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mikec

Daniel

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Perhaps I shouldn't speak since I've only been once but we thoroughly enjoyed our experience there. Service was smooth and professional. The maitre'd was very nice. Food was excellent and we got to chat with the chef as he made his rounds.

Now the maitre'd at Bar Boulud is a different story. She makes me feel like I need to be a celebrity or know her personally to get a real smile rather than a fake, look my nose down at you, smile.

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Also, in terms of age, what shocked me the last time I was there (in September or so, after a hiatus of several years) was how young the crowd was -- on the average, it seemed much younger than me.  The kind of people I hate, to be honest -- ...

*sniff sniff*

:wink:

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It seems to me that the star rating might have been different if Daniel didn't already have four. Not sure.

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Agree with Sneakeater...not the meal of a lifetime; more like the meal of the week, or the month, depending how many 0's to the left of the decimal mark in one's bank account.  Their bread and butter, no pun intended, consists of the folks from the UES who eat their regularly.  Last time I was there, they commented that they have a lot of regulars from the UES, who they must continue to please.

After about 10 meals at Per Se, I burned out and that was that.  I just lost interest.  I could eat at Daniel regularly but a bit boringly.

A restaurant of the caliber, reputation, and price of Daniel should make all its patrons feel special not only the regular customers. I also think that fact that Daniel is willing to admit a need and desire to treat UES regulars differently from first timers is terrible. I am fortunate that I am regular customer at the other NYTimes four star restaurants and perhaps get treated better than first time guests. But, I expect that first time guests at Jean George or Le Bernardin get treated superbly. I was a first time guest there once and decided to return often not only because of superb food, but because I was treated so well by the staff at my initial visits.

I have had just the opposite reception at Lebernardin and Per Se/French Laundry.

I watched as other tables got extra courses , extended menus, wine pairings ( a french laundry incident), all of those things my wife and I asked for at reservation time and were willing to pay the appropriate cost, but were denied . At Daniel I was a nobody didnt ask for anything, and Daniel himself took time at 12 at night to show us the kitchen and BOH operation and treat us like his best customers. Why? Cause I think daniel understands the difference in service and hospitality. He made us feel like he wanted us there . that is special. Daniel is 4 star restaurant in my book because of the package ,even with the inconsistencies.

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...At Daniel I was a nobody didnt ask for anything, and Daniel himself took time at 12 at night to show us the kitchen and BOH operation and treat us like his best customers. Why? Cause I think daniel understands the difference in service and hospitality. He made us feel like he wanted us there . that is special. Daniel is 4 star restaurant in my book because of the package ,even with the inconsistencies.

I have no doubt that Daniel Boulud knows what service should be. When the chef came by at the end of our meal, it was like the sun had come out and shined on us. But everything up until that point had been rather frosty.

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The trouble is that Daniel the restaurant has never been the realization of Daniel the chef's talents. There's little question that Daniel Boulud is one of the most talented French chefs in the world. Anybody in that small club will tell you that Daniel Boulud is a core member. If you've ever been lucky enough to be the focus of the kitchen's quota of excellence for a given evening, you know there's great potential there. But the chef has not overall, in my experience, been able to bring the restaurant up to his level of talent -- not for the average customer on a busy night, at least. It's very hit-or-miss depending on a lot of factors, not least of which is just plain randomness. There are four-star dishes at Daniel, and the restaurant has the ability to serve four-star meals, but it doesn't ultimately operate as a four-star restaurant.

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Well specifically the old-boy club that Daniel seems to lavish in is kind of wearing.  I'm not too sure very many people--be they younger folks or just casual readers of the NYT reviews--like to be surrounded by the hierarchical ethos that the likes of Daniel and Le Cirque seem to represent.  It's old-fashioned, and not in a nostalgic, good way.

That, I'm afraid, is contradicted by the facts. Daniel does far more covers than any other four-star restaurant. In fact, it's among top-grossing 100 restaurants in the whole country. It got that way by having a large, loyal cadre of regulars who absolutely swear by it. It couldn't survive if most of its patrons felt about it the way you've just described. I think it was Sneakeater who said that Daniel has more regulars than any other four-star place. Although you personally do not particularly enjoy this type of experience, there are many who do.

