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Daniel


mikec
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I must admit I am shocked by what you apparently receive for $105.  Disclaimer: I have not eaten at Daniel yet, though I have a reservation for the 3rd of July.

At Daniel you pay $105 for 3 courses, including a dessert.

At Jean-Georges you pay $98 for 4 courses, including a dessert.

Daniel is 2 stars, J-G is 3. 

I'm lost.

I have to agree with Oakapple in that you may be over-finessing the analysis of differences. As for stars and other ratings, while I personally prefer Jean Georges, it would be very tough to make a case that they're not in the same general category/league. Retaurants don't adjust their prices every time reviews come out based on what rating they've been given. Also keep in mind that with the various amuses, mignardises, etc. that both places will give you, the course comparison is even less apt, as it isn't really a 25% difference in number of courses. In fact, they may end up being the same amount of food. If they literally stated 6 vs. 7 or made them even, I don't think you'd take note. I find the food at Jean Georges to be more impressive to my palate, but it's pretty clear that Daniel is a top notch restaurant, and on any given day, a given eater might prefer either one.

Oh, and Daniel is on the Upper East Side, which often comes with some price gouging of its own relative to other areas in the city:)

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  • 6 months later...

The review spends a lot of time apologizing for giving Daniel four stars. Comments like "it yields fewer transcendent moments than its four-star brethren and falls prey to more inconsistency" and ". . . which make Daniel’s clunker rate — slightly higher than a restaurant as ambitious as this one’s should be — puzzling" are exactly the reasons a restaurant should get three stars instead of four. The rest of the argument Bruni makes, though he takes great pains to make it, is unpersuasive in light of those condemnations (which also reflect my experience in many meals at Daniel over the years).

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Here's the full passage Fat Guy is referring to:

All in all Daniel remains one of New York’s most sumptuous dining experiences. And while it yields fewer transcendent moments than its four-star brethren and falls prey to more inconsistency, it has a distinctive and important niche in that brood, a special reason to be treasured.

I thought this was one of the most significant parts of the review. I think Daniel serves three-star food, but Bruni acknowledges this shortcoming in effect and nearly explicitly gives extra/bonus points to the decor. I don't find this all that compelling but I could see how some diners might find the presumed luxury of Daniel to be more evocative of a four-star experience than what's on the plate at, say, Corton.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Here's the full passage Fat Guy is referring to:
All in all Daniel remains one of New York’s most sumptuous dining experiences. And while it yields fewer transcendent moments than its four-star brethren and falls prey to more inconsistency, it has a distinctive and important niche in that brood, a special reason to be treasured.

I thought this was one of the most significant parts of the review. I do think Daniel serves three-star food, but Bruni acknowledges this shortcoming in effect and nearly explicitly gives extra/bonus points to the decor.

Well, someone's got to justify the expense incurred by the Tihany make-over.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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Interesting. When I was done reading the review (which I read before coming here to read all your comments) I told my wife "Bruni got down on his knees and gagged at the temple of all things Daniel" - i.e. I thought it was a SUPREMELY positive review from beginning to end, where he basically just stopped where "required" to say something negative, before continuing on with his praise.

Even looking now at the comments that's FG highlighted, I simply read those as truthful: Daniel is not Per Se, it's not Jean Georges and it's not Le Bernardin. Isn't this what everyone already knows? Is this news in any way to even a single person on this board? Would anyone have ever ranked Daniel above these places?

Now once you get THAT out of the way, Bruni IS saying that Daniel is still most definitely a 4 star restaurant, and one that is now better than it's ever been - that it's most definitely better than everyone else on the list beneath it. THAT is not something that everyone here knows to be true, and having Bruni affirm in no uncertain terms over and over again that it absolutely IS makes for a great review for the restaurant IMO. (until Frank corrects his Ko review of course).

Just my 2 cents

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You make some fair points, but I read the review as Bruni saying that, outside of the new room and feeling of luxury, the restaurant is categorically not as good as the other four-stars. If a restaurant that aspires to be something (a restaurant that serves some of the very best, most consistent food in the city) isn't that something, it shouldn't be held in that class. Del Posto would be an even more extreme example of this.

