Daniel

>>  Friday, December 11, 2009

Oh New York, how I love thee, especially thy food.

This is truly the culmination of this five-part mini series on some of the amazing food I enjoyed in New York City during a short trip we took for my birthday. Of course, this pinnacle is Daniel, the three-star Michelin restaurant (one of only four in NYC) where we enjoyed an absolutely perfect evening.
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There's something to be said about these three star Michelin restaurants. Every single dish is executed flawlessly. I almost never see that at any other restaurant. Usually, there's something I don't like.  Maybe the dessert was just too boring, or maybe one of the dishes was over-salted.

Not here. Not only is the service impeccable, the food is incredible. From the amuse bouche to the courses to the desserts, every single dish was perfectly done.  Immaculate presentation, perfectly paired flavors, and the right combination of textures.
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The atmosphere at Daniel is really relaxing and incredibly enjoyable. They make you feel pampered without being stuffy or formal. The people that served us were warm, friendly, inviting, and even joked with us throughout the evening.  We sat in a rounded cushioned bench facing the entire restaurant.  Just that comfy sofa alone already made us feel infinitely more at ease (plus, that big bench is the perfect place to put down the big hand bag with the camera inside!!)

They were very attentive to our needs, and made sure we were absolutely thrilled with everything we had.  And course after course, we were continually surprised and delighted by the food.  Really, truly, probably the BEST overall dining experience, hands down, that either of us has ever had.
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And the space!  It's absolutely gorgeous. 
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Join me as I share with you, mostly visually, the incredible meal that we enjoyed.  One cool thing about the chef's tasting menu here - Bryan and I actually got distinct dishes (from each other) for almost all of the courses.  So, in some ways, it was almost like a 16 course tasting (since we had to try each other's dishes!). In fact, maybe a 20-course tasting is more accurate, since they throw in all these other freebies here and there.
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Bryan absolutely loved his cocktail.  I ordered a mojito, which I thought was too sweet. Bryan said, "mojitos are always sweet, and that's why I  don't like them that much." I felt bad, but I didn't want to say anything since it's not really Daniel's fault.  Nevertheless, the waiter noticed I was not drinking it, and offered to let me try something else.  Their number one priority was to make sure I was happy.  At the end of the day, they did not charge me for any of my drinks, calling it "birthday" on the receipt.
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Amuse Bouche - this was a celebration of local seasonal ingredients.  In this case, the star seasonal ingredient was squash - different kinds.  I think the middle might be a pumpkin soup of sorts, and the one on the far right butternut squash with chorizo.  Every single one was incredibly delicious.  A perfect way to awaken the palate.

And then the courses began to arrive . . .
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Pressed Duck And Fois Gras Terrine
Chimay Gelée, Chestnuts, Red Cabbage Chutney
R. Haart Riesling "Piesport Kabinett," Mosel 1999
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Mosaic of Capon, Fois Gras, and Celery Root
Pickled Daikon, Satur Farms Mache, Pear Confit
The blocks of the "mosaic" are separated by thin films of black truffle. 
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Duo of Hamachi
Lettuce wrapped tartare with North Star Cavier / Vodka Beet cured with Walnut Pistou, Mache Salad
Sancerre, Franck et Jean Francois, Bailly 2008
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Marinated Fluke with Seaweed
Pine Nuts, Radishes, Matsutake Mushrooms, Bonito Gelee
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Fascinating cocktail with  a fennel slice - delicious.  The waiter brought me this after he took away the mojito that I did not drink.  He continually checked up on me, asking me multiple times whether I was sure that I liked my new drink. He said "now are you SURE you're happy?" Smiling, he added, "if you don't tell me the truth, I won't bring you any dessert!"
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Butter Poached Abalone
Yellow curry braised greens, crispy rice, chayote
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Maine Sea Scallop "Rosette"
Fennel Marmalade, Orange, Saffron Veloute
Domaine de Terrebrune, Bandol, Provence 2006
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Handmade Tallegio Agnolotti with Alba White Truffle
This was the BEST truffle I have ever had.  The white truffle dishes were actually an optional addition, costing an extra $60!!!!  But it was so worth it.  Back in Boston, we had started wondering whether we really liked truffle.  It seemed like every dish we tried with truffle shavings tasted bland and lacked a truly deep, truffle flavor.

