The newly ‘vegan-only’ Eleven Madison Park has a ‘secret’ menu for private guests who can feast on foie gras, beef carpaccio and seared pork at the suddenly environmentally-conscious New York City eatery.
The three-starred Michelin restaurant’s new plant-based menu received a scathing review Tuesday from one of the nation’s most high-profile restaurant critics: Pete Wells of the New York Times.
At the end he noted that the ritzy restaurant has continued to purchase meat to serve to private guest until the end of the year.
The ‘private dining menu’ offers carnivores such delicacies as foie gras, beef carpaccio, pork seared with red cabbage and cocoa beans, roasted chicken and beef tenderloin, according to the Times and New York Post.
The menu obtained by the Post also lists sturgeon, which is endangered in certain areas, as well as lobster, halibut, trout and scallops.
Eleven Madison Park has a ‘secret’ menu that offers meat at one of its three private dining rooms (pictured)
Chef Daniel Hamm announced in May that the ritzy dining spot would reopen in June with a ‘vegan-only’ menu to be more sustainable
The seven-course meat-friendly tasting menu for high-revenue corporate clients at its three private dining rooms reportedly costs $285 per person or $295 with a wine pairing.
A source told the NY Post that the non-vegan menu is prepared in a separate kitchen and insisted that foie gras is not on the menu.
‘The private dining room is operated as a separate business to the main restaurant,’ the source claimed despite the ‘private dining menu’ displaying the same restaurant name and branding.
Chef Daniel Humm announced in May that the high-end restaurant would reopen with a vegan-only menu -charging $335 for 10 courses – as he lamented the unsustainable practices of the food industry.
Explaining his restaurant’s new philosophy on Instagram, Humm said: ‘When we began to think about reopening EMP, we realized that not only has the world changed, but so have we.
‘We have always operated with sensitivity to our surroundings, but it has become clear that the current food system is not sustainable,’ he wrote. ‘We knew we couldn’t open the same restaurant.’
On Tuesday, Wells delivered his damning verdict, saying some of the dishes had a ‘pumped-up, distorted flavor’, while others had a ‘cloying heaviness’.
The vegetables, Wells said, were ‘doing things no root vegetable should be asked to do’, and he accused head chef and owner Daniel Humm of manipulating the ingredients far beyond necessary.
‘Some are so obviously standing in for meat or fish that you almost feel sorry for them,’ he wrote.
When the restaurant reopened last summer – with Angelina Jolie in attendance for the eagerly-awaited opening night – there was a 15,000-person wait list. Wells said that they would likely be disappointed.
Beets were served in ceramic pots, having been dehydrated, then rehydrated, smoked, cured, and treated over the course of three days. The pot was smashed at the table and then the beet cleaned and served with mustard leaf kimchi and red wine jus.
The tomato dish, served alongside a tea with lemon verbena, salad with strawberry and shiso, and a yellow tomato dosa, was described by Wells as having a ‘pumped-up, distorted flavor, like tomatoes run through a wah-wah pedal,’ a device used by musicians to distort the sound of an electric guitar.
Cucumber with melon and smoked daikon – a dish, which takes two cooks all day to chop and prep, due to the short shelf life of the fresh cucumber – was dismissed by Wells as being ‘suffused with an acrid intensity’.
And a roasted eggplant, which used to be flavored with tuna flakes, was said to have a ‘cloying heaviness’.
Diners in the main room can only choose from the new vegan-only menu
Cucumber with melon and smoked daikon – one of the 11 dishes on the tasting menu. Two chefs work full-time for a whole day to prepare the ingredients for this dish
Eggplant with tomato and cilantro, which Wells said had a ‘cloying heaviness’
‘Time and again, delicate flavors are hijacked by some harsh, unseen ingredient,’ Wells writes.
‘The servers offer few explanations for the doctored flavors, and no warnings, either. The ingredients look normal until you take a bite and realize you’ve entered the plant kingdom’s uncanny valley.’
Wells says that the 45-year-old Swiss chef ‘used to get purer, deeper results out of vegetables before the restaurant went vegan.’
He added: ‘Maybe he should bring back the celery root steamed in a pig bladder.’
Not all the dishes were demolished.
Wells said that a caviar-style dish of tonburi – seeds from the Japanese Kochia tree – served with lettuce, pea and miso puree, was ‘delicious’.
His highest praise was reserved for something not on the menu – the bread.
‘Originally kneaded with cow butter, the laminated dough has been rejiggered with butter made from sunflower seeds, and it’s an unqualified success,’ he wrote.
‘So is the nonbutter that arrives with the bread, molded into the shape of a sunflower, bright yellow with a dark eye of tangy fermented sunflower seeds in the center.’
Wells pointed out that, although Humm argued the current restaurant situation was not sustainable for the planet, if everyone followed his lead the small farmers he previously bought his meat from in upstate New York would go out of business.
The food critic mocked the ‘secret’ meat menu, saying, ‘It’s some kind of metaphor for Manhattan, where there’s always a higher level of luxury, a secret room where the rich eat roasted tenderloin while everybody else gets an eggplant canoe.’