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Our experience at Eleven Madison Park: one of the best restaurants in the world

2016 was a great year for me. Many good things have happened this year and I think it was also a time for learning, maturation, and self-awareness. Thiago and I really have a lot to celebrate and things to be thankful for. It had been a long time since he’d wanted to check Eleven Madison Park, a 3-star Michelin Guide Contemporary American restaurant, which is among the top 10 best restaurants in the world and it’s pointed as the best restaurant in America. I confess that I never really wanted to go there because it is not cheap. A few months ago, however, we had dinner with some friends that were visiting and they shared their gastronomic experiences with us – this gave the thrust that Thiago needed to be more determined to make a reservation there. After setting the date – December 3, last Saturday – I was anxious. And today I’m here to share how was our night!

First and foremost, it’s good to be clear: you can not think about Eleven Madison Park as a simple dinner just like other restaurants. It is a once in a lifetime experience – a gastronomic experience. You need to take several factors into account when evaluating this kind of restaurant. Is it cheap? No, it’s not. And, certainly, it is not a place to go every weekend. We skipped celebrations several dates this year – such as our wedding anniversary, for example – and used this night at Eleven Madison Park to celebrate this and other accomplishments very important to us. It was certainly a night that I will remember forever.

First of all, the reservation process. The restaurant opens the reservations every first day of the month, for the following month. This means that we made our reservation for December on November 1st. It’s good if you plan because all the dates and times are usually booked on the first day, most of the timeslots on the first hour. We chose an early time: 6:45 PM since the experience lasts at least 3 hours.

The restaurant does not require a dress code – the information on the website is that most customers dress casually. Now, honestly? It is a unique experience, in a restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere and decor. Obviously, you want to wear something special, right? The pre-dinner time was pretty cool, too. You know that here in NYC our life is crazy, the day-to-day demands practical and comfortable outfits and shoes. But Saturday was different: I chose a beautiful dress and I wore high heels that I had not worn in a long time. I wanted to feel special. And there’s no way that you won’t be delighted with the place. The architecture is incredible and the super high ceiling makes you feel in a palace, I swear. The entire staff – from the front desk to the sommelier – is friendly, polite, and always with a smile on their faces.

Another detail that made the difference was how the staff tried to get to know us. As I already mentioned, it’s not the kind of place you go to every weekend – it was a very special occasion. The lady who took care of our table knew what we were celebrating. One of the most striking moments for me was when I opened an envelope – which I thought was a common note from the restaurant itself – and it was a letter from Thiago, with beautiful words. As I said, it was a very special night for us and it was impossible to hold back the tears.

Okay, you must be wondering … what about the food? Well, Eleven Madison Park does not have a menu for you to choose what you want. It’s a tasting menu. There are 10 courses, including starters and desserts. Anyone who has tried a tasting menu knows how it works: small portions and the idea is to taste a little bit of everything – that’s why they are so small. The truth? At some point during the night, I was thinking that it was not enough and that I would go home feeling a little hungry. But, after course number 8 (Cheddar Tart with Apple and Mixed greens), I barely could finish my desserts.

It’s easy to see how careful they are with every single smallest detail. Our appetizers were in gift packs. Inside the packages, there were caviar and other antipasti, which we ate with mini warm bagels and toasts (Caviar with smoked sturgeon, cream cheese, everything bagels, and rye crisps). I had never eaten caviar lol – I confess it was better than I expected, but nothing extraordinary. For some of the dishes, you have to choose from a few options. After the starters, Thiago chose the Foie Gras, and I got the Striped Bass. Then, one of the best dishes of the evening: Honeynut, squash with sage, and cinnamon served with warm croissants. I could have eaten it all night! After this dish, we had celery root braised with black truffle sauce. A delight! In this case, the preparation was finished in front of our table: the celery is warmed inside a pig’s bladder.

Our last dish was the Venison, grilled with onion & blood sausage. Despite being served medium rare – something that Thiago and I don’t usually enjoy – it was delicious! And the sides were a crunchy kale salad simply indescribable. One thing that I noticed: we loved most the dishes with super simple ingredients, but with a burst of flavors.

After the meat… desserts. First, a warmed apple with cheddar and leaves, called Cheddar. Yes, it sounds strange, I know, but it was another phenomenal dish. Then we made different choices. Thiago got a chocolate tart with ice cream and wine – delicious – and I got another dessert with ice cream and white chocolate. It was the only thing I didn’t like because the ice cream was very sour and I did not taste any white chocolate. We still had Baked Alaska, a dessert with a touch of citrus, vanilla and rum, flambé on the outside, chilled inside and with an incredible mix of flavors. At this time, I could not handle the portions.

Another dessert was a selection of chocolate bars made with different kinds of milk – and the idea was to taste each one of them and try to guess what milk they were made from (i.e. Cow, Bison, Sheep, and Goat). It was called “Name That Chocolate”. To close the night, chocolate pretzels with sea salt – probably the most delicious pretzel I have ever had in my life – accompanied by a bottle of Apple Brandy, which we could drink as much as we wanted.

A very important detail: the tasting menu does not include drinks. We also got the Wine Pairing. For each different dish, the sommelier served a different wine. Try to imagine how many different wines we tasted. Wines of all colors, from all regions of the world, with all flavors. I think this detail absolutely made a big difference in our experience at Eleven Madison Park.

Okay, you read this far and you must be wondering: how much does it cost? The tasting menu is $295 per person and the wine pairing is $175 per person, gratuities already included. Payment is made online at the time of the reservation (and it is not possible to cancel or change the reservation). In the video below, you can have a better idea of the dishes.

Conclusion? I enjoyed every moment of the night and it was very remarkable to celebrate so many cool things in such a special way. Every detail, from start to finish, made our night unforgettable. I do not think this is an experience to be repeated – mainly because I would rather check other restaurants with that same proposal. If you enjoy good food, good wines and if you have a special occasion to celebrate … you will surely have an unforgettable time at Eleven Madison Park.

Address: 11 Madison Ave.

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