Chef Daniel Humm's cooking is clever, innovative and even a little whimsical; it is as often robust as it is delicate. This variety and depth is what sets him apart from other chefs, and puts Eleven Madison Park on the vanguard of America's dining evolution. As before, no menu is presented here, but a conceptual shift means that diners are now empowered to choose their preferences for a number of courses. The myriad plates that subsequently appear are dramatic, like the gueridon presentation of asparagus in rosemary broth cooked sous-vide in a pig's bladder, but also display extraordinary understanding of technique, as in the dry-aged duck. The restaurant is housed within the sort of grandeur that could only ever have belonged to a financial institution. It's a hard space to fill; conversations don't so much hang in the air as float up to the vast ceiling and never return. But somehow the room's sheer scale and the well-spaced tables allow you to feel cocooned in your own world. Considerable help comes courtesy of the engaging staff as they explain each dish in loving terms but without ever sounding too virtuous. They also know when to talk and when to leave you to enjoying your meal.
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