Happy Lunar New Year! Welcome to the year of the Goat! (Or sheep, as it’s indistinguishable in Chinese). For me, February always signifies a month of non-stop eating, (warning lots of food porn coming). First off,early in February it’s my good friend Christine’s birthday and her dad always takes us out to eat at a Chinese banquet. Always a great time with great friends! Happy Birthday Christine and thank you to Papa Leong!
Then it’s Valentine’s day, which although is an annoying reason for restaurants to raise their prices for an evening out, I nonetheless relish a chance to eat out so we had dinner with my friend Anne at a new-ish izakaya in the West Village called Saikai. It was pretty good and we were pleasantly surprised because we thought it would just be overpriced small portions as is the case with most swanky izakayas, but we thought the food was yummy and we would return again.
I can’t say no to good sushi, and the sushi from Chef Toshio of Tanoshi Sushi and Sake Bar on the Upper East Side is absolutely sublime. When my friend Anne suggested we go back here, I immediately said yes. I highly recommend anyone visiting NYC to forgo the overpriced menus of Masa, Megu, and the like, to dine here at this counter-only sushi-lovers paradise. Reservations are a must, and it is a 75 pp omakase menu each night (well worth it). We always end up ordering more anyways, but it is BYOB which makes it a more affordable night out. I never ever go to the Upper East Side, especially York Ave, but this place is worth the trek (when the weather is decent, that is).
I’ve sort of given up on finding great eats that isn’t a diner or chain restaurant in NJ, and we have more burger restaurants that any state that I know. But what pops up just a few blocks from our house? The famed Habit Burger…which I daresay sorta lives up to it’s reputation as “Best Tasting Burger in America” by Consumer Reports. It’s probably the closest we’re gonna get to In-n-Out and I’ll take it!
February ends with my birthday (the 27th), and since this year we are going to be on Kauai, we thought to celebrate a little earlier by dining at a place I have been dying to return to, Eleven Madison Park. Steve and I first came about twelve years ago, before it became the Eleven Madison Park that it is today. We really loved it back then (I believe it was the original Chef Kerry Heffernan at the helm), and absolutely loved it last night, (with Chef Daniel Humm). I enjoyed the elegant, slightly whimsical food, and we liked that it wasn’t too formal (there is no dress code, but I wouldn’t wear jeans). The space has always been beautiful, in fact, one of my most favorite restaurant structures in NYC because of the soaring high ceilings and tall paneled windows. Here was our evening at one of NYC’s three-Michelin star gems:
We started with wine…a bottle of Riesling, which was really good. I learned about botrytis, which is a fungus prevalent in Rieslings, from the Sommelier who was very helpful in selecting our wine. (I found out that I actually like both types of rieslings, those with botrytis and those without).
Although it is a prix fixe menu, they asked about our allergies and restrictions (none) and then asked to make a few choices: Pork or duck? Duck (and I am really glad we did). Foie gras torchon or seared? I chose torchon while Steve chose seared.
I asked about the butter and if we had chosen pork, would there be pork fat butter? Yes there would have been and would we like to try some? Of course!
There were a lot of theatrics too. Our server/table side chef told us the story of how dishes get named after people. After a lot of flambe-ing and stirring (good fun!) we were presented with: Lobster Neuberg.
Our cheese course was really cute. It was fondue style, with the cheese melted and bubbly inside a roasted carnival squash.
The cheese was wonderful, but the quince jam was out of this world. Paired with the salty, stinky, gooey cheese and warm pretzel bread, it was a joy to eat.
Our next course was a nice contrast to the wine we ordered, it was a sweet dessert Riesling, with a pronounced botrytis element, which gave it a candy syrup like flavor. This was served with a sorbet. I actually like botrytis too and will now discover new wines with and without it.
For my birthday they put a candle on the dessert course, which of all things to serve me, is a SHAVE ICE. MY MOST F-ING FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD. I was so giddy with joy! Not only is it a shave ice, but it has all my favorite flavors, maple ice cream, apple, creme fraiche, salty-nutty caramel…I love it all.
Not many people know this, but my favorite ice cream flavor in the whole world is maple walnut. It’s really hard to find nowadays, but more than 30 years ago, Haagen Daz used to make it and serve it in their stores. I have memories of myself when I was a young girl, barely 5-years old, eating a scoop of maple walnut at Haagen Daz with my parents (I was an only child back then and very loved). I rarely get sentimental with my food (nostalgic sometimes, yes) but this dessert brought me back there. It was that real for me. Thank you Eleven Madison Park for giving me my first “aww” food moment! Haha.
We absolutely loved our dinner there last night. We’re definitely returning to Eleven Madison Park. Note that dinner is a rather long affair (about 3 hours long) but I had a fantastic time. It’s the sort of restaurant you’d like to try menus for each season, much like Atera. Speaking of which, we’re sad to see Chef Lightner leave, but will be looking forward to seeing his new ventures and what the new chef does at Atera.
Eleven Madison Park | 11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010 | Dinner is 225 pp, tasting menu only
Our family is celebrating Chinese New Year tomorrow with another Chinese banquet (my second of the month), followed by my official family birthday meal at an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant in NJ. This will be followed by a week of vacation in Kauai (we leave Sunday). I told you, February isn’t good for diets!
I wish everyone a happy and healthy Year of the Goat/Sheep! May we all get to love and enjoy good food and even better company in the new year!