Salmon "Macchiato" at Eleven Madison Park
Eleven Madison Park is one of the jewels in restaurateur Danny Meyer's crown. It's a place that's normally way out of my price league, so I was happy to score a restaurant week lunch reservation, where I could enjoy three courses for $24.07 (normally it would be hard to get away for twice that). Booking through OpenTable 27 days in advance (the earliest one could book the restaurant), the best I could do was an 11:45 reservation. So I skipped breakfast.
I'm generally skeptical about restaurant week. Too many restaurants only pay lip service to the concept, often serving substandard fare. And in some places ordering from the restaurant week menu immediately makes you a second-class citizen.
But Danny Meyer is a class act, and he does it right. His restaurants offer impressive menus during restaurant week, and this time at Eleven Madison Park the restaurant week menu was the only choice at lunch, making all diners equal.
The menu offered three choices for each course. For my appetizer I chose the big-eye tuna with white asparagus and Montegottero pistachio oil. The sashimi-grade raw tuna was chopped and formed into little ovals, and it was delightful. I don't know if I got a smaller portion than the a la carte version, which normally goes for 18 smackeroos. My dessert was the apricot clafouti with almond-honey ice cream. Though I generally prefer less sweet desserts, this too was excellent.
My main course was a delicious piece of Scottish salmon, which the restaurant serves mi-cuit, literally "half-cooked." This is really the perfect preparation for a good piece of salmon. With all the farmed salmon foisted on us, usually overcooked, we sometimes forget how good wild salmon can be.
My inner jury is out on the presentation, though. The salmon was served in a foamy broth that made it look like a coffee drink with fish. There were traces of minced vegetables under the piece of salmon. I can't remember the menu description, but it wasn't called "salmon macchiato," which would have been an apt name, macchiato referring to an espresso with milk froth on top. I'm assuming it was milk froth in the dish, but I suppose it could have been egg white. Either way, it looked pretty weird, and it took a little while for me to get used to the idea. I contemplated the bowl for some time before taking my first bite. Ultimately, I quite enjoyed it, but I don't think the foamy gambit was an especially good presentation concept.*
*Though it does look better than Lupa's "turd on a plate" pork shoulder.
[where: 11 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010]