It seems to me that the fourth star was awarded to the restaurant on non-food grounds. I suppose I'm okay with this--as I mentioned, to some four-star dining is less about the food than about the theater--but it just doesn't sit quite right with me. It's as if Bruni, in this one review, is trying to prove that he actually "gets" traditional fine-dining, in contrast to his well-documented aversion toward anything fussy or overwrought. Of course, I suppose this ode to luxury that is the Daniel reviews seems fitting: the restaurant and its namesake chef have built a reputation on what is effectively a refined version of rustic French cuisine.

More explicitly, I guess my issue isn't so much with the words on the page or even the rating, but how he evaluated the restaurant. I like to think there's something between Ko (definitely not a four-star restaurant to me because of the lack of amenities) and Daniel (also not four-star restaurant to me because I find the food boring and the whole experience a bit factory-like).

And, of course, this discussion thus far ignores the fact that the restaurant is notorious, even among the highly stratified levels of service frequently witnessed at the city's top restaurants, for its favoritism toward regulars and, surely, critics.

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It seems to me that the fourth star was awarded to the restaurant on non-food grounds.

By Frank's own explicit admission it ALMOST is!

"Daniel was always fancy; now it’s genuinely gorgeous, too. And that’s almost reason enough to reaffirm the four stars the restaurant was awarded by William Grimes"

But wait, then the next sentence reads:

"But the contemporary French menu and the service make their own contributions"

So if it being gorgeous is ALMOST enough for 4 stars, and service makes a (strong) positive contribution.... well... then we're at 4 without the food no?

BUT, that's of course not a bad thing, since I do still think the food get's it due in the review as well ("They [non-food stuff] tell you just how attentive to detail Daniel is determined to be, and the food immediately underscores that").

Bruni also praises them for making beets and cucumbers (two things frequently loathed) have "starbursts" (which other dishes also apparently have... "starbursts" that is...). He gives them props for some dishes having overlapping notes ("judicious intricacy" even), others for having "strength of focus". He uses other positive language like "elated" over the desserts as well (something I find I never am over dessert at the other 4 star places myself). Reading it over again, there is plenty of praise for food in here I think, so while the non-food alone get's it 4 stars, the food hangs at that level as well.

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I find it interesting and surprising that Bruni praises the grandeur of the dining room at Daniel but has criticized such grandeur at other restaurants over his years as the New York Times reviewer.

One of the cricisms I have had a Daniel and the major reason I don't eat there as often as I do the other three star restaurants is I don't think the service is as welcoming of a relatively young single diner as it should be.

Edited by sethd (log)
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I find it interesting and surprising that Bruni praises the grandeur of the dining room at Daniel but has criticized such grandeur at other restaurants over his years as the New York Times reviewer.
It is hard to reconcile this review with the rest of Bruni's oeuvre. Classic luxury doesn't always get a bad review from him. But you always got the sense he'd rather be somewhere else—that these restaurants succeeded (if they succeeded at all) in spite of their grandeur, not because of it. He always seemed to be saying that smart folks (people like him) really don't want to dine this way any more. This is the first time he comes right out and says, in effect, "Luxury is fun."

Bruni has boxed himself into a corner. Until today, he has shown no love for classic luxury, but he hasn't figured out what ought to replace it. The number of four-star restaurants has been fairly stable over many decades, at 5-6 establishments, and there are 5 today. Demoting Daniel without a candidate to replace it would invite questions to which he has no clear answer.

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I am pretty jazzed to report that a member of Portland's Deathmatch Posse has been working at Daniel since September.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I think sickchangeup has it right: the food at Daniel isn't as consistently good as the food at the other four-stars, but it's better than everything below it.

The fact that Daniel does more covers than any four-star should creates the problems with consistency. So there is a tough problem with how to rate it.

I have a strong feeling that what swayed Bruni is the same thing that sways me, ultimately, in Daniel's favor: I (and I suspect Bruni) simply like the style of cooking at Daniel -- more haute rustic and less progressive -- better, on the most fundamental level of personal preference, than at the four-star competition. You might argue that this means that I (and presumably Bruni) don't appreciate true "four-star" cooking. But I'd argue that when this more traditional style of cooking is done at the level Daniel often (but not absolutely consistently) reaches, it's not self-evidently wrong to recognize it.

