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Apr 17, 2004 09:29 PM

Thoughts on Daniel?

  • l

Hi - I am trying to decide on a place for our 25th anniversary. Some folks have answered my question and I have searched the board posts for the past few months. My list now has:

Daniel, La Bernardin, and Veritas (RGR keeps raving about it!)

I could not find a lot of opinion or recent visits to Daniel. One opinion was that it was not as creative as Jean Georges. Looking at Daniel's spring menu, it sounds darn creative to me (but I'm no expert.)

Also, is La Bernardin strictly seafood? My husband tends to order meat at upscale/high-end restaurants. If La Bernardin does serve meat, how is their skill with meat?

I am still interested in other opinions on where to go. Where would you go to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event and major life achievement? I'm thinking romantic, delicious, fine service, champagne...the whole enchilada! TIA - I appreciate Chowhound patience with this kind of post.

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  1. I've been to all three, and I, personally, would definitely recommend Daniel above the others. It's a terrific restaurant, and will provide you with a memorable experience of impeccable food and service.

    Le Bernardin is also great, but not in the same league as Daniel. I'd only recommend seafood there. They do serve some meat, but a friend of mine used to be a manager there and he told me they don't give much attention to the meet and the chef certainly doesn't attend to it.

    Veritas is nice, but its primarily a wine restaurant (I'm a wine collector and love it, but its nothing special unless you're a wine geek).

    In all, if I were asked, I'd select Daniel. No doubt about it.

    7 Replies
    1. re: DutchMuse

      I strongly second Daniel. I think it's the finest restaurant in NYC, and perfect for the occasion. I like Le Bernardin very much, but it's a notch below Daniel, and if someone wants meat, Le Bernardin is not the right choice.

      Veritas is a very good restaurant, but not in the same league as Daniel (or Le Bernardin, for that matter).

      Daniel will provide you with an evening you are not likely to forget for a long, time - both for the overall experience and for the excellent food.

      1. re: Nina W.

        I strongly third Daniel.

        I was just there 2 weeks ago and it was as good as every other time I've been. It's my top choice for all of my special occasions.

        We started with the amuse: goat cheese tartlettes, eggplant "caviar" with basil oil, and 2 others that I can't remember at this point.

        My fresh scottish langoustines with spring pea puree was amazing. The sweet soft flesh of the langoustines was highlighted by the delicate pea essence. Yum. My partner moaned and sighed over the sea scallops with truffle sauce, porcini and kale.

        For my entree my companion had the roasted atlantic cod with and olive tampanade. Needless to say, the cod was cooked to perfection: crusty on the outside and incredibly moist within. My spit roasted amish chicken stuffed with truffles was excellent.

        Other items that tempted me were the handmade fettucini with porcini (may be off the menu by now) and the kobe beef tenderloin. I've had the veal, the braised short-ribs, and the lamb there also. The veal was like silk, the short ribs exquisite, and the lamb delicate.

        For dessert the upside down chocolate souffle is unfailable. However my single estate chocolate fondant was incredible.

        Of course they finish you off with those irresistable madelines, and the pleasant tray of petite fours.

        Like I said, always an awesome experience there.

      2. re: DutchMuse

        I have to strongly disagree with your statement that Veritas is "nothing special unless you're a wine geek." I don't drink wine (though my husband does, and he loves doing pairings there), so there are some of us who love going to Veritas because we find Chef Scott Bryan's cuisine to be nothing short of superb.

        Veritas and Daniel are two entirely different types of restaurants. Daniel has a very large main dining room with fancy decor of the Greek temple variety, and the cuisine is in the modern haute French category. On the other hand, the dining room at Veritas is small, with stylish contemporary decor, and the cuisine is New American. Each has its merits, depending on what one is looking for at any particular time.

        As for Le Bernardin, I am not a fan. I found the food to be disappointing, the "welcome" (?) and service were icy, and the "decor," such as it was, made me feel as though I were dining in the lobby of an office building, which is, in fact, where the restaurant is located.

        1. re: RGR

          In addition to the overwhelming Chowhound recommendations for Daniel, there were 2 reasons why I decided against Veritas for the big anniversary dinner. First, the dining room was small and looked a bit cramped (on the web site - virtual tour.) I liked the styling, but it wasn't what I wanted for the "big" dinner.

          The wine list was too big for a moderate wine aficionado like me, and it was over-priced. I am familiar with some of the California selections and sparkling wines on the list. The prices were outrageous, and there wasn't an affordable sparkling wine or champagne for a celebration. The selection was definitely impressive, but felt like a rip-off to me.

          Also, the menu they had posted sounded nice, but basic. I am a big fan of "New American" cuisine, but nothing even tempted me.

          For a non-big-event, upscale dinner, I might consider Veritas. But, having been to Union Square Cafe and knowing the kind of New American Danny Romano does, I would be mightly tempted to take USC over Veritas, so I could afford wine, too.

          RGR, I value your opinions, as do, apparently, most of the hounds on the board. I wanted to give you my impressions from afar. Thoughts?

          1. re: lizard acres

            Precisely. The menu at Veritas is "basic" because its meant to serve as a backdrop for amazing wines. Great for wine geeks; good, solid, excellent food for non-wine geeks, but certainly not anywhere near the same level as Daniel.

            1. re: lizard acres

              Thank you for the kind words, Lizard Acres.

              I didn't mean to leave the impression that I thought choosing Daniel for your special occasion dinner was a mistake. Not at all. We have dined at Daniel twice, once at its previous location (now Cafe Boulud) and once at its current location, both times to celebrate special occasions. The first meal, a tasting dinner, was sensational. Our second experience was good, but not nearly as terrific. We went not long after Daniel had moved into the Mayfair and, in some respects, I think they were still getting their gustatory sea legs. We had the 3-course prix-fixe and, while the food was very good, it lacked the excellence and "wow" factor that I had experienced all through that first tasting dinner. Furthermore, there was no cheese service because, we were told, the cheeses had not yet arrived from France, which was a disappointment. This was several years ago, and because I know that Daniel is capable of producing truly fabulous cuisine, I'm sure that all the raves he's garnered since then have been well-earned.