This isn't necessarily the point I was making, however. What I'm saying is that the feel one gets at Daniel is different than at many top restaurants in the three- and four-star club. If anything, the number of covers it does alone sets it apart from its peers. Surely, Daniel is an excellent restaurant. In my mind, it's best of breed. What the breed is, however, is not "extraordinary" restaurant. The likes of Tavern on the Green and Tao are also among the highest grossing restaurants in the country. They, too, have legions of devoted fans who love the experience those restaurants offer. Just because a place is great at what it does and happens to be very formal, as in Daniel's case, doesn't make it a four-star restaurant.

Again, I'm not taking issue with how Bruni or anyone else interprets or enjoys the restaurant. Rather, it's in light of some obvious flaws--inconsistency across the menu, less revelatory food, and the oft-cited factory-like nature of the place--does this place measure up to its four-star peers and, more generally, the four-star moniker?


Edited by BryanZ (log)

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The trouble is that Daniel the restaurant has never been the realization of Daniel the chef's talents. There's little question that Daniel Boulud is one of the most talented French chefs in the world. Anybody in that small club will tell you that Daniel Boulud is a core member. If you've ever been lucky enough to be the focus of the kitchen's quota of excellence for a given evening, you know there's great potential there. But the chef has not overall, in my experience, been able to bring the restaurant up to his level of talent -- not for the average customer on a busy night, at least. It's very hit-or-miss depending on a lot of factors, not least of which is just plain randomness. There are four-star dishes at Daniel, and the restaurant has the ability to serve four-star meals, but it doesn't ultimately operate as a four-star restaurant.

Yes! I have two friends, one a chef, one a great wine collector, who have had Chef Daniel personally cook for them. The chef said "The meal blew my mind." The wine collector said he would go to Daniel only if the Chef cooked for him; the experience was so different. Sadly, most of us mortals have not had this experience but I think there's a huge gap between the Chef's talents and the restaurant's normal output.

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The trouble is that Daniel the restaurant has never been the realization of Daniel the chef's talents. There's little question that Daniel Boulud is one of the most talented French chefs in the world. Anybody in that small club will tell you that Daniel Boulud is a core member. If you've ever been lucky enough to be the focus of the kitchen's quota of excellence for a given evening, you know there's great potential there. But the chef has not overall, in my experience, been able to bring the restaurant up to his level of talent -- not for the average customer on a busy night, at least. It's very hit-or-miss depending on a lot of factors, not least of which is just plain randomness. There are four-star dishes at Daniel, and the restaurant has the ability to serve four-star meals, but it doesn't ultimately operate as a four-star restaurant.

Yes! I have two friends, one a chef, one a great wine collector, who have had Chef Daniel personally cook for them. The chef said "The meal blew my mind." The wine collector said he would go to Daniel only if the Chef cooked for him; the experience was so different. Sadly, most of us mortals have not had this experience but I think there's a huge gap between the Chef's talents and the restaurant's normal output.

Right, and stories like this one is what prompted me to state above:

You know what is alluring about Daniel to me?  It seems like, looks like, smells like, and sounds like the type of restaurant that could delivery the meal of a life-time.

But, from the comments made here and elsewhere, it seems that it simply won't (as opposed to can't).

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What I'm saying is that the feel one gets at Daniel is different than at many top restaurants in the three- and four-star club.  If anything, the number of covers it does alone sets it apart from its peers.  Surely, Daniel is an excellent restaurant.  In my mind, it's best of breed.  What the breed is, however, is not "extraordinary" restaurant.  The likes of Tavern on the Green and Tao are also among the highest grossing restaurants in the country.  They, too, have legions of devoted fans who love the experience those restaurants offer.  Just because a place is great at what it does and happens to be very formal, as in Daniel's case, doesn't make it a four-star restaurant.

I completely agree that popularity does not make a restaurant worthy of four stars. I was reacting, rather, to your comments that the concept is dated, old-fashioned, and "kind of wearing." To the contrary, this style of dining is every bit as valid as Momofuku Ssäm Bar.

Flaws in the quality and consistency of the execution would be very good reasons to deny the fourth star. The claims that it is dated, old-fashioned, or "kind of wearing," are not.

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Fair enough. But as you write in NYJ, this is kind of like the first time Bruni has celebrated some of these more classical/old-fashioned aspects of dining. Even in the Le Cirque review, his praise of the Sirio show was almost grudging. I think that individuals have every right to be frustrated with the Daniel experience, but, you're right, on the whole for some it has its merits.

And as much as I love the Momos, surely parts of that experience are wearing, even more so, than Daniel.