PS -- Middle-aged people dining alone get a fine welcome there.

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I think sickchangeup has it right:  the food at Daniel isn't as consistently good as the food at the other four-stars, but it's better than everything below it.

I guess this is where my personal bias comes in, but I really disagree with this is all.

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the food at Daniel isn't as consistently good as the food at the other four-stars, but it's better than everything below it.

If it's okay for a restaurant to do hundreds of covers, have noteworthy inconsistency and a bunch of clunkers on the menu, then, using that standard, I can think of quite a few restaurants where I think the food is hands-down better than at Daniel. A good example of a restaurant in the "factory" genre that I think does a better job than Daniel, both with food and service, is Gramercy Tavern. The only reasons I wouldn't give four stars to Gramercy Tavern are scale and consistency. If we take those factors off the table, I don't see why Mike Anthony's food isn't four-star. Adour, the Modern, even (ironically) Cafe Boulud would easily outrank Daniel on my list.

Fundamentally, though, even if one thinks Daniel is better than all three-star restaurants, it is still the best three-star restaurant and not the worst four-star restaurant. You don't get to be a four-star restaurant just because there's a five-restaurant quota and they need to fill the seat. It's not the Supreme Court. You get to be a four-star restaurant by serving four-star food consistently across the range of your menu and over the course of many meals. Daniel quite simply does not do that.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Where you and I differ is that I can't think that Gramercy Tavern is in the same league as Daniel. That's my point (which I understand you disagree with). To me, Daniel is closer in quality to Le Bernardin than to GT. If nothing else, the extremely luxe ingredients at Daniel push it over that line for me.

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Where you and I differ is that I can't think that Gramercy Tavern is in the same league as Daniel.  That's my point (which I understand you disagree with).  To me, Daniel is closer in quality to Le Bernardin than to GT.  If nothing else, the extremely luxe ingredients at Daniel push it over that line for me.

As compared to a place like EMP?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I think EMP serves food that I could credibly consider four-star.  But the room and the style of the service let it down.

I thought you might say that. I would have to disagree on the space. I love it. A lot.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I think sickchangeup has it right:  the food at Daniel isn't as consistently good as the food at the other four-stars, but it's better than everything below it.

Worth noting that I wasn't arguing my personal opinion, but rather what I interpreted Bruni was saying. I've only visited Daniel twice, and had one of the best "4-star haute" dishes of my life (top 10 dish I've eaten period), an amazing "haute rustic" rabbit dish and then two pretty pedestrian dishes, so I'm probably somewhere in between you and the other folks here.

You might argue that this means that I (and presumably Bruni) don't appreciate true "four-star" cooking. 

I'm pretty certain Bruni LOVES and very much appreciates true "four-star" cooking, but that's a discussion for the reviewers thread :-)

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I think EMP serves food that I could credibly consider four-star.  But the room and the style of the service let it down.

I thought you might say that. I would have to disagree on the space. I love it. A lot.

Which brings up an interesting point - Bruni (in a recent blog post) seemed to love the space at EMP but remarked that he felt short-changed by the prix fixe portion sizes. I can't recall him complaining about the service there.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Maybe the space at Daniel is nicer, or less nice, than at Eleven Madison Park. But that is exactly the sort of form-over-substance distinction that Frank Bruni has devoted his entire oeuvre to rejecting. So it is bizarre for him of all people to all of a sudden say, well, we all know the food at Daniel falls short of the four-star standard but the nice decor and (he is mistaken in this, I think) great service, plus the use of luxury ingredients, holds it in the four-star category. I happen to think there is room for form as a tool in rating restaurants, but Frank Bruni supposedly does not.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Oh, I don't want anyone to think I believe this Daniel review reconcilable with Bruni's existing ouvre. I don't (and it isn't). I thought Bruni was just beyond justifying at this point. The only question is whether you agree or disagree with him, in a random sort of way.

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Oh, I don't want anyone to think I believe this Daniel review reconcilable with Bruni's existing ouvre.  I don't (and it isn't).  I thought Bruni was just beyond justifying at this point.  The only question is whether you agree or disagree with him, in a random sort of way.

I'm no Bruni expert, but this seems like the perfect way to put it.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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