Eleven Madison Park, Masa and Aquivat

I have not had the opportunity to post about my year end Foodie splurges at Eleven Madison Park (which I have not been to since before Daniel Humm, 2011 I think) and Masa (which has been on my list for years). Unfortunately no photography is allowed at Masa so I do not have the pictorial of deliciousness to show you.  This is rather unfortunate as my words will simply not do it justice. As the only 3 Michelin starred NY restaurant I had never been to I desperately wanted to go but part of me was wondering if the experience would really be worth the price tag-for me at least.  NOT because I felt the quality of food would not be worth it but because I feared my pallet, when it came to sushi,  was just not sophisticated enough to appreciate it.  I also assumed that service might be rather austere and cold, not like the often theatrical experiences that I so enjoy at places like Blue Hill at Stone Barns.   I finally decided to take the plunge and let one of my most dedicated and deserving subs take me.  All I can say is it exceeded my expectations and was WELL WORTH IT!  By far the best Japanese dinner I have ever had.  I was surprised at the bit of  whimsy and global influence in both the menu and wine.  A delicious red (which I of course have now forgotten the name of) was suggested to accompany the multi course dinner.  Red wine…not what I would have thought at all, but it was a sublime match. Service (I sat at the bar) was very friendly and Chef Masa was smiling and delightful. My only regret is that I had not decided to go sooner!
On to Eleven Madison Park…..This was one of my top 10 meals EVER!.  I loved everything about it.  If was fun, inspired and thematic.  The food was stellar and the service was great.  The evening I went  a ticket and a small little box was were waiting at the table.  In the box was a (gluten/dairy free, because I informed them ahead of time I am intolerant of those items) take an the NY classic black and white cookie.  It was a savory version.  Such a fun way to start and the NY theme continued through the evening. We were then asked to pick one of the 4 options on our ticket.  I picked cranberry.  We were informed it would somehow be incorporated into the dinner. Another decision was either venison or duck for our entree course.  Despite my love of venison and often dislike of duck we chose duck.  I can always tell an excellent restaurant when they make me like something I normally don’t.   The courses came out, each just as delicious as the one before. Then we got to the surprise cranberry element ….an elegant and modern take on the NY classic pastrami sandwich and a home made version of Dr. Brown’s soda (Hello….Katz’s Delicatessen anyone!) My soda was cranberry. After a few more delicious courses the duck arrived….this was the big test- SUCCESS, it was perfect, delicious , moist and the skin was rendered and seasoned just right (the skin is what usually kills it for my- if not rendered properly I can’t stand it). I was now thoroughly impressed.  Eleven Mad was not only  experiential and fun with the NY theme but the food was stellar and they made me love something I normally don’t like.  They also scored major points on providing me with delicious and inventive gluten/dairy free desserts (always a challenge which is usually fine since I try VERY hard to avoid sugar)….coconut ice cream,  chocolate in the shape of a pretzel (instead of the chocolate covered pretzel), and to finish the meal and tie everything together a sweet g.f. black and white cookie.  YUP! Eleven has been added to my top 5 restaurants …I will be going back a.s.a.p to make sure it deserves to belong there with the likes of  Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Le Bernardin, Bouley, and The French Laundry.

I should also make mention of Aquivat, another on my ever dwindling list 🙂 of places to try.  This will be a go-to dinner spot for sure.  Relaxed atmosphere and nordic inspired deliciousness it how I would describe it.  Probably one of the best egg dishes I’ve ever tasted.  It was a soupy bowl of egg and mushrooms with the most satisfying umami flavor.  Just thinking about it makes me want desperately to go back and have it again before they change the menu…..I better hurry winter is (thankfully) not going to be here for much longer.