Restaurant Review: Eleven Madison Park Vegan Menu

The hammer man treats everything like a nail, the saying goes. Something like this seems to distress Eleven Madison Park in its new ve...

The hammer man treats everything like a nail, the saying goes. Something like this seems to distress Eleven Madison Park in its new vegan incarnation. Chef and restaurant owner Daniel Humm uses the skills he brought to meat and seafood to get rid of vegetables.

Almost none of the main ingredients taste the same in the $ 335 10-course menu the restaurant unpacked in June after a 15-month hiatus due to a pandemic. Some are such an obvious substitute for meat or fish that you almost feel sorry for them.

We should have seen something like this happen when Mr. Hmmm announced the no pets policy in May. Eleven Madison Park is one of the most closely watched restaurants on the planet, receiving media coverage for even its minor adjustments. This one, not minor, does securities about the world. Many articles quoted a line from Mr Humm that gave his decision a soft glow of social responsibility: “The current food system is just not sustainable, in many ways. “

Buried in his announcement was a less noticed passage that foreshadowed things to come. “It’s crucial for us that whatever the ingredients, the dish has to live up to some of my past favorites,” he wrote. “It’s a huge challenge to create something as satisfying as lavender honey glazed duck or butter poached lobster, recipes that we have perfected.

In tonight’s performance, the role of the duck will be played by a beet, doing things that no root vegetable should. For three days, it is roasted and dehydrated before being wrapped in fermented greens and stuffed into a clay pot, as if sent to hell with the pharaoh.

The pot is transported to your table, where a waiter crushes the clay with a ball purlin hammer. The beet is cleaned of pottery shards and transferred to a plate with a reduction of red wine and beetroot juice which is oddly tangy in a way that may remind you of Worcestershire sauce.

They did a similar beetroot act at Agern, a new Nordic restaurant in Grand Central Terminal, roasting it in a crust of salt and vegetable ash. This beet tasted like a beet, but more so. The one in Eleven Madison Park tastes like Lemon Pledge and smells like burnt joint.

I suspect the summer squash dish that pops up halfway down the menu somehow descends from butter poached lobster. I’m not sure what explains the viscous liquid that looks and looks like browned butter, but it clearly isn’t. It tastes like vadouvan and something else, something hard and tangy that dominates the sesame seed tofu nugget hidden in a squash blossom.

Time and time again, the delicate flavors are sidetracked by a harsh, invisible ingredient. Marinated heirloom tomato wedges have a puffy and distorted flavor, like tomatoes passed through a wah-wah pedal. The rice porridge under crisp, pale green celtuce stalks has a tangy, tangy undertone that another restaurant could get from a grill of aged pecorino. A tartare of sliced ​​cucumbers, honeydew melon and smoked daikon is imbued with a pungent intensity.

The waiters offer little explanation for the doctored flavors, and no warning either. The ingredients feel normal until you take a bite and realize you’ve entered the bizarre valley of the plant kingdom.

Mr. Humm used to get purer, deeper results with vegetables before the restaurant went vegan. Maybe he should bring back the steamed celeriac in a pig’s bladder.

His cooking has always been tedious, but there seems to be something new involved, most likely an effort to add umami with fermented liquids high in glutamates. Eleven Madison Park now employs a “fermentation sous chef,” Brock Middleton, as do other yeast-loving restaurants including Noma, in Copenhagen, which maintains homemade garums and other magic juices around to provide an invisible lift.

At Noma, these sauces are administered so subtly that nothing strange is noticed; you just think you’ve never tasted anything so amazing in your life. At Eleven Madison Park, some dishes are as subtle as a dirty martini. It is possible that some of the special sauce is so concentrated that one or two more drops can push things over. This would explain why a half eggplant in which slices of glazed marinated eggplant rise like passengers in a canoe had an intoxicating richness the first time I ate it and a sickening heaviness the next.

Some efforts in the kitchen to get plants to mimic something else will be successful. When this happens, all doubts evaporate for a few minutes.

Tonburi, made from the seeds of the Japanese summer cypress, arrives on flaking ice inside an antique silver caviar bowl that appears to have belonged to the Romanovs. The seeds, dark, round and shiny, are sometimes said to taste like broccoli. At Eleven Madison Park, they were seasoned with kelp. A chef might say that kelp adds umami. I would say it tastes delicious, and I might add that its flavor evokes deep, partly subconscious, associations with the sea. It’s a sleight of hand, but your taste buds accept it instead. fish brine sturgeon roe.

