Eleven Madison Park • NYC
"I’d always rather eat a poached chicken than a fried one," says Daniel Humm, the new chef at New York City’s palatial Eleven Madison Park , who was formerly at San Francisco’s Campton Place. Ordinarily I wouldn’t agree with Humm—I’d take crisp batter-fried chicken any day—except that his poached poularde with big slices of black truffle slipped under the skin is just so succulent and good. A perfect example of Humm’s precise modern French cooking, the poularde (which is just another name for a big fat chicken) is poached whole in a chicken consommé that Humm spikes with truffle juice, making the meat tender and moist—and extra truffley. The poularde (Humm gets it from Four Story Hill Farm, in Pennsylanvia) comes with luxurious accompaniments that change with the seasons but might include small ravioli stuffed with lush shredded chicken thigh meat. The black truffles, though, are a constant. "Even when it’s not truffle season, I always manage to find some for the poularde," says Humm (11 Madison Ave.; 212-889-0905).
Gayle • Philadelphia
I normally wouldn’t advocate the use of quotation marks on a menu. When it comes to food, the less postmodern the better. But at Gayle, chef Daniel Stern’s deconstructed veal stew—which really ought to be listed on the menu as "veal stew"—transcends its cleverness by being flat-out delicious. Stern, who opened this adventurous little American restaurant last year after running the kitchen at Le Bec-Fin, composes the dish with crispy sweetbreads, seared flank steak, moist brisket and breast meat, slivers of tasty veal tongue and a cigarillo-size cylinder of shredded veal in a rich veal reduction and served with collard greens. The resulting "stew" is far more memorable than any stew I’ve ever had (617 S. Third St.; 215-922-3850).
Tagliatelle with Guanciale
Komi • Washington, DC
Johnny Monis was only 24 when he opened this small, austere restaurant in 2003. He quickly attracted a cult following, thanks to his outstanding Greek-Italian dishes. On my latest visit I was pretty giddy over the stuff that kept pouring out of the kitchen, from crostini topped with truffled beet tzatziki to house-cured lardo, coppa and mortadella. I also had one of the most mind-blowing pastas in recent memory: fresh homemade tagliatelle with an intensely flavorful sauce of mushroom stock, butter, olive oil and guanciale (pork jowl) that Monis cures himself in salt, sugar, fresh thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns. Like most of Monis’s food, the dish is both original and highly approachable. But sampling his cooking can be a challenge: Komi has only 38 seats and doesn’t take walk-ins—and if Monis can’t make it in on a certain night, he closes the restaurant (1509 17th St., NW; 202-332-9200).