Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Daniel - Review

Daniel - Highly Recommended
60 E 65th St, New York NY 10065
Btwn Madison & Park Ave
Phone: (212) 288-0033

The dudes and I always talk about the best meal we ever had and one of the best for me has always been Daniel. By no means was it perfect, but it was one of those experiences where you knew only this kitchen could produce dishes that ethereal. Fast forward 5 years later and many amazing restaurant experiences under my belt, I was a bit worried this experience was going to be underwhelming. 100% not the case as this proved to be the best restaurant experience I've had states side. Overall, I give the restaurant an 95/100.

Our Menu
Amuse Bouche **
Trio of Peas
Delicious pea flavor running through out with different tastes and textures - earthy, creamy, tart, crunchy. The puree was heavenly, but so were the actually individually cooked peas...what a great way to start the meal.

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date and marcona almond napoleon, baby turnips, spinach
I've had a boat load of foie gras in my day and sadly, I just don't get fired up over foie gras anymore. Well, the one they served here was a complete WTF moment. Maybe the most intense FG I've ever tasted. Mixed with the tart turnips and sweet dates made for a ridiculous combination of flavors.

pickled daion, satur farms mâche, pear confit
Another WTF FG dish. The capon was delicious, tender, and paired perfect with the foie gras. Really perfect...

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North Star Caviar, Barron Point Oyster, Finger Lime, Tapioca Vinaigrette
A bright combination of flavors and textures - huge sea urchin flavor in a nice tender custard. The sea urchin flavor paired perfectly with the briney oyster and caviar.

Celery, Walnut Oil, Granny Smith Sauce
Another course - another WTF moment. The crab was perfect in every way - beautiful texture and such a naturally sweet flavor. Combined with the sweet/tart sauce - everything just really popped. This dish would have made Le Bernardin proud!

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Hazelnut Crusted Maine Sea Scallops *
Morel Fricassée, Swiss Chard, Miners Lettuce, Green Peppercorn Sauce
Didn't love this dish at first, but it started to grow on me. Perfectly cooked sea scallop that was so meaty and flavorful - never had a scallop like this before. I wanted more acidity and brightness though since this was a pretty damn heavy dish with the morels.

Littleneck Clams, Squid, Bay Scallops, Anise Hyssop Salad
Another WTF dish - perfectly textured ravioli with such an amazing filling and sauce. Earthy, bright, and paired with the subtly sweet sea food.

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Hawaiian Hearts of Palm, Red Kuri Squash, Chorizo Emulsion
The first shock of the night as this dish just didn't work for me. From texture to flavor - everything seemed pretty dull. Again need some more acidity here. The squash was muted and slightly sweet. Also, the tuna didn't pair well with all those flavors.

Leek Potato Parmentier, Roasted and Tempura Celery
The dish I was looking forward to most was to me - the most disappointing. I loved this dish back in 2005 (my favorite dish of all time), but it was served en paupiette basically wrapped in potato where it crisps up and leaves the sea bass moist and tender. The sea bass was nice this night, but not as moist as I'd like. Also the potato was pretty over salted. It was decent overall, but such a let down from my first memory.

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Braised Radicchio Tardivo, Confit Fennel, Crispy Polenta, Sicilian Olives
After the disappointing fish dishes, this dish totally reminded me I was at Daniel. The lamb loin was ethereal - huge lamb flavor, perfectly cooked where it was meaty and tender at the same time. The fennel, the olives, and the lamb jus were such a perfect compliment.

Red Wine Braised Short Rib with Chanterelle Marmalade |
Seared Tenderloin with Chestnut-Potato Gnocchi, Swiss Chard

Another ridiculous WTF dish. Braised short rib is a dish that people do everywhere, but not as well as they serve it here. Rich, intense, and tender as hell. The short rib alone would have made me happy happy, but the perfect wagyu tenderloin put me over the top. Huge meaty flavor and perfect texture with the intense bordelaise sauce.

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Mango-Thai Basil Gelée, Poached Pineapple, Coconut Rum Sorbet
This kind of reminded me of a Chinese dessert with the poached pineapple and coconut - just needed some sponge cake. Sorbet was phenomenal, but surprised to say that the gelee's weren't that great - the ones at Ko seemed to pop more.

Liquid Caramel, Fleur de Sel, Milk Sorbet

Another one of those dishes that everyone does - but no one can touch this one. By far the best chocolate coulant or lava cake I've ever had. This actually maybe the best dessert I've ever had. Such an intense chocolate flavor with the liquid chocolate caramel center. This was the only dish the whole night that made me dizzy with pleasure...

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience (95/100)
  • Food (9.5/10) – Best food I've had in NYC. Forgot how much sauces really make a great dish a WTF dish - that Bordelaise sauce and lamb jus is still making my mouth water. 10 out of 12 dishes were killer with some being ridonkulous.
  • Service (9.5/10) – After checking out Le Bernardin recently, it was shocking how much better Daniel's service was. Lots of little attention to details like the little ottoman for my wife's purse and they properly clean up the crumbs after each course (take note Le Bernardin). The food came out at a consistent pace - relatively fatst. And they still have the same ninja system they had in the past where multiple captains are overlooking the whole dining room and as soon as a patron needs anything - SWARM! - multiple people stop by to help you. Also, noticed the entire waitstaff was French which didn't seem to be the case last time
  • Atmosphere (9.5/10) – Much more relaxed atmosphere than 5 years ago - still extravagant though, but more muted with cream colors. Place was filled with people in their 50's + and surprisingly maybe 30% Asian. The place is very comfortably spacious which was different than Le Bernardin which felt quite cramped. Had reservations and I waited at the bar for my wife. Once she arrived, we were seated immediately.
  • Price (9.0) – Crazy expensive, but worth it for a special occasion - about $250 a head including tip.
Closing Comments
Funny note is I mentioned to my wife how much I always love the dishes I pick for her more - the last time her dishes at Daniel were superb and mine were just OK. It happened again as I liked her dishes more than mine...spectacular experience and would love to go for the 3 course menu.

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