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It seems to me that the star rating might have been different if Daniel didn't already have four. Not sure.

I totally agree with this.

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Fair enough.  But as you write in NYJ, this is kind of like the first time Bruni has celebrated some of these more classical/old-fashioned aspects of dining.

Yeah, it's almost as if they drugged the water at NYT HQ. I kept thinking, "Did Frank really write this?"
It seems to me that the star rating might have been different if Daniel didn't already have four. Not sure.

I totally agree with this.

It gets back to the fact that Bruni has never been a fan of classic luxury, but at the four-star level he has not decided what ought to replace it. With his tenure now rumored to be in its waning months, and no more likely four-star candidates on the immediate horizon, that question is deferred to his successor.

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I think the rating would have been different were it not for several factors, the inertia of the existing four-star rating being just one of them. The looming presence of Daniel Boulud is probably an even bigger factor. On top of that, there's the quota mentality and the overcompensation for not actually being fond of fine dining.

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It gets back to the fact that Bruni has never been a fan of classic luxury, but at the four-star level he has not decided what ought to replace it. With his tenure now rumored to be in its waning months, and no more likely four-star candidates on the immediate horizon, that question is deferred to his successor.

You don't think the reincarnated Bouley has an outside chance? (I have no clue as I haven't been and know very little about it.) I mean, I suppose the fact that Bruni demoted it to a three-star (IIRC) says something.

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I've never been to Daniel and, therefore, naturally have no opinion about the establishment. However, I do have an observation about the nature of the discussion.

[...]I believe Fat Guy has suggested in the past that restaurants ought to be evaluated at their best[....]

I would consider that to judge a restaurant only on how it is at its best, if it's so inconsistent that whether it's at anything close to its best on any given day is a total crapshoot, would be grossly inaccurate reportage, and therefore, inappropriate in a review. And Fat Guy seems to agree:

Every restaurant has levels of service, but most modern high-end restaurants offer that service within a fairly narrow band. In particular, they all strive mightily to ensure a very respectable baseline for all customers. Unless there is some sort of disaster, the average customer at Per Se gets a phenomenally good service experience. The VIP customer gets various upgrades but not to the extent that the average customer should be upset about it. That's true at most restaurants that operate with contemporary service principles.

Daniel does not operate that way. It's restaurants like Daniel and Le Cirque, even though they are outliers, that provide the support for the whole theory of anonymous restaurant reviewing. The range of service experiences I've had at Daniel is inexcusable. It feels to me like a cynical system of service whereby there's a fixed amount of service to go around and, on a busy night, the people at the bottom of the hierarchy don't get enough of it to have great dinner experiences. Were it possible for a reviewer of Bruni's stature to be anonymous at Daniel, that might be a useful tool. Of course, it is not possible, so it's academic.

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With his tenure now rumored to be in its waning months, and no more likely four-star candidates on the immediate horizon, that question is deferred to his successor.

You don't think the reincarnated Bouley has an outside chance? (I have no clue as I haven't been and know very little about it.) I mean, I suppose the fact that Bruni demoted it to a three-star (IIRC) says something.

Obviously Bouley has a slight chance, but it has been pretty far off the radar. There's no one screaming from the rooftops, "You have to try this," as you'd expect if Bouley had really upped his game. The few reviews I've read suggest that the new Bouley is very good (as you'd expect at this level), but not transcendent.

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With his tenure now rumored to be in its waning months, and no more likely four-star candidates on the immediate horizon, that question is deferred to his successor.

You don't think the reincarnated Bouley has an outside chance? (I have no clue as I haven't been and know very little about it.) I mean, I suppose the fact that Bruni demoted it to a three-star (IIRC) says something.

Obviously Bouley has a slight chance, but it has been pretty far off the radar. There's no one screaming from the rooftops, "You have to try this," as you'd expect if Bouley had really upped his game. The few reviews I've read suggest that the new Bouley is very good (as you'd expect at this level), but not transcendent.

But, as we have all identified here, neither is Daniel (transcendent) - not even to Bruni.

And, I've never heard anyone complain about the interior at Bouley (granted, I have no idea what the new one looks like - but from all accounts, it's quite beautiful, in a less sumptuous way than the previous one, which is exactly what the new Daniel is to the previous one).

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The few reviews I've read suggest that the new Bouley is very good (as you'd expect at this level), but not transcendent.

But, as we have all identified here, neither is Daniel (transcendent) - not even to Bruni.

