Today Pete Wells files a review of Eleven Madison Park, Daniel Humm and Will Guidara's highly esteemed, three Michelin-starred, and very expensive tasting menu restaurant. This is the fourth time in its lifespan that the restaurant has been reviewed by the Times – the third time with Humm as the chef, and the first time since Danny Meyer sold it to Humm and Guidara. The last review, by Frank Bruni in 2009, elevated the restaurant from three to four stars. Today, Wells upholds those stars:
[Humm] is, at heart, a neo-classicist, a master of pruning the old-fashioned curlicues from the traditional haute cuisine of his training to make the pleasures more modern and direct...it's the force that drives his best innovations, like globes of celery root braised in a pig's bladder, inspired by the classic French dish poulet en vessie.
The white globes will be bathed in a truffled chicken reduction and set beside a circle of celery root purée that has been spooned over, guess what, more truffles. And Mr. Humm, always alert to opportunities for spectacle, knows that beyond forming an airtight vessel for steam, an inflated pig's bladder shimmying around a copper sauté pan makes a great conversation piece in the dining room.
As Wells points out, much has changed at Eleven Madison Park since Bruni reviewed it. Prices have gone up (a lot) and the restaurant unleashed it's interactive New York City history-themed menu on the unsuspecting public. Wells was not at all a fan of the original iteration of that menu, which he thought involved too many obscure gadgets, long lectures, and magic tricks. But that's mostly been toned down now, he says. Yes, the servers still harp too much on locally grown ingredients, but they've nixed the crazier stuff, including the magic trick. When it comes down to it, Wells has to admit that the "restaurant's relentless, skillful campaign to spread joy" is working. Plus the food is excellent, so it keeps its four stars.