              Veritas is our favorite upscale restaurant, it’s in a neighborhood convenient for us, and we have dined there many times, most of which have not been special occasions. I have never felt the room or the seating to be cramped. In fact, I find it a very comfortable and soothing place.

              As for the food, I think it is wrong to compare the New American cuisine at Veritas to the haute French cuisine at Daniel; it’s like comparing apples to pommes de terre. While Daniel’s cuisine is some of the best of its kind, the same can be said for Scott Bryan’s cuisine in its category.

              Frankly, when Dutch Muse says, “The menu at Veritas is 'basic' because its [sic] meant to serve as a backdrop for amazing wines,” it seems to imply that food has to be prepared in a “basic” way in order to be matched well with superb wines. Since Daniel has many extraordinary wines on its list, does that mean the food served there is not a good match because it's very far from “basic”? Hardly!

              I strongly disagree that the food at Veritas is just “basic.” Perhaps some wine geeks are so focused on what they are drinking that they miss the subtlety and complexity of flavors that have been an integral part of all the dishes I have ever eaten there.

              I hope your dinner at Daniel is fabulous, and that you will try Veritas sometime in the future. Happy Anniversary and Bon Appetit!

              P.S. If you've never read "The Fourth Star," you might find it interesting. It's the story of how, after the "NY Times" demoted Daniel from 4 stars to 3, Daniel Boulud and the staff went about regaining that star. Lots of details about how the kitchen functions, etc.

            2. re: RGR

              I certainly agree with the take on Le Bernardin. The last time I ate there, the service was OK to good, the food good. The decor was shabby and worn and had lost the luster of its early days. For the prices Le Bernardin charges, everything, including the flower arrangements, should be perfect.

          2. I don't know if you (or your companion) are wine geeks, but if so, Veritas should be strongly considered on the merits of it's wine list alone. Scott Bryan also has been known to make some tasty food. :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chris

              Daniel has a deep, serious wine list. It may not be a "wine restaurant" the way Veritas is, but its cellar is superb.

            2. I celebrated a big birthday at Daniel, and it was very special. Everything was impecable, and the atmosphere is as close as you'll get in NY to an old-school grand European restaurant. Let them know it's an ocassion, and they'll guild the lily.

              1. Stay with Daniel. You won't be disappointed. Bernardin and Veritas are also superb, but as other writers have implied, they're both specialists' places: Bernardin for seafood and Veritas for wine. Daniel is an all-around great restaurant with seafood and service the equal of Bernardin and wine, well, almost comparable to Veritas and, ok, much higher priced. The sommeliers at Daniel, however, can steer you to delightful, off-center bottles from the lesser-known French regions that won't break the bank. Hint for first-time Veritas visitors, whom I presume to be wine geeks like me: spend the time with their online wine list so you don't delay dinner by an hour drooling over the selection.

                1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Daniel it is! It sounds like everything we're looking for! The food, the service, wine list with some wellpriced selections, helpful sommelier.

                  Questions - Daniel's website says it makes reservations no more than 1 month in advance. I'll probably call earlier to try anyway, but is this your experience? What are the best and/or the most popular hours to make the reservation for? When is it wonderfully busy and exciting?

                  No bad tables at Daniel? Any recommendations on a seating request? Is the center of the dining room for those who want to see and be seen? Do I care?

                  Dress code? Suit and tie for the gentleman? Or will very nice sport jacket, tie and slacks work?

                  We've been to upscale, but never been to a restaurant like this. Are there lessons I should take, things to know?

                  Merci beaucoup and TIA!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: lizard acres

                    Jacket and tie are required at Daniel. You could wear a nice sportcoat, tie, and slacks, but you would probably be more in keeping with the rest of the crowd there if you wear a suit. And hey, it's a very special occasion at a special place - if this isn't a dressy occasion, what is ?

                    Tell them it's your 25th anniversary - they will do right by you in all respects.

                    1. re: lizard acres

                      You might try is listed and you can make reservations that way also.

                      As for tables, I think some people prefer the center of the room, but frankly, I've enjoyed great meals on the upper/back area too. To me, its never made a difference but for some I think it does.

                      Daniel just requires a coat (suit or sport coat) no tie required, but you'll probably feel its more special by being more dressed up.

                      Study the menu before you go. Its on the website.

                      Have a great time!

                      1. re: DutchMuse

                        no question -- the mezanine area is MUCH more private, and -- in my view - romantic.

                        a few tips from my experience:

                        1. MAKE SURE to stress to the reservationist HOW IMPORTANT this is to you. I had a TERRIBLE experience there last year on my birthday -- the waiter, who was a horrible, beared, stuffy man was really dismissive and rude, they made a TON of mistakes, and the whole thing took nearly five torturous hours. (i wrote the manager a five page letter about this and they treated me for dinner a month later and it was outstanding which leads me to the next point:

                        2. go at a busy time! -- weeknights at daniel are, in my experience NEVER as good as busy weekends. i don't know why.

                        3. stay away from bearded waiter -- ask for the female captain. SHE is TERRIFIC.

                        4. i would NOT go for the chef's tasting menu -- you'd think this would be the most creative interesting best food on the menu, but it isn't. it's sort of boring, and some of it was rehashed from the anuse geules the night i went. better off with the (i think) five course tasting where yOU choose the courses and you know what you're getting.

                        just my two cents.