There’s a plant-based version of the restaurant’s wonderful bread, like a savory croissant rolled in a crisp golden swirl. Originally kneaded with cow’s butter, the puff pastry has been re-ligated with butter made from sunflower seeds, and it is an unmistakable success. The same goes for the non-butter that accompanies the bread, molded in the shape of a sunflower, bright yellow with a dark eye of tangy fermented sunflower seeds in the center.

If the pastry kitchen, under Laura Cronin, strives to meet the challenge of working without butter and without eggs, it does not show. There’s a lovely two-tone pretzel – dark chocolate on one side and toasted sesame paste on the other – that hits you like a much improved cup of Reese’s peanut butter. An even more beautiful duo comes in the final dish, a coconut semifreddo under iced elderberry syrup swirled with blueberry compote.

There may be more bartending skills and talents at Eleven Madison Park than at any other restaurant in town. The new mission has spurred the bar to new achievements, with a range of cocktails that make delicious and sometimes improbable use of plants. A distant relative of the former incorporates red peppers; for a drink called simply Sesame, they even figured out how to make clarified milk punch with the “whey” of sesame tofu.

Eleven Madison Park has trained audiences to expect “endless reinvention,” one of 11 key words and phrases on a sign hanging in the restaurant’s large and precise kitchen. Every time the restaurant has revamped – the cryptic menu grid, the Magic trick at the table, the theme New York City Menu – it went too far, so pulled back at a less extreme location.

His talent for overcoming his own missteps was one of the reasons I gave it four stars in his last review in the New York Times, in 2015. (I’m not giving ratings as restaurants are still rocked by the pandemic.) Over time, Mr. Humm might also stop overcompensating for giving up on products. animal origin. Beets aren’t very good at masquerading as meat, but their ability to taste beets is unmatched.

The anxiety, political upheaval, protests – even boredom – of the pandemic period have conspired to produce an urgent sense that those in power, in the restaurant business as much as in any other, must work for the change or move away. Mr Humm acknowledged this in his announcement in May, writing: “It was clear that after all that we have all been through in the last year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant.

So far Mr. Humm, who says he’s a vegetarian, has not given us any objection to serving animal products, if he has any. He seems to want us to believe that Eleven Madison Park is leading the restaurant business to a better place, but how are we supposed to believe it’s not just another card trick when he hasn’t voiced a real opinion?

Diners who don’t eat animals for religious or moral reasons will likely welcome the new menu. Those whose primary concern is the environmental damage caused by livestock may have less reason to celebrate. People tend to think of factory farms and feedlots when they hear about meat and sustainability. But Eleven Madison Park didn’t buy industrial pork for its compressed suckling pig brick. As waiters always reminded you in the past, pork, eggs, cheeses and other animal products were sourced from small, independent regional farms. Now many of his vegetables are grown to order on farmland he leases in Hoosick, NY.

If every restaurant that supports sustainable local agriculture followed Mr. Humm’s new path, these small farms would be in big trouble. To name just one likely outcome, developers would line up at the barn door to make offers. Millions of hectares pastures and cultivated fields across the United States have been lost to the suburbs, which produce half of the country’s household carbon emissions.

And while Mr. Humm rarely talks about the end result, it’s obvious what happens when you keep charging $ 335 for dinner while ditching some of the more expensive items on your shopping list, like caviar. , lobster and foie gras. (The same thing happened in 2016, when the restaurant basically divided by two the number of tasting courses without changing the base price.)

Eleven Madison Park still buys meat, however. Until the end of the year, the menu offered to customers who book a private dining room includes optional beef platter, roasted filet mignon with fermented peppers and black lime. It’s kind of a metaphor for Manhattan, where there’s always a higher level of luxury, a secret room where the rich eat roast tenderloin while everyone gets a canoe of eggplant.

What the stars mean Due to the pandemic, restaurants are not receiving stars.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Restaurant Review: Eleven Madison Park Vegan Menu
Restaurant Review: Eleven Madison Park Vegan Menu
Newsrust - US Top News
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