Having left both Bar Boulud and DBGB feeling like I was missing what all the fuss was about, I was hopeful but not convinced about Daniel and the third Michelin star it received this year.
To celebrate my boyfriend, Kamran, finishing law school(!), we ordered the 6-course tasting menu with wine pairings. We had hoped to try the 8-course menu, but it’s not available on the weekends due to the increased crowds, and in the end, there were more than enough surprises that we definitely didn’t need the extra courses.
parsnip mousse, green apple, duck prosciutto around crostini
The texture of this was as creamy as it looks.
We failed to catch what this was both when our server told us and another server told the table behind us, but it was hammy and smoky with balsamic mustard, I believe.
parsnip puree, smoked sturgeon
Kamran rightly suggested that this would’ve been better warm, but I have a hard time complaining about bread that literally drips butter as you tear it apart.
duck terrine, honeycrisp apple, Sicilian pistachios, golden raisins, pickled barberries, celery salt
Lola duck and daikon radish mosaic, juniper gelée, fig-red cabbage chutney, mustard salad
I know it’s hard to see, but there’s a little tower in the background of this photo. That’s a duck rillette. If you don’t know anything about rillettes–and I didn’t until Kamran told me–they’re made by salting meat, cooking it slowly in fat, shredding it, and forming it into a paste with the fat. I thought it was much more flavorful (salty!) than the mosaic itself, and I liked the non-gelatinous texture more, too.
J.J. Prüm, Riesling Kabinett Graacher Himmelreich, Mosel, Germany 2008: I always order Riesling, and I can’t imagine wanting anything other than this one now that I’ve had it. Having only been drinking wine for a short time, I’m still awful at picking out specific flavors, but this wine just screams, “GRAPEFRUIT!” Yum-my.
peekytoe crab salad, sweet pepper vinaigrette, Hawaiian hearts of palm, tarragon oil, young fennel
Even as someone who’s only now beginning to appreciate seafood, I’ve been thinking nonstop about this dish. I loved the crunchy hearts of palm capping the ends of the crab roll, and the slices of fennel on top had such the perfect pungent bite to compliment the fresh oceany flavor of the crab.
trio of Spanish mackerel:
warm with cumin, carrot mousseline
tartar with North Star caviar
poached with white wine gelée
This was the big surprise dish of the night for me. Since mackerel is a very fishy fish, my boyfriend told me I should save the piece floating on carrot for last in case the simple poached version was too much for me to handle. And it’s true that the flavor came through forcefully and unhampered by the accoutrements of the other preparations, but I actually missed it when it was masked. The preparation with the caviar was very fresh and lemony, while the carrot preparation was sweet and had whole salt crystals on top.
Domaine Bailly Reverdy, Sancerre Chavignol, Loire 2009
fennel-basil raviolini, Littleneck clam emulsion, broccoli rabe, chorizo
This dish had everything both in terms of texture and flavor–the grittiness of the pasta, the bitterness of the rabe, the smooth broth, the segments of the shrimp, and my favourite part, the spicy saltiness of the chewy chorizo. To us, it tasted like the filling you find in Totino’s Pizza Rolls, and I definitely don’t mean that in a bad way. (The Totino’s slogan is, “Kids have a lot of favorite things, but Totino’s will always be their favorite favorite.” I’m no kid, and they’re still my favourite favourite.)
sea scallops la plancha, broccoli, tellicherry pepper-lemon gremolata, coco beans, bok choy salad
What makes for an elevated eating experience is simple ingredients made extraordinary, I think, and the coco beans here did that for me. I made an audible “mmm” sound that Kamran had to shush upon my first bite, because they tasted so bacony it was like being home with my mom’s baked beans. The scallop was perfectly cooked, and the broccoli tempura was such a guilty pleasure.
Domaine Drouhin Meursault, Burgundy 2007
grilled yellowfin tuna, red wine peppered shallots, parsnip, roasted salsify, Marchand de Vin butter
Kamran and I agreed that in a blind taste test, neither of us would’ve guessed this was fish. It tasted just like a steak. A steak with ketchup and mustard, to be exact.
slow baked Dover sole, Satur Farms spinach, pommes Saint Florentin, artemisia tempura, Vadouvan jus
Our server explained what Vadouvan is to us, and I wanted to be a little offended, but then I figured that I’d rather him treat me like I know nothing than miss something important because he expects me to know everything. This dish was another bit of clever trickery, because the chicken jus poured over the Vadouvan spice made the fish taste just like chicken. I loved the crustiness of the potatoes and thought the dish could’ve done with more of that and less of the limp spinach.
Copain Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley 2008
Elysian Fields Farm lamb loin, shoulder barbajuan (French ravioli), turnip confit, chickpea hummus, Meyer lemon Crust, piquillo harissa coulis
I can never have enough of the slightly sweet Meyer lemon, so it was disappointing to me that the citrus flavor was barely noticeable, though that was partly due to the way the lamb was especially flavorful.
duo of beef:
black angus short ribs, stewed lentils, caramelized salsify
wagyu tenderloin, red wine glazed pearl onions, carrot confit, Bordelaise jus
This reminded us of the beef cheek we had at The Modern, which was our favourite dish of the night there. We didn’t really get to try the little potato bite you see to the right there, because in my effort to cut it in half, I flung it across the room.