Now I realize that we were probably not eating high quality truffles.  These are white alba truffles from Italy, and oh man, they were heavenly.  This was Bryan's favorite entree out of all of them.
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Oeuf en Cocotte
White Truffle, Spinach, and Chanterelle Coulis
Meursault "Chevaliers" Joseph Matrot 2007
The truffle flavor in the eggs was a bit more subtle, but the flavor of this dish was still phenomenal.  A barely cooked egg topped with white truffle slices and a light touch of sea salt.  Oh my . . I could eat this forever.

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Turbot Baked on Himalayan Salt
The presentation of this dish was dramatic as they brought out the huge chuck of sea salt (which is pink!) on which they cooked the fish.  A waiter then gingerly cut apart the fish into two heart-shaped pieces and presented them to us (see next picture).
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Turbot Baked on Himalayan Salt (plated)

Brussels sprouts, Parsnip Chip, Ommegang Abbey Ale and Gingerbread Sauce

Chehalem, Pinot Noir "Three Vineyards" Willamette Valley, Oregon 2007
The fish, of course, was perfectly cooked.  Soft, just cooked enough to be done but still very tender.  The accompanying Brussels Sprouts slivers were surprisingly delicious.  Full of a rich flavor that must have come partly from the fish.  Bryan never thought he even liked Brussels Sprouts until he tried them here.  And I love the attention to detail, like the perfect single Brussels sprouts cup on the side.
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Elysian Field Farm Lamb Chip
Garbanzo Bean Fricasse, Chorizo, Rutabaga, Chickpea Tendrils
La Rioja Alta, "Vina Ardanza", RIoja, 2000
Typically in these multi-course chef's tastings, I am usually so stuffed by the red meat course that it's a struggle to eat.  For some reason, that did not happen here.  The portion sizes were small enough and spaced out far enough that it was just perfect.  I was perfectly satisfied and I felt good.
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Bosquet des Papes "Cuvee Grenache" Chateauneuf du Pape 2001

Amused that I was taking so many pictures of the food, one of our waiters setsthe wine next to the floral centerpiece and lined it up with the candle.  He told me he was trying to set up a nice shot for me. 
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Fois Gras Stuffed Scottish Grouse
Celery, Caramelized Salsify, Beets, Wanut-Calvados Jus
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Wild Scottish Hare "A La Royale"
Porcini Marmalade, Sunchoke, Chestnut Ravioli
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Duo of Fruit and Chocolate Desserts
Reisling "Trittenheimer Apotheke" Beerenauslese, Weingut Boch, Mosel 2006
After the hare, I told Bryan, "I really crave something citrus-y right now.  To cleanse the palate.  I wonder what's next?"
 I was shocked and delighted when the citrus fruit dessert arrived.  I almost started wondering whether there was a secret device recording everything I was saying.  How did they know?
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And then round 2 of dessert! A candle and a special plate! :)
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I usually find that it's rare for a restaurant to both have excellent food and excellent dessert.  This was definitely an exception.  The desserts were outstanding here. Every single one.
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And then the post dessert "snacks."  These were tasty, though not quite at the same level as the desserts.  They were less complex, each little "snack" having its own monodimensional flavor (e.g., truffle chocolate, vanilla macaron, or fruit "tart").  Still, it was a nice treat.

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And of course, my favorites - the madeleines!
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And then it was time to say good-by.  Good-by to a fabulous evening where everything was just right.  We had been there for four hours . . if you can believe that.  And yet, we never felt at any moment that the evening was dragging on.  Instead we felt relaxed, and genuinely just happy. 
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At the end of the night, they gave us personalized menus that spelled out exactly what we had enjoyed that night.
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Here's to a wonderful night and a fabulous birthday trip.

Other posts from this mini New York Series:
Le Bernardin
Sushi Yasuda
H&H Bagels
Ess-a-Bagel
A New York Birthday
Me Peche (Momofuku Midtown)

Daniel
Upper East Side
60 E 65th St
New York, NY 10065
Daniel on Urbanspoon

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