Shameful dinner at Daniel
It started with sitting on a small stool in the lounge (as all the tables there were taken, including one that said "reserved" for the entire 30 minutes we were there), hardly a promising start to an evening, but forgivable considering the difficulty in timing this huge feeding range. We were then seated at a table that was about 10 inches from the next one, something I'd accept in a bistro, but not here (so we had to resort to our good old means of faux-privacy - speaking Hebrew).
After contemplating the menu selection for a few minutes, we decided to go for the 8 course tasting menu. It started off with a good cucumber soup with smoked salmon and caviar and with a way too sweet carrot soup with shrimp (well, it could have been tofu for that matter, the soup was just too sweet to know). Next came a tuna tartar that mostly tasted of mustard and a nice "waldorf salad" with crab meat. From here on, things got worse, out of the remaining dishes, 5 were using the same beef broth that unfortunately, was as salty as the dead sea. When it started in a pasta dish, it was still edible, but the squab, the short ribs, the lamb and everything that happened to touch that broth had to be scraped clean before it could be eaten. The only response we got from the waiter was "oh, sorry for that". Cheeses (I know I wrote about this here before) looked just like what I got in the grand central market the day before (in fact, it would not really surprise me if they were from the same importer) and were all under ripe and mediocre. Desserts were ok, except for the odd choice to serve a petitfour seemingly made with pistachio extract. Finally, the tea was described by her as being "much like the hot water my polish grandma used to drink".
Wasted $440, won't go back there, didn't seem they cared.
I've been hearing a steady stream of similar reports about Daniel. My one visit there was with a "VIP", and we were fawned over and served exquisite food.
This is why it's essential (especially in two-tiered places like that) for reviewers to take pains to visit places anonymously. And for everyone else to take pains to look like reviewers! (mumble into your jacket pocket, rotate all plates once per diner, ask lots of questions, reserve as "John Smith", etc).
re: Jim Leff
"This is why it's essential ... for everyone else to take pains to look like reviewers!"
I suppose my wife's furious scribbling on the back of a stack of business cards is responsible for our treatment at Marc Veyrat's place outside of Annecy, France. Just as we were about to be served our cheeses after a very long and filling lunch, a waiter came by and announced that the chef had "stopped" our service and wanted to bring out a few more tastes. Several full courses followed, before we were allowed to continue with cheese.
Later that spring after we returned to NYC, Jacqueline Friedrich had a nice article on the area featuring Veyrat. I've often wondered if he confused my wife with perhaps the expected food writer or if he was just repaying our entusiasm for the earlier part of the meal.
As for Daniel, before we were known there, we always found the food and service impeccable and inspired. At that time we expressed our feelings quite publicly. These days my opinion may seem more biased, so I tend not to offer it as freely, but it remains the same.
I know this is an old thread, but I had to step in and give my endorsement for Daniel for anyone who does a search on this later on.
We went as a party of 5, including my 2 little sisters. This was several months ago, but I still remember the tower of amuse bouche that started us off. Mild goat cheese on cracker, amazing poached oysters in red wine vinegar, fried clams in tartre sauce, and the 4th escapes me. For appetizers, I had a good lobster risotto with fresh peas. You could taste the earthy sweetness of the fresh peas which elevated the dish a bit, but it was not amazing.
What were amazing were the entrees. My medallion and loin of veal was so tender and delicate that it tasted like silk against my tongue. It was served with creamed morel mushrooms that were also out of this world (morel mushrooms a few days later at Wild Blue paled in comparison which isn't fair because they would have been good if I weren't still reminiscing about the ones I had at Daniel). I tried my fried's lamb and didn't realize that it was lamb until I caught a slight scent of it on my fork. The kitchen had somehow tamed the characteristically strong flavor--most likely through some sort of alchemy no doubt. The braised short ribs were hearty but somehow refined. And the bacon-wrapped monkfish was served with a tiny crab cake that made my sister grin ear to ear.
Desserts were good but not that memorable. But we were all very full by that time so that might be why they did not make a decent impression.
There was a little bit of attitude from the staff, but the fact that we had excellent seats balanced that. Overall, my best dining experience to date (best food goes to Nobu, best decor goes to Bouley Bakery, and best service is hands down Le Bernardin, but overall, Daniel gets my vote for the best combination of the 3).