That, I think, is the difference between re-affirming an existing four-star rating and conferring one anew.
Edited by oakapple (log)

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The two times (the last over a year ago) I've been at Daniel I've felt that I should be lucky to be there.

Every time I go to PerSe the staff makes me feel they're lucky to serve little nobody me.

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The two times (the last over a year ago) I've been at Daniel I've felt that I should be lucky to be there.

Every time I go to PerSe the staff makes me feel they're lucky to serve little nobody me.

[/quote

You hit the nail on the head in describing the experiences at both Daniel and Per Se!!

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The trouble is that Daniel the restaurant has never been the realization of Daniel the chef's talents. There's little question that Daniel Boulud is one of the most talented French chefs in the world. Anybody in that small club will tell you that Daniel Boulud is a core member. If you've ever been lucky enough to be the focus of the kitchen's quota of excellence for a given evening, you know there's great potential there. But the chef has not overall, in my experience, been able to bring the restaurant up to his level of talent -- not for the average customer on a busy night, at least. It's very hit-or-miss depending on a lot of factors, not least of which is just plain randomness. There are four-star dishes at Daniel, and the restaurant has the ability to serve four-star meals, but it doesn't ultimately operate as a four-star restaurant.

Daniel just opened two restaurants here in Vancouver. I went to his now local DB Bistro Moderne earlier this week and had the best hamburger I've had since 1962.

Details on my blog, www.seemrealland.blogspot.com

I'm hoping to come to NYC this year, if I can get a reservation at Per Se, and Daniel's burger was so good I might try to get into his NY establishment as well, as apparently the burger is the only recipe he brought with him to Vancouver. After reading Fat Guy's comments above, maybe not. I was also hoping to go to Babbo but after reading Heat this week, I'm also dubious. I know Daniel can make a kick-ass burger and all those NYTimes stars would seem to indicate he can do other things as well. Jean George's new restaurant Market opens here today, so if I can get what he serves in NYC in my city, I can try others in NY (Le Bernadrin would be at the top of list after Per Se, but I would not go all the way to NY if I couldn't get into Per Se; other restaurants are irrelevant.)

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So my family flew in a few weeks ago and as usual I was in charge of selecting the venue for a nice, long family meal. I always pick places with tasting menus and hopefully ones that will be interesting and exciting enough to spur conversation and have unobtrusive service. Previous visits to SHO, per se, and Gilt are extremely memorable while Corton left much to be desired.

Nevertheless, I had been looking for an excuse to go to Daniel. While I have enjoyed chef Bouluud's many other restaurant's in the city Daniel had never really appealed to me in the past, but once they were promoted to 3 michelin stars and I read a flattering review someplace, my interest was piqued.

Rather than do my usual course by course evaluation I think I'll simply state the various disappointing factors and the one or two positives.

First, we were warmly welcomed and promptly seated at 8:30. I was surprised how loud the room was. Yes it was packed on a friday night and the room's expansiveness lends itself to reverberation, but EMP has just a large space and remember it feeling much more muted and austere in the sound department. Another related problem is that the sound level made it even more difficult to hear the servers who all seemed to maintain very thick accents.

It also didn't help that the servers seemed to care less about the food they were putting out, merely quickly spouting out the major ingredients in the various tasting menu dishes they delivered in a very abrupt and "unproud" manner. The sommelier was also extremely difficult to engage in any conversation when I asked questions about varietals or regions I was interested to hear more about.

As far as the food, I remember it being technically sound, with only one standout lobster ravioli dish, but felt most dishes lacked creativity and heart. Nothing really wow'd the table. except for the cue ball size and shaped spheres of ice in some of our cocktails with real orchids frozen within. That was probably the most intriguing thing of the night.

I think I'll stop there, but finish with saying that sometimes I really wonder how restaurants are graded/judged. Having been to many other restaurants to provide comparison, I found Daniel to be far from the other three and even two micehlin star places I've been too and while I'm glad that I can now check it off my to do list, I can't help but wish we had gone somewhere else.

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I've eaten there a number of times and have had great experiences.

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Went back on Friday. Not the first time.

