12 @ Madison
Tucked in a narrow space, off the corner of 12th Ave stood 12@Madison, the newest concept from Jeff Osaka. They definitely took their time executing the overall look and feel of the restaurant. Cozy and welcoming, were my two initial thoughts of the neutral colored, dimly lit narrow dining space. The exposed serving station breaks up the space between the main dining room and the countertop seating and bar area. If you have an opportunity to sit at the counter, you’ll be able to get an up-close view of the kitchen and prep station.
We were greeted with a smile and promptly seated at the counter area. As our water was served, we also received complimentary sherry courtesy of the bar manager. Lucky for us Mr. Osaka was at the location the time of our visit. He and his staff ran a flawless production. That same energy is exemplified to the front of the house personnel as well. Our cups were always full, and fresh silverware were given before each course.
The menu flows from light to heavy, starting with veggies, pasta, meat then dessert. The small plate style makes this an ideal restaurant for sharing. I’d recommend 2-3 courses for solo diners and 5 or more courses for the party of two. There were three of us and split nearly 8 courses. The menu is refined but packs some serious flavor. Each course was thoughtfully prepared. The bar was full of wines, spirits and hot beverages that pair perfectly with the menu offerings. Here’s what we had:
Baby Lettuces: shaved vegetables, shallots, fine herbs, banyuls, vinaigrette, pecorino, parmesan
Linguine: littleneck clams, preserved lemon, opal basil, chili flake
Short Rib Raviolo: celery root mirepoix, mustard greens, horseradish, beef brodo
Skirt Steak: five spice, puffed rice, chili oil, tatsoi
Lamb Shank: tagine style, pistachio, quinoa, golden raisin
S'more Mousse: marshmallow, graham cracker, pine syrup
Poached Apple Cake: caramel, cardamom ice cream
The plating of the food was simple, yet impactful. Of course, I had to get my camera out shoot a few shots before we all dove in. At one point chef told me to just eat the food and not worry about the pictures lol. It was definitely worth the minor delay. The linguine and skirt steak were my two favorite items. Truly a perfect balance of ingredients and flavor profile. There is nothing like a well prepared, evenly salted and tastefully plated item. That same balance transitioned to dessert. The two items we had weren’t overly sweet. Just enough to counter the savory.
My overall impression of 12@Madison is that this is an absolute steal if you are looking for an intimate space that you can enjoy a variety of food. All items were reasonably prices. Our bill was lower than $100.00 and we all had two beverages along with the food items listed above. The restaurant seats about 50-60 people, so you will definitely want to make a reservation is you plan a visit. Sitting at the counter area will give you the best views of the entire space. Congress Park is very fortunate that this little eatery is calling the neighborhood home.