Dinner at Daniel
Is prix fixe best?
Went to Daniel last Saturday.
I was expecting to try the six-course tasting menu, but the selections weren't as interesting to me as on the "regular" prix fixe (appetizer, entree, dessert). So I think it would depend upon your appetite, the selections offered, and your wallet ($105 vs. $65).
As is usually the case with the big-deal French restaurants, I came away vaguely disappointed. The meal peaked at the very beginning for me. The bread was fantastic (is this sold at Payard?), especially the garlic rolls, olive bread, and multi-grain.
The appetizers were terrific, especially an anchovy salad and lobster fricasee ($15 supplement), the latter a tribute to cream.
I sampled 4 of the 5 entrees at my table, and wasn't knocked out by any of them (scallops, sea bass, lamb chops & belly, duck).
The desserts were substandard, IMO. Most of the reviews I've read about Daniel mention this weakness. Everything chocolate we tried was sweet and insipid, and I've repressed the others.
We also, by the luck of the draw, received an officious and unfriendly waiter. I think this was atypical, as we had a good view of other tables where it was clear, from body language, that the waiters were interacting with patrons with ease and interest.
One other point of interest. It's a great place to people-watch. I eat so seldom in these big-deal kind of places, that it was great fun for us to see how the other half lives. Or perhaps I should say the other one-thousandth live. Daniel is a big restaurant, and we could see perhaps 90% of the patrons in this room. And all but one of them (including us) was wearing a dark "uniform": (men: navy blue, black, or dark gray///
women: black or dark gray. But there was one woman, framed dramatically by curtains right in front of one of the "balconies," who was wearing a bright red dress, like the little girl who was the only spot of color in Steven Spielberg's "Holocaust."
re: Dave Feldman
"As is usually the case with the big-deal French restaurants, I came away vaguely disappointed"
i went to daniel thinking that i'd react the same way, but i was luckier than you in that i had a superb meal.
its too bad that the entrees underwhelmed you, but could the 'vague disappointment' be also a reaction to the fact that the room lacks warmth somehow, no real electricity, too much expense accounting?
I guess when I go to a big-deal restaurant, I'm always trying to figure out what, besides the decor and high prices, truly distinguishes it from other places that I like. And I want to eat a few things that are genuinely exciting. There is much to say for a restaurant that has great breadth, but bottom line, if there isn't at least one dish that surpasses my favorites at places that cost 1/4 the price, I'll probably be disappointed.
In the glory days of Aureole, the scallop sandwich appetizer was such a dish. So was the chocolate souffle at the old Bouley (haven't been to the new one). In the last couple of weeks, I've had a few superb dishes in restaurants: a slice at Sal & Carmine's; the scallops appetizer at i Coppi; the cachapas at Flor's Kitchen (a restaurant that otherwise underwhelmed me). I didn't have anything at Daniel, sampling more than ten things, that approached these.
There is no doubt that our lousy waiter had something to do with the experience, both because he soured the mood a bit, and also because a better waiter might have established a rapport that might have guided us to better food.
I agree about the lack of electricity in the place, but I'm envious that you had a better food experience.
re: Dave Feldman
We did the tasting menu and had a disappointing experience - I agree, the breads knocked me out but the waiter while ok, wasn't really warm, and the food seemed tired--nothing exciting or innovative (I keep going back to my jean georges tasting menu which was superlative)
I also agree that the decor is a bit cold - we sat on the outer rim looking over the main dining area which was fine but I liked the seating we had at Lespinasse and Jean Georges better - tables were a bit closer so we could ignore nearby diners if we so chose, or chat a bit, which we did - everyone was friendly, interesting, really into their food and enjoying their dining experience - it added to the fun.