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Extremely disappointing at Daniel

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Danny D Mar 23, 2001 12:21 PM

I was wondering if anyone had similar experiences at Restaurant Daniel during Valentine's day this year. It was supposed to be a special prix-fixe dinner for $125 per person.

Alas, what a massive disappointment. Even in the annals of haute-cuisine, I have never seen portions so tiny. The rack of lamb must have been from an deliberately impoverished animal, the desert souffle so tiny two of them would have fit in the palm of my hand. I have eaten at Michelin 3-star restaurants in France and just about every top French place in Manhattan, and I have never been so hungry after a 4-course dinner. Even that trusty standby, bread (countless different ways), did not satiate me.

Don't get me wrong, the food was very good. But it was not even close to being worth $125 per person. 71 Clinton Fresh foods is one-third the price and twice as good all the way, from first sip to last lick.

As for the much vaunted service, the waiter poured me a white instead of the Tuscan red that I ordered. When I ordered an additionl coffee at the end, I never received it, just the check! Perhaps the only redeeming feature of the restaurant is its decor. I might have been happier munching a Chicken McNugget under those Las Vegas-esque domes.

I thought that I might have been aberration that night, while everyone else had a glorious repast. But I espied a friend of mine dining there later that night as well. And yes, he was so disappointed as well he almost wanted to walk out without paying. For the privilege of a $400+ meal, surely we should expect better - a whole lot better.

The New York Times recently gave Daniel 4 stars in its reviews. Never have 4 stars been more undeserved.

I surmise I might have been there on a poor night for Daniel - that on other nights, it's the impeccable mecca for food that it's proclaimed to be.

I certainly hope so, for the sake of the other diners who spend their hundreds of dollars at Daniel, but I for one, do not intend to ever return.

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    Owen O'Neill Mar 23, 2001 12:50 PM

    I've never eaten at Daniel but have acquaintances far more food savvy than I who ate there this past fall and loved it. That said, I'll note that Valentine's day and New year's Eve are the two nights of the year when I avoid eating out. Even the better restaurants seem to jack prices up and cut corners to cash in on the flocks of people who want to eat out on these two special occasions. Sad but seems to be consistent...

    3 Replies
    1. re: Owen O'Neill
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      michele lifshen reing Mar 23, 2001 03:03 PM

      I agree, Owen. I used to pick fancy places on Valentine's Day [being the incurable romantic that I am as noted elsewhere on the boards]. But I have learned to opt for low-key romance on those holidays since working in the biz. Two years ago I changed careers, went to culinary school (pastry) and now work for a pr agency that works with many chefs and restaurants. Occasions like V-Day are generally not favored by chefs, restaurateurs, etc. for a variety of reasons. One in particular...the combination of accommodating a dining room full of deuces all night plus meeting patrons' incredibly high expectations for a "perfect evening" is mighty challenging.

      1. re: michele lifshen reing
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        Danny D Mar 23, 2001 05:29 PM

        I think you might be right. Given the hoopla surrounding Valentine's Day, perhaps the restaurant was not fully prepared for the number of expectant patrons. I won't quibble too long over the service I received, but I am disappointed by the food vs. price quotient.

        On the other hand, I have had dinners at restaurants such as Le Bernardin, Aureole and Chanterelle on Valentine's Day and they have been almost perfect on these high-pressure occassions.

        1. re: Danny D
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          Andy Lynes Mar 26, 2001 03:33 PM

          It occurs to me that the restaurant trade know damn well what their clientle will be on Valentines Day, and that it is likely to include a good proportion of people who would never usually set foot in a 4 star joint, or who are generally willing to splash out a bit more than they usually would.

          Rather than being sniffy about it, couldn't they simply make allowences, be that extra bit more understanding and generous. Afterall, if a romantic couple are blown away by their first experience of a really high class meal, aren't they more likely to return than if they are patronised and exploited?

          Link: http://www.alynes.freeserve.co.uk

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      Erica Marcus Mar 23, 2001 12:54 PM

      Just wondering: How did the wrong wine get poured? Did the waiter not show you the bottle first?
      That's a shame about the meal, and small portions really bug me as well. I appreciate culinary artistry as much as the next person, but part of why I eat is that I'm HUNGRY.

      1. r
        R Washburn Mar 26, 2001 09:53 AM

        ...it was excellent, but we eschewed the special menu and ordered from the regular three course prix-fix. I must also agree that a holiday is probably the worse time to try a restaurant. Go back on a saturday for a leisurely lunch. Daniel is my favorite restaurant in NY

        Robert

        1. j
          Jbergman Mar 27, 2001 11:55 AM

          Out of curiosity, what made you wait over a month to post this experience?

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