Since it opened in Lafayette Square in 2003, Eleven Eleven Mississippi has earned a reputation as a first-rate culinary destination, the flagship eatery in the restaurant group of Paul and Wendy Hamilton, who also own Vin de Set, PW Pizza and Moulin Events. Chef Carl Hazel, late of The Scottish Arms, recently came aboard to run the stoves at Eleven Eleven, so the time was ripe to revisit.
We were seated on the upper level of the restaurant, the better to enjoy the open kitchen, exposed beams and soaring ceilings. Despite the busy dining room and relatively close proximity of the tables, carrying on a conversation at low volume was easily done.
Normally, we try to stay on-menu as much as possible, but the pork belly appetizer special ($9) was too tasty to pass up. The succulent belly had a beautiful layer of crust on top and was served with a couple of slices of mild roasted apple and some Swiss chard. Fortunately, the rich, fatty cut was small enough to just whet, not curb, the appetite.
Next up, the main event: the 12 oz. Char Crust Dry-Rubbed Ribeye ($26) and the Wild Boar Ravioli ($18). The steak came out pink and juicy, perched on a layer of cheddar potato gratin, topped with a dollop of gorgonzola butter and garnished with a sprig of rosemary. There’s not much better combination to be had than good ol’ meat and potatoes, and this entree was the epitome of simple deliciousness. We asked our waiter for a wine recommendation to go with this dish, and he came through with flying colors, steering us to a glass of 2009 McManis Barbera from California ($8) a bold, fruit-forward wine that perfectly complemented the rare steak. It’s this kind of knowledgeable service that keeps Eleven Eleven at the top of so many diners’ lists.
The ravioli has been a menu item for quite a while. We were pleased to see the new kitchen regime carried it over, and that it was every bit as delicious as we remembered. Some may balk at ordering wild boar, thinking it to be necessarily tough or gamey, but it was anything but. The shredded meat was encased in tender pasta, served in a tomato-vodka cream sauce with some parmigiano-reggiano on top. The rich sauce and sharp cheese nicely augmented the lean, flavorful boar.
For dessert, we ordered the Flourless Chocolate Torta ($7). The dessert menu featured suggested wine and liqueur pairings for each item; and for the torta, the recommended libation was a Terra d’ Oro Zinfandel Port ($7). These two made fine partners, indeed. The deeply flavored dessert wine, another California gem, had notes of fruits and chocolate that married deliciously with the torta and the raspberry drizzle that accompanied it.
It takes consistently fine food and great service to make a restaurant successful in the current economic climate, and we’re pleased to report that Eleven Eleven continues to have an abundance of both.
Eleven Eleven Mississippi, 1111 Mississippi Ave., 241-9999, 1111-m.com.