Trio of HamachiMore pictures
While it is fair to say that I didn’t receive the greatest number of recommendations when I asked for New York restaurant recommendations the ones I did get pretty much can be summarily as follows:
“Go to Daniel”
At just 6 letters long the name doesn’t give all that much away but this is the domain of renowned French chef Daniel Boulud, the same chef who shares the culinary duties at the Mandarin Oriental with Heston Blumenthal and, depending on who you talk to, serves the best burger in London.
The Daniel experience for us started before we even set food it in the restaurant. Being in New York we jumped in a cab; “Where are you going?” our driver asked to which we replied “Daniel”. “What address?” he asked back and after providing him with the details he replied “Oh, THE Daniel. Well you guys are in for a treat, I didn’t know I had royalty in the car.” He refused to accept my claim that we were just ‘normal folk looking for a good meal’; “normal folk don’t eat here”, he said “if you’re normal I’ll drop you off at McDonalds”. That offer was declined.
We ate in the lounge, which is a less formal extension of the restaurant (where men are instructed to wear a jacket at all times); I think we might well have lucked out ‘only’ getting here as it felt so more relaxed yet the menu on offer was exactly the same. The only other eating guest was an old Jewish lady who could, and did, burp with the best of them. It was initially a little off putting but it made it obvious that firstly she was really enjoying herself and secondly she felt at perfect ease to do so. The only grumble I would have would be with lounge would be the lighting which was dark and moody and, unfortunately not totally not suited at all to my camera (as you will have probably already seen).
The tasting menu was ordered and within minutes we were presented with a triple stack of amuse bouche presented on a silver tea-stand. It was a perfect start to the meal with a combination of intense flavours in mini servings waking up my taste-buds and getting my mouth watering; though annoyingly the first course was probably the ‘worst’. While there was nothing wrong with any of the components (guinea hen terrine, artichoke, frisee salad and mustard) in direct conflict with everything else I had eaten in America it felt rather too small. If I were to have eaten a mouthful of everything on the plate it would have been down in one. This confused me a little bit and got me worried that the food might be a bit too fussy. Thankfully I needn’t have worried.
Duel fishy starters of crab salad (with carrot and cumin coulis) and trio of hamachi (a form of American tuna) got the meal right back on track. Vibrant colours that excited the eye and super fresh ingredients cooked just as much as needed served in a manner that complimented each star ingredient perfectly. Following this was a vegetarian starter of ravioli filled with ricotta and topped with mushrooms (weirdly this was a course that we were to have again on our American holiday). After the initial ‘disappointment’ of the first course these three really defined the meal with the varying styles showing the culinary skill that has made this restaurant what it is; there were no gimmicks, just bloody good food – and we were only half way through the meal!
It’s never any surprise when a special restaurant also has special front of house staff but the host at Daniel has to rank up there with the best ever. Clearly as passionate about the food as the kitchen after finding out that I was a food blogger (and checking out the site on his phone) I was grilled me for a while about places to go eat in London. Conversation about food and eating out followed each course and around our final main course he produced a hand written list of recommendations for the rest of our trip. Alongside that he also produced a few ‘extra courses’ – a seasonal white asparagus with slow cooked egg yolk and a mini selection of American and French cheese. I always feel rather embarrassed when I feel like I’m getting special treatment but I am totally grateful to the maitre’d for providing it. We even got to meet chef Daniel who encouraged as to head to BB when we’re back in the UK – something that I am sure I will do soon.
After our surprise asparagus course – a fat, juicy stem of the white stuff served with a rich boiled egg we were onto fish with one course halibut and one course salmon. The fresh fish were both provided a bit of kick with delicious meaty sauces but were both eclipsed by our meat main; a the duo of beef containing a black angus short rib and an AMAZING wagyu sirloin. I have had wagyu a couple of times in the past but this was the best that is has ever tasted with texture as smooth and Hestons meat fruit parfait and huge beefy intensity of taste. I could have eaten the course a good 4 more times without any feeling of guilt about eating too much, as it was I savored each mouthful until it was unfortunately gone.
Puddings were served two at a time and after avoiding a pineapple trap were the perfect end to what was a 5 hour meal that felt like just 2. All typically French and while you’re tricked for a second into thinking that their lightness and delicateness might mean that they are healthy deep down you know they aren’t.
Daniel is up there with the best dining experiences I have ever had. It’s a destination restaurant for sure but it feels like you’re eating in your front room (albeit with the aid of an amazing butler and chef). You do pay for the experience but if you’re on holiday it’s certainly worth it and more. I would love to go back but first will have to save up the pennies before returning, and not just for the airfare.Tweet