Let's be honest. White tablecloth fine dining establishments are not places that you will typically find the staff of The Infatuation. We like things a little bit looser, a little bit dirtier, and a little bit more laid back. That said, every once in a while a man needs to throw on a pair of wrinkle-free Dockers and dine like a gentleman. Every once in a while, a man also gets a gift card to a restaurant for his birthday.
Whatever the motivation, on a recent weekday night, we found ourselves heading for an Infatuation man date at Eleven Madison Park. It was clear from the start that this would not be a typical night out stuffing our faces with burgers and pork buns. The dinner menu at Eleven Madison Park consists of different prix fixe configurations, including an eleven course chef's tasting menu. No, this would not be another night of casual eating. This night we were going to be tucking our napkins into our collars and doing things real fancy like.
Fancy though it may be, the restaurant is surprisingly lively, and the room wide open and airy - definitely not typical of a place serving this kind of food. Make no mistake, Eleven Madison Park is fine dining at its most serious. The staff is polite, yet rigid and focused like they're on a mission from God. I think one of them folded my napkin with his mind. While the formality of the staff can be a little bit awkward at times, their knowledge and focus is appreciated when eating at this level. The food rundown will give you the details, but our meal at Eleven Madison Park was amazing. With a menu that sources many local ingredients via the [Union Square Greenmarket (http://www.cenyc.org/greenmarket "Union Square Greenmarket" ), from start to finish, you get what you pay for and more. Save it for the right occasion. You won't be disappointed.
These are prawns rolled in thin avocado slices (a roulade) with lime and yogurt. A delicate and incredible appetizer, the presentation almost looks like a special sushi roll with avocado on the outside.
A soft egg in a shallow dish with farro, sweet corn, truffles, and (yes) frog legs. This appetizer comes together beautifully, and is rich and complex. Not something you should order if you're afraid of a runny egg, but seriously tasty.
Another amazing starter. Merely stating that these are delicious, soft, and pillowy gnocchi won't quite do them justice. We love gnocchi, and let it be known that this is some gangster gnocchi.
We have to get off pork. Seriously I think my diet is about an 80/20 ratio of pork to everything else. It's a tough habit to kick when entrees like this exist. A cut of pork loin and pork belly served with blackberries, cherries, and mizuna, a Japanese green. Get it.
Our waiter explained that the duck is one of chef Daniel Humm's specialties and that the ducks are flown in from San Francisco. After tasting it, I am convinced that the ducks willingly fly themselves here from heaven to be cooked and eaten like this. It's a whole duck (which serves two) prepared tableside. I love tableside preparation of anything, and even though I'm not sure what the waiter did other than carve the bird, it was nice, and took about five minutes. The end result was one of the most amazing duck dishes I've ever had. The skin was incredibly crispy and loaded with flavor. Blueberries and sweet corn give it a summer feel and balance out the richness nicely. I know, that was wordy, but damn ...
After all this, we had three desserts, but I think I blacked out from eating so much. I do know that they were all decent, though not the highlight of the meal by any means. After the desserts came an assortment of tiny cookies, a bottle of cognac, and I think a gift bag with a personal letter from our waiter. Nope, not a letter, just a menu for me to take home. Still, a nice thought and a great way to end a meal.