime pate de fruit. I especially liked the pate de fruit and its zingy-ness.

All in all, this was a fantastic meal. I now understand why Eleven Madison Park is so highly recommended – it definitely lives up to the hype. And I haven’t even touched upon the service, which was absolutely impeccable and made the meal even more memorable. I am definitely a fan, and will definitely be making a reservation at Eleven Madison Park the next time I find myself in New York.

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010-3643
Lunch: Monday–Friday, noon–2:00p.m.
Dinner: Monday–Saturday, 5:30 p.m.–10:00p.m.
http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com/