I have been really fortunate to have eaten at some of the most incredible restaurants in the world. Some were planned out and booked months in advance. Others came at the recommendation of friends, and several were just luck, we totally stumbled upon them. A few we had to save our dollars for, sometimes compromising on accommodation or transportation while traveling so we could eat our way around the world instead. It’s good to have priorities, and mine is certainly food.
My favourite restaurants are memorable to me because the actual experience has lingered for a special reason. Maybe it was an unexpected ingredient in a dish waking up your tastebuds, a taste you didn’t even know existed. Savouring something for a ridiculously long amount of time because you just can’t believe it gets this good. Or when a staff member pulls up a chair and starts asking what your favourite foods are in broken English, while you reply in broken Spanish, because there is no actual menu. THIS, is why I love food. It is warm, generous, social and exciting. It’s brings happy people together. The best.
Below is a photo gallery of one of my top five meals. The restaurant is called Eleven Madison Park, in New York City. Rated fourth on San Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and the number one restaurant in North America in 2014, chef Daniel Humm kicks massive food ass. The whole experience is full of surprises, starting with a card you select at the beginning of your meal, with different flavour options. Whatever option you choose, sneaks up during your meal in different ways. And different from everyone else you’re dining with as well. (I chose cherry and my partner chose celery). Given their impressive standing, the meal isn’t pretentious or uncomfortable. The waitstaff are friendly, and are happy to share little tidbits about the restaurant. We were encouraged to hang around at the end, and they even plonked a bottle of apple brandy down as if to suggest taking a nap under the table was the next logical step. These photos are from the meal we sampled at lunch, over a glorious three hours on a hot summer day in NYC. Oh, take me back…
Corn custard with tuna and caviar
Cucumber marinated with lemon and melon
Tomato tea with lemon thyme
Salad with strawberries and basil
Beef pastrami (cooked at the table on the grill) with peppers,
rye, mustard and celery with celery soda
Fois Gras seared with chanterelles and plums
Lobster boil with clams, shrimps and beans
Sunflower braised with sun chokes and sunflower seeds
(So gutted I don’t have a photo of the actual dish.
Must have been too excited to eat it, but sunflower chokes
taste similar to artichoke hearts. Revelation!)
Duck roasted with raspberries, blueberries and mulberries
Beef with grilled eggplant, amaranth and shallot
Fresh cheese, pretzel, raspberry mustard and green tomatoes
(served in a picnic basket with beer. And “fake” paper plates.)
Whey sorbet with caramelised milk and cherries (or celery)
Apricot grill with lemon thyme ice cream and honey
Chocolate covered pretzel with sea salt
…. and unlimited Apple Brandy served with dessert. It burned like fire.
I felt like a long, satisfying snooze after this incredible meal, but they still had one surprise left for us. As we were getting ready to leave, they pointed to a hotdog vendor on the corner near the restaurant, and said we should go say “hi” to Vincent to tell him “Eleven Madison Park sent us”. What?!? So off we go, say hello to Vincent who asks us how our meal was and then hands us two ice blocks to finish off a dining experience that apparently doesn’t end when you leave the venue. It was so awesome and I nearly cried. Because I’m like that. What a perfect meal.