Bosquet des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Grenache, Rhone 2001
sweet, sweet Epoisses
We wanted to add a cheese course to the tasting menu, so our server sent over the fromagier and sommelier to work out a pairing for us. We asked for five cheeses ranging from soft to hard, and he happened to choose Epoisses for us, which is my favourite cheese. He also chose one that was supposed to taste like potato but reminded us of the shell of a peanut. The sommelier said his immediate feeling was a 1983 Madeira boal but that a Riesling would also be nice, but since I always order Riesling, I convinced my boyfriend to get the boal. What I didn’t realize was that it was FIFTY-FIVE DOLLARS PER GLASS, so I half-wonder if the sommelier was just pushing the most ridiculously-priced wine on us. Or maybe the most expensive wine is expensive for a reason, because I loved its spicy fruitiness and its hints of maple syrup.
D’Oliveira, Boal, Madeira 1983: (What a cool bottle, right?)
spice poached bosc pear, gingerbread biscuit, red wine gelée, ginger ice cream
Though I still liked it, this was my least-favourite of the desserts. The gingerbread was a little too funky in flavor for the light pears, and the soft texture of the fresh pear didn’t stand up to the firm gingerbread like the crisp pear chips did.
Chateau Pajzos 5 Puttonyos Asz, Tokaji 2000
warm guanaja chocolate coulant, gold leaf, liquid caramel, fleur de sel, milk sorbet
If only every chocolate cake was this chocolate cake. 1) GOLD. 2) Crunchy exterior. 3) Liquid center.
Rivesaltes Domaine de Rancy Ambré, Roussillon 1996
caramelized hazelnut sablé, dulce de leche cream, Caraïbe chocolate mousse, horchata ice cream
Our server had asked if we were celebrating a special occasion, and as cool as it seems to be all, “Nah, this is every Saturday for us,” I couldn’t resist mentioning Kamran’s law school achievement. He was embarrassed, but it was worth it for horchata ice cream.
Like unwrapping a papoosed newborn, being presented with these fresh madeleines in their linen bunting made my little heart swell. They weren’t even the best madeleines I’ve had, but they were so buttery, warm, and soft, with that slight crunch to the exterior you expect and adore.
I wasn’t even able to snap a photo of our golden plate of mignardises (bite-sized desserts) before one of the managers came to the table and offered to give us a tour of the kitchen, along with a chocolate tasting. After hours of eating and drinking, Kamran and I didn’t think we could handle another bite, so I attempted to respectfully decline the offer. I’ve never understood people who brag about kitchen tours or make a point to meet chefs; it’s not that I don’t admire chefs and the way they run their kitchens, but I’m no home cook who wants to ask about techniques. I’m just there to enjoy the food and know I can’t offer anything more than a “nice work!”.
But the manager talked us into it, and I’ll admit that it was interesting to see how many cooks were in the kitchen, how bright and clean everything was, the different stations for each of the courses, the chef’s table in a private room above the kitchen, and how Chef Jean Francois Bruel was able to expedite everything while shaking hands and taking photos with us.
We were just so full of wine, though, that we couldn’t even muster a single question for him. Literally, I shook his hand without telling him my name, complimenting a dish, anything. It feels like a wasted opportunity in retrospect, but it’s not like my saying “that beef was real tasty” was going to change either of our lives.
chocolates: raspberry, hazelnut, basil, cinnamon
The manager sat us down at a table in the bar area with a couple of glasses of cognac and this plate of flavored chocolates, which were all much too small to pack that much flavor. The basil was my favourite, but it’s also my favourite herb, so I’m entirely biased.
mignardises and madeleines
A server came by with these and said, “I heard you didn’t get to finish yours.” We had just been talking about what fools we were to not just stuff our other madeleines in our cheeks as we were being dragged to the kitchen, so it was one of those above-and-beyond moments that make you want to recommend the place to other people. The fact that the plate of petit fours included a mango-flavoured French macaron like the one at The Wright that originally made me fall in love with macarons made it too perfect.
This was as close to perfect a meal as Kamran and I have had in NYC. From the little stool beside me for my handbag to the outstanding food to the truly exceptional service, Daniel was worth every one of those three Michelin stars and more. The classic preparations and stunning decor made for such an over-the-top, romantic spot.
Kamran agrees with the perfection of the experience but has a slightly different opinion about it being the restaurant he’d most recommend to quote-unquote foodies. Daniel and Momofuku Ko were approximately the same price, but they’re as different as the cuisines they serve. If Daniel is the archetype for modern haute cuisine, then Ko is its punk rock cousin. Where Daniel makes all of the rules, Ko breaks them and serves shaved frozen foie gras on top.
Ko, I guess, is where you go when you’ve tired of all those expense account luncheons you’ve been invited to and just want to be served some beer in your wine pairing, and Daniel is where you go when you still have room to be impressed by candlelight and peekytoe. Either way, I’m now officially able to pronounce the name correctly, and that’s worth the price alone.
60 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10065 (map)