Eleven Madison Park

A jam-packed day of culinary adventure in New York City!

The City’s Top Rated Zagat Restaurant — But Why?

Our day began with Lunch at Le Bernardin, the city’s top rated food according to Zagat, the only place rated 29/30. We’d been to Le Bernardin before, and didn’t like it, but Ron and Bev wanted to show us how good it could be. Indeed, we had a much better meal. The service and appetizers were wonderful. It still probably wouldn’t be a place I’d take the time to revisit, with so many other choices available. The fish isn’t remarkable enough on its own to draw me back. Linda described her entree as a dish well suited to a retirement home! The preparations just lack the extra layer of genius that transcends good and takes it to superlative (as we were later reminded at Eleven Madison Park, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

1986 Bordeaux Retrospective

Our next stop was the original reason for this trip: A 1986 Bordeaux Retrospective put on by Executive Wine Seminars in Tribeca. 39 attendees shared two bottles each of 13 different wines. We were interested to collect some ideas for our own Wine Syndicate events, but in this event actually turned out to be a bit less profession, formal and polished than we were expecting. Basically it was a couple of tipsy guys pouring wine, and a lot of people with opinions but very little sign of good palates. Still, it was interesting to have four first growths side by side, although the Talbot actually edged out the first growths in my notes:

Vieux Chateau Certan (Pomerol)(Parker 92)
Pine, black pepper, thyme, 88

Rausan-Segla (Margaux)(P96)
Tar, Smoked meat aftertaste, tight, 91

Pichon Lalande (Pauillac)(RP96)
Floral, balanced, structured, most fruit of the first four, 90

Cos d’Estournel (St Estephe)(RP95)
Perfume, chalky, tannic, anise, tight, 88

Ducru-Beaucaillou (St Julien)RP92
Tannic, mint, corky finish, flawed bottle, 90?

Graud-Larose (St Julien) (RP94)
Big, structured, long smokey finish, jammy, old style, 93

Leoville Las Cases (St Julien)(RP98)
Chewy, tight, mint, balanced, elegant, herbs, died quickly, 94

Talbot (St Julien)(RP96)
Coffee, balanced, scorched earth, toast, cranberries, 97

Haut-Brion (Graves) (RP93)
Chalk, gravel, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, mint, perfume, 96

Margaux (Margaux) (RP96)
Cheese, tight, 91

Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac) (RP99)
Lead pencil, vanilla, 93

Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac) (RP100)
Smoke, herbs, figs, tight, tannic, veggies, mint, 95

Climens (Barsac) (RP)
Apricot, low acid, pleasant, 90

Bottom line is that Parker really overrated the Lafite and underrated the Haut Brion (as usual). The only two of these wines I’d buy are the Talbot and the Haut Brion.

The Greatest Dinner of My Life

We finished this busy day with dinner at Eleven Madison Park. We’ve tried Michelin three star restaurants around the world, and dined at the kitchen tables of some very famous and talented chefs, so we’re probably a bit jaded as foodies. It was therefore a complete and delightful surprise to experience what we both agreed was the best meal of our lives!

A relaxed and friendly atmosphere, very professional service, and superb winelist and wine service all helped to make the evening special. But it was the food that stole the show. Course after course, every bite surprised and delighted. There wasn’t a weak entry in the lot, and we tried essentially everything the kitchen offered. At the middle of the meal we visited the kitchen for a demonstration of molecular gastronomy using liquid nitrogen, and then ate the result.

This list cannot capture the amazing flavors of every bite of this meal:

  • Halibut tea with nori lavash
  • Fluke sashimi and scallop sashimi, both with citrus
  • Goat cheese lollipops coated with beet dust
  • Sea urchin panna cotta
  • Smoked sturgeon sabayon
  • Fingerling potato with caviar
  • Foie gras terrine with pickled onion
  • Seared scallop with Valencia orange
  • Roasted cauliflower curry
  • Braise pork with peas and mint
  • Wagu beef with smoked potato puree
  • Egg cream
  • Chocolate with popcorn ice cream
  • Mignardises

Wow, just typing that list I can taste each one of those again!

Our sommelier, Rob Kihlstrom, provided superb advice. The wines:

Claude Jenet Champagne (comped by the restaurant)
Balanced, creamy, good food wine 92

1996 Nuits-Saint-Georges Meo-Camuzet Aux Boudots
Smoke, dried cherries, vanilla, leather, 95

2005 Reisling Auslese Schieferterrassen Heymann-Lowenstein
Minerals, pears, perfect balance, 96

1997 Clos de Tart
Tar, meaty, bacon, smoke, earthy, mint, anise, vanilla 95

1989 Hermitage Sorrel la Greal corked (2 bottles)
We gave up on this after two flawed bottles and changed to…

1989 Chateauneuf du Pape, Vieux Telegraph
Vanilla, cherries, chocolate, big, chewy, 93

1975 Leoville Barton
(a taste sent from Keith Edwards, who happened to be there the same night with Parlo, Russell and Nicole)
Classic old Bordeaux, 92

Guillon-Painturaud VSOP Cognac Grand Champagne (comped by the restaurant)
Pleasant, citrus, 92

We closed the place at 1am. What an amazing restaurant. We can’t wait to return!