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?
240 Central Park S
New York, NY 10019
Dining date: 3/1/15
Given it’s been a good six years since I had been to New York City, the list of restaurants I want to try is overwhelming. So, narrowing down a coveted dinner choice was a challenging (though exciting!) task. I wanted a restaurant that would be brand new to everyone dining (my parents and I) and something a little less of a marathon given the extended tasting menus of the previous dinners. Marea is a restaurant that’s been on my radar since opening in 2009 and fit the bill for this meal. An Italian seafood restaurant, the restaurant currently holds two Michelin stars and ranks #93 in the latest best restaurants in the world list.
While a la carte and by-request tasting menus are available, I suspect most diners choose the $97 4-course pre-fixe, which basically allows one to choose 4 dishes off the a la carte menu (one crudo/antipasti, one pasta, one main and a dessert). Note that there are some pricing supplements for some of the more expensive dishes. My mom, dad and I went for the pre-fixe menu adding one small plate to share as an addition.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
5 rue de Montalembert
75007 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14
This Paris Saint-Germain location was the first of Joel Robuchon’s l’Atelier concepts, which is now a worldwide chain. Holding two Michelin stars and ranked #31 in the latest world’s best restaurant list (and as high as #12 in 2012), it’s oft-regarded as the best of Robuchon’s l’Atelier restaurants.
In my first trip to Europe seven years ago, this restaurant was easily the best (and by far most expensive) meal I had. It’s still one of the more memorable dining experiences I’ve had and I wanted to return once more to see if the restaurant was as good as I remembered. There are no lunch specials at this location, just a la carte and a €179 discovery tasting menu. A la carte starters and mains price in the €40-€80 range each so I figured the 10-course tasting menu was the way to go.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
London SW1X 7LA
Dining date: 10/16/14
Heston Blumenthal is one of the most notable chefs in the world; his flagship The Fat Duck was once named the best restaurant in the world and has consistently garnered three Michelin stars. He has a number of restaurants in Bray (about an hour outside of London), but Dinner was his first restaurant in London proper. Opened in 2011, it’s achieved much praise of its own, currently holding two Michelin stars and standing at #5 on the 2014 S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. Having dined at The Fat Duck a couple of years ago, I was eager to try Dinner while in London.
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 1/24/14
Melisse, like the restaurant of my last post Providence, is oft-considered one of the best restaurants in the city for its French-Californian cuisine. It’s truly one of the few refined fine dining destinations that has survived through all the food trends Los Angeles has seen since it’s opening in 1999. Like Providence, Melisse garnered 2 Michelin stars in the last guide; while I have been familiar with Providence ever since it opened, my first visit to Melisse didn’t come until a relatively late 2010. I’ve now had a few meals here (including a very memorable Farewell to Foie last year) and have thoroughly enjoyed them.
The impetus for this dinner was the restaurant’s participation in dineLA’s new $85 price level, an opportune time for 4 friends’ first visit. As with many dineLA options I wondered – what type of meal would Melisse provide at this lower price point? Would it still reflect a ‘regular’ Melisse experience? I was pleasantly surprised on both counts.
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 1/16/14
I’ve generally considered Providence one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles since it opened in 2005. I first had chef Michael Cimarusti’s food at downtown’s Water Grill in college and followed him here. This was my fifth visit overall, but my first in about 3.5 years. I’m not totally sure what took me so long to return, but part of it was the fact that my last two visits didn’t live up to the high expectations created by the first two. Providence is consistently in the conversation of top special occasion fine dining restaurants in the city, so it’s a place I like to stop in every so often.
Cimarusti has been a busy man since my last visit and has presumably spent progressively less time in this kitchen, especially with the opening of Connie & Ted’s last year.
A number of menu options are available. A three course a la carte is $95, while 5-course and 9-course market tasting menus are $105 and $140, respectively. At the highest end, a chef’s tasting menu is available at $195 per person. We stuck to middle ground, ordering the 9 course market menu.