NYCReview

photo credit: Thomas Schauer

Daniel image
8.5

Daniel

French

Upper East Side

$$$$Perfect For:Special Occasions

Included In

We’ve been hearing about the death of fine dining for at least two decades now. Maybe Daniel Boulud has too. The famous chef keeps opening new, slightly less formal restaurants around the world, where you can eat more accessible versions of his refined French cooking without worrying about wearing the wrong shoe, or receiving a fraud alert phone call after paying the bill.

But despite the Café Bouluds (the Manhattan branch reopened in late 2023), and the various Épicieries, we'd argue that Daniel—his flagship restaurant on the Upper East Side—still makes a strong case for keeping old-school fine dining alive, from the moment a host greets you by name, to the moment they offer to call you cab home.

A dish at Daniel.

photo credit: Daniel

Sure, the $275 price tag (for the tasting) is nothing to sneeze at. The food is classic French, with little deviation, and it can feel a bit dated if you’ve already moved on to eating caviar on tater tots. But you come to this vintage 1993 restaurant because you want something dated. You didn’t get your sport coat steamed for no reason. The first time the maitre d’ addresses you as "Madame" or "Monsieur" it’s a little jarring. The next time, you might just start to like it.

Psychic servers are the first requirement for a place like this, and Daniel’s staff stays on cue. In the 30 seconds it takes you to get from the host stand to the lounge, someone has conjured up a wine glass for a drink while you wait for your table. At the adjacent bar, the dress code is relatively lax, and people order off an a la carte menu with clients and co-workers. It’s a fine way to try the food, but without the drama of the main dining room, you might as well go to one of Boulud’s smaller, less ceremonious restaurants instead. 

Daniel image

photo credit: Thomas Schauer

There are no bad seats inside the bright open, pit-like dining room. Surrounded by white columns and large-scale Alex Katz landscapes, every other table toasts to an anniversary or 50th birthday. One server pushes a cheese cart across the hand-tufted carpet, while another plays three card monte with your silverware between courses. No, you did not fail that fork placement test. There’s nothing snobby about this place, only friendly and attentive stewardship from people who know what you want better than you do. 

Daniel’s nine-course menu is more like 15, starting with the amuse bouches—in our case, three takes on asparagus—and a bread service that’s really a butter service. The two promised seasonal desserts are followed by three more, and an invitation to choose from the cheese cart. In between, there are sauces and emulsions, foams and flourishes, and pumps of yellow Chartreuse mist from a vintage perfume bottle. It’s not a completely flawless meal, but it’s a fabulous one, and by the time the basket of freshly baked madeleines arrives, we've stopped keeping score. 

Food Rundown

The menu at Daniel changes regularly, but here are some of the dishes we had so you can get a sense of what’s to offer.
A dish at Daniel.

photo credit: Neha Talreja

Yellowfin Tuna

These small squares of seared yellowfin tuna are cured in pastis, then paired with a creamy sauce phocéenne, and garnished with dollops of uni, citrus fern, and small chunks of blood orange. Each piece is like a soft, fishy, citrus-jelly candy, and a hell of a lot more interesting than a tuna tartare.

Provence White Asparagus

The white asