Daniel (New York, NY)
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?
The restaurant offers a seven course tasting menu for $225 and a four course a la carte for $135. I felt like choosing specific dishes this evening so I went with the a la carte.
PARMESAN AND ONION SOUBISE
The first amuse bouche was this bite. It was creamy with bright onion and warm parmesan flavors.
TRIO OF CAULIFLOWER
The next amuse was a trio of cauliflower. My favorite was the poached shrimp with cauliflower purée showcasing two different sweet notes.
SAINT JACQUES Sea Scallops Ceviche, Persian Cucumber, Radishes, Sea Lettuce, Finger Lime, White Sturgeon Caviar
The first proper course was this scallop ceviche. The scallop had a mild sweetness, accented by the fresh bite of cucumber, lime, and a little caviar.
CRABE Peekytoe Crab Salad, Hamakua Farm Hearts of Palm, Tomatillos, Chayote, Za’atar, Lovage Vinaigrette
The kitchen sent out this crab salad as an extra course. It featured plenty of sweet crab with a light mayo and tender hearts of palm. The za’atar spice added some nice depth.
CAILLE Roasted Quail Breast, Pioppini Mushrooms, Romaine Lettuce, Crispy Legs, Green Peppercorn Sauce
The quail had a crispy skin and moist meat, complemented by rich jus and green peppercorn sauce.
BOEUF Duo of Beef Imperial Wagyu Tenderloin, Charred Broccolini “Quiche”, Black Angus Short Ribs, Broccoli Rabe, Gorgonzola Dulce, Bresaola, “Bordelaise Jus”
I was really looking forward to this course. The short ribs had plenty richness which was balanced by the greens, while the filet was tender and complemented by the bordelaise. The dish showed off two very different preparations of beef, both executed very well.
ABRICOT Poached Apricot, Coriander Gelée, Cilantro Cream, Hazelnut Croustillant, Apricot-Lime Sorbet
Fresh apricot flavors were very pronounced in this light dessert. I thought the cilantro flavor complemented the apricot really well and wanted more of it.
GIANDUJA Abinao Chocolate Mousse, Gianduja Petals, Dark Cocoa Sorbet
The kitchen sent out this extra dessert featuring plenty of layers of chocolate with subtle hazelnut flavor.
Fresh, hot madeleines were a great touch. I ate every single one.
A few more plates of sweets followed, highlighted by a canele to take home.
I really enjoyed the meal at Daniel. Given this was my first visit, it was hard to determine whether the restaurant had gone downhill from prior years. But the food was delicious and executed at a high level. I felt service was very strong as well. I would return.