60 E 65th St.
New York, NY 10065
Dining date: 9/10/15
Daniel Boulud is one of America’s most notable chef/restaurateurs with 16 restaurants in 4 countries around the world. I’ve tried a few of his restaurants with mixed thoughts, feeling like he’s spread himself fairly thin. However, I’ve always wanted to try Restaurant Daniel – Boulud’s flagship restaurant in New York City.
Since opening in 1993, Daniel has been regarded as one of the top restaurants in the city. Recently, the restaurant has lost some of its top accolades. It started in 2013 with a downgrade in the NY Times from four stars to three. Food critic Pete Wells cited very different dining experiences between the restaurant’s regulars/VIPs and other customers. Last year, Michelin dropped Daniel from the three-star ranks to two, something it re-affirmed in the latest 2015 guide. Michelin referred to inconsistency and a decline in food quality. Less importantly, the restaurant also dropped for the fifth straight year in the world’s best restaurants list, a precipitous drop of 40 spots down to #80 in 2015.
I was very indecisive on whether to invest a meal at Daniel. Would I be trying a restaurant on the downhill? Or a restaurant with a renewed focus on its food and service?
6534 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
Dining date: 8/31/15
I’ve been to the Beverly Hills and Las Vegas locations of Bouchon numerous times although I had not been to Bouchon’s first location here in Yountville (until now). I’d like to think I’m very familiar with the cuisine here; the menu at all Bouchon locations is pretty much the same serving up Thomas Keller’s interpretation of French bistro food. One thing that does set this location apart is that it’s garnered a Michelin star.
I stopped in for a late Monday lunch after a morning of wine tasting.
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 7/24/15
My last time dining at Melisse was a year and a half ago when it participated in the dineLA Restaurant Week promotion. While Melisse didn’t technically participate this time, they offered a special 5-course 16th anniversary ‘Dine Melisse’ menu that happened to coincide with dineLA. Priced at $85 per person, it was a very attractive price point to revisit.
301 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130
Dining date: 6/13/15
Restaurant August was high on my list of places to try while in town. It’s John Besh’s flagship restaurant and consistently regarded as one of the top restaurants in the city. The food here combines Besh’s classical French training with the cuisine and ingredients of Louisiana. The decor is an upscale setting with old-world charm.
A few dining options were available – a la carte, a five course farmers market tasting ($72) and a five course degustation menu ($97). The restaurant allows each diner to choose which route they want to go; the tasting menu isn’t mandatory for the entire table. The flexibility allowed us to get one tasting menu and order a handful of a la carte dishes to create a custom tasting.
The French Laundry
6640 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
Dining date: 5/24/15
I’ve been lucky enough to visit The French Laundry a handful of times. It’s always a memorable experience with delicious food, precise execution, and warm service. This most recent visit was thanks to a reservation I was able to obtain when the restaurant’s reservation books opened up following their closure since the holidays. The kitchen has been completely torn down in preparation to build a much larger state-of-the-art version; it’s currently replaced with four temporary shipping container kitchens (they’re much, much nicer than it seems).
A visit to The French Laundry isn’t complete without a stroll through the gardens across the street.
The famous blue door.
Twist by Pierre Gagnaire
3752 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89158
Dining date: 5/8/15
I first dined at a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant in Tokyo a few years ago and enjoyed it. Gagnaire’s restaurant in Vegas has been open since 2009 (the only one in America), but it took me a full 6 years to visit. Part of it was my parents’ less-than-stellar impression of the restaurant during their first visit, but they were game to give the restaurant a second try.
The restaurant’s located on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It’s a beautiful restaurant providing beautiful views for any table next to a window. The grand tasting menu offers four courses for $135 and five for $155. However, ‘courses’ is used very conservatively; our five course meal could easily have been called twelve with all of the extras. Even more approachable is a four course vegetarian tasting at $70 (five for $85), which presumably also includes a bunch of additional plates. A very reasonable way to try a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant.