When I asked where to eat in New York, Justin responded, "Eleven Madison Park. Notice the period." EMP may have started out slowly. But last year, it hired new head chef, Daniel Humm. If EMP was ever mediocre, those days are over.
Quite simply, EMP was the best meal of my life. I have been fortunate enough to go to some of the country's best restaurants -- Charlie Trotter's, Chez Panise, Alan Wong's, Citronelle, Per Se. EMP was better.
A 12-course tasting with wine pairings began with an amuse bouche -- a delightful platter of small bites, including roe, fish, and foie gras topped with an odd green jelly. Food is indeed a visual art.One of the best tasting dishes came first. Wild char roe was served with baked potato ice cream, chives, a waffle potato, and edible flowers. Caviar goes remarkably well with the flavors of potato and with the texture and temperature of ice cream.
Humm is famous for his plate of heirloom beets, served with chevre frais and nasturtium greens and powder. Baby beets are on menus everywhere now, but this version stands out in the crowd. Each beet had a different texture and style. Yet beets need other flavors to set off their earthy, round, sweet flavors. The natural flavors of the tender beets matched surprisingly well with the curd-style cheese and the green flavors of nasturtium.I was surprised that a plate of raw "Big Eye Tuna" would be one of my two favorite dishes. Raw tuna is so prevalent that it is tired. Yet this plate was magical because of the pairing with pure-flavored heirloom tomatoes and strongly-flavored basil seeds and micro basil.Another standout was the creative foie gras course. A small bowl with foie was topped with a foamy cherry custard. A light foie gras terrine was served with a dash of lemon balm, and a delicious cherry stuffed with foie. Overall, the dish tasted like a dessert.
Nova Scotia Lobster was poached and served with sweet corn. The white border around the lobster is a bacon panna cotta with embedded herbs and flowers. I love the combination of lobster and corn, and this lobster had been cooked expertly.
EMP manages to mix high elegance with sheer creativity. Perhaps no dish was as creative as slow cooked Chilean Turbot topped with a thatchwork of incredibly thin slivers of zucchini, paired with a stuffed zucchini blossom, and finished with a saffron fumet.