Dining at Daniel...


This was a place that I have wanted to dine at for a long time. It is a place that many a chef have read about and only dreamt of dining at. Now was my chance to finally check this out. Coming off of the very fabulous meal hours earlier at Per Se, Daniel had high standards to meet in my eyes. We hopped into a cab after returning from the lunch and back to our hotel for a quick change and rest. I was afraid my wife was going to get too relaxed and not want to go so I pushed us to keep active. It seemed almost like a quick trip to the restroom by the time we arrived at the restaurant. The cab ride was an experience in and of itself. I swear we were going to be shot by this local who got into a swearing and yelling match with our driver. When words like “go back to your own f^&%@)& country comes about, it is destined for ugliness. Fortunately, I had told him that we had to get there soon as traffic was tight and he kept to his focus on our hired objective. We entered this very beautiful, older style entrance, past the lounge and down to the host stand. We were greeted by two very well dressed, friendly women who were working in tandem and made to feel welcome. We were right on time so we were shown immediately to our table. It was a table which was on the outer skirts of the “floor”, or the main center arena where it is said that all the “high rollers” and VIP’s(or in Daniel’s code-PX) are to be sat, and made to feel like they are the focus, where everyone can see them. No such luck. Not that I wanted it anyway. I was there for one thing and on thing only…to dine and experience the best of the best! I could tell that the service, although polished and rehearsed, seemed a bit too much so, and not personal. Nothing wrong really, just, well, almost fake. The skill level was flawless with a few exceptions of a couple minor issues. A female server was by far the most gracious and accommodating. However, there are approximately 6 or so to each station and with that come different personalities and styles as well as levels of humble subservience. We started off with Daniel’s canapés, (who by the way was not in that evening, as we were told he was in Miami, bummer.), which consisted of a Plateau of Eggplant Caviar, Crispy Clams and Remoulade, a Fresh Sardine with deux Coulis au Poivron(red and yellow), and Smoked Salmon with Lime Crème Fraiche and Dill. Nice, elegant and attractive in manner. French all the way, as one would expect. Then, the second canapé arrived…Warm Gougeres with Gruyere, but this time filled with Truffled Crème Fraiche. Also, a Crisp Parmesan Cup filled with Goat Cheese garnered an appearance. We then were served both an amuse of a Fresh Raw Oyster with Lemongrass “Veloute” served on a bed of salt. I asked where the oyster was from and the reply was “east coast”. ok. I then knowingly, asked the server something that I did not really want to hear, but figured I would prove myself right. I requested that I be served the Chef’s Tasting menu, but my wife was not really all that hungry, as we had just consumed a big lunch, and if she could just have a few courses. The waiter replied that it was not possible. So here I sat, thinking, if I can make that happen for our customers, and here we are at one of the best restaurants in the country, possibly the world, why can’t they? So, wanting to explore and experience everything I could, we went for it. I was disappointed in that they did not offer the non-alcoholic beverage tasting to go with it, as they so graciously and willing did at Per Se. When I asked about something, I was told sparkling water or mineral water. Hmmmm?. The first course was comprised of foie gras. I had asked to have an extra foie gras course thrown in because the initial offering was a chilled one and I also wanted something seared or poached etc. So, what they did was combine the two. Good and tasty, but could have had a whole other course. It was Foie Gras Two Ways, with a Chilled Terrine, Degustation of Pear, Brioche and 50 year old Balsamic Condiment. The hot preparation was seared a Pave, du Puy Lentils and a little bit of Jus de Poulet. Not the most exciting but really good in flavor. Next, I was served a Meyer Lemon Cured Atlantic Fluke, which was very fresh and delicate, served with Micro Lemongrass, Cilantro, American Sturgeon Caviar and Lime Cream. A very motivating dish and intricate in nature. In the fluke’s succession, was a Chanterelle stuffed Skate Wing, with Black Truffles, Spinach Puree and Sauté, and a Fondue of baby Carrots in a savory jus. This was a hearty fish course, one that we have done numerous times in our own interpretation at the club. I think it is a great way to prepare skate. We were then sent a course of Fontina filled Agnolotti with Truffles, Truffle Jus and Jus de Poulet. Simplicity in nature yet it yearned for something. Life? Craftmanship? Something that could have said; “this is awesome, take note”. Nothing in error, just not what I would have thought. On to the next dish of a Sous Vide Poached Poularde Breast, sliced and served with Chard, Wild Rice, Wild Mushrooms and a Foie Gras-Mushroom Emulsion. This dish was nice, flavorful and rich, almost bordering on being overly so, but it did not quite cross over the line. What followed was one of Daniel’s signatures, Braised Beef Short Rib and Roasted Rib Eye. This was well executed and presented. It was what I had expected from this team of culinary geniuses all along. It was done to perfection and well seasoned. The rib was medium rare and the short rib was melt-in-your-mouth awesome. The duo was adorned with a Bone Marrow Gratin, Parsnip Puree, Salsify and Crisp Onions. The bread display at Daniel needs its own mentioning. It was phenomenal! There were little Epis and Fougasse-like Olive breads, Onion and Beer breads, Rolls of many sorts, Anise bread, Raisin loaves and Garlic-Cheese rolls that made for a great tasty supplement to the meal. I was then asked if I wanted to have some cheeses. The cheese cart or “trolley” was well stocked with many great looking varieties. The only disappointment was, I was shown the cart, and did not feel like I had to ask. The server spewed out a handful of types and I chose one, as my wife was clearly o.d’d on food by this point. It was a Tommes de Berger, which was nice and ripe, and served with a very simple, bistro style garniture of dried apricots, dried cranberries, mache and a hazelnut. Nothing like the finesse we experienced earlier. I had been waiting for dessert all along I think. So, next came the Milk Chocolate Mille Feuille (many layers) with Salted Caramel Ice Cream (a bit too salty, and I enjoy salt), a Chocolate Sablee and Caramel Sauce. Along with that came a Dark Chocolate “Fondant” (Pave), consisting of two layers of richness, a Bittersweet Ganache quenelle and Chocolate Ice Cream. For one who’s favorite food is chocolate, this was great. I have to say that one of the best things of the whole meal was the warm Basket of Fresh Madeline’s that followed. All wrapped in linen, pristine and petit. After that, the mignardises arrived which was made up of Ganache Bites, Chocolate-caramel Cookies, Raspberry Pates de Fruits, Lemon Gelee, Passion Fruit Tartlettes, Raspberry “One Eyed Susan’s”, Poached Grapes, and Coffee Truffles. It was a truly wonderful meal by most standards, but by the standards set forth that afternoon, and by what I have read, heard, seen, dreamed and led to believe, it fell slightly short or what I would have thought. I would do it all over again for sure, and recommend it highly. I think all in all, we were not made to feel as important as we were earlier, which in turn, had a little presence under my skin. Our female server, whose name escapes me, was definitely a strong feature, but there was something else missing. I most likely will just have to go back to see what that was, if anything at all. The evening was perfect however; as I had just experienced something that you just don’t see many places. To see people dining at establishments, arguably the best in the country, spending huge amounts of cash (plastic), solely focused on the craft of the chef(s) cranking out dishes, one after another for the love of the business, the food, their growth and passion to create good things, flavorful and tasty. It was captivating and fulfilling. Educational, and uplifting. Essential and progressive to my own growth, that will live with me long after my credit card is paid off.


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