Canapés were variations of broccoli: puree with marinated tuna, mousse with monterey and parmesan grissini, and shaved romanesco with mussel and purple shiso. I've always been so impressed by these small bites on past visits--here was no exception. The puree and mousse were both pure broccoli in flavor, seasoned precisely, with a really pleasant bitter aftertaste. I've really come to appreciate bitterness, and I think this was a great example of how it works to compliment other flavors; the sharpness of the monterey, for instance, as well as the fattiness of the tuna. The mussel was a perfect bite. In addition to the broccoli: geoduck with green apple and celery. The brunoise of apple and celery was crunchy and refreshing; a touch of piment d'espelette for spice. Finally, an oyster with kaffir lime and lemongrass, dots of chive and pepper oil, and a garnish of sea cress. Good.

"Mosaic of Poularde and Daikon Radish". Here were cubes of poularde, radish, foie gras, and consommé, wrapped in a thin shaving of baby zucchini. To the left a "young vegetable salad", which included a carrot, turnip and snap pea, prepared simply and honestly. This was served with two thin slices of crusty sourdough bread, which, with foie gras, I think makes more sense than brioche. The foie gras, as well as the rest of the mosaic, was seasoned just right (perhaps not with Jurassic salt, but with salt, nonetheless).

Next, Scottish langoustine en gelée. A tall bowl filled with sea urchin custard, avocado mousse, caviar, and a bread tuile sprinkled with fennel pollen. The custard brought a great richness to the tender langoustine, while the tuile added some nice crunch to contrast the otherwise smoothness of textures here. A good dish, though not as memorable as what would follow.

Jade Tiger Abalone with Cinco Jotas. The abalone was poached (presumably in butter), sliced thinly, and placed back in it's shell, atop diced avocado. Spread over the abalone was a zucchini marmalade, which was a fine brunoise seasoned with a noticeably fruity olive oil. To the side of the dish was a shaving of Cinco Jotas, along with wood sorrel, a tempura battered zucchini flower and a fried ball of oregano gremolata. Wow. This is one of the best things I've eaten all year. The abalone was tender, yet meaty, the marmalade atop added zest and acidity, and the avocado beneath gave just the right amount of creaminess . The garnish to the side, the ham and fried gremolata, in particular, tied everything together in terms of flavor and texture. I really liked the idea of serving this separately. The abalone could certainly have stood on its own, these additional elements brought the dish to a different level.

Cedar wrapped kampachi was unwrapped tableside. The fish had been cooked in cedar wood, which, unlike the salmon I had prepared the same way a few months earlier, actually added a nice degree of smokiness to the kampachi. First of all, this is a great fish; a relative of hamachi, though smaller in size, with a dense, white flesh and mild flavor. After being placed alongside a variation of eggplant, a rich and spicy chicken jus was poured over the fillet. Dividing the plate was an intensely smoky eggplant puree. The garnish was very good. An additional puree made from grilled and baked eggplant, an eggplant chip, glazed baby eggplant, and a few Romano beans that brought a (necessary) refreshing element. My only criticism of this dish was the sauce. It was spiced nicely, and the flavor worked well, however, it was quite reduced, and I felt this coated, rather than complimented, the flavor and taste of the kampachi. Otherwise, everything here was quite good.

Four Story Hill Farm's Squab. The breast had been roasted, and cooked to literal perfection. I mean, really, just absolutely perfect. Just where you want squab to be. The breast was placed atop an eggplant caponata, which, while flavorful, was a bit flat, and in need of a boost of acidity through the aid of either vinegar or citrus. A shaving of hearts of palm, which was folded over some of the same grilled eggplant puree I had in the previous dish (I've made this particular recipe a few times at home, and it is really good, so I didn't mind the repetition). The vadouvan jus was really excellent; spice works so well with pigeon. There was also a piece of plum, I think, which was nice to cut some of the richness in this dish.

The final course, I was told, was no longer available for the night. So, it was a pleasant surprise to see it placed in front of me at the end of my meal. Vermont baby lamb with (more!) zucchini, fried zucchini flowers, and kamut berries. A chop of the rack leaning on a slice of the loin, with a barbajuan of braised shoulder meat in front. The lamb was tender as could be; the chop a wonderfully rosy pink, with such intense flavor. There was a thin slice of parmesan placed on the chop that I thought worked really well, but, unfortunately, I can't seem to explain why. The loin was noticeably gamier in taste, and the texture was a bit more substantial than the chop. The barbajuan was a nice touch: crunchy and rich. The jus, much like the previous two, had a piquant taste, but I can't recall which spices were used in this particular one. The berries were cooked to a pleasant middle-ground between tender and firm. Overall, an excellent dish, and an excellent end to another great meal at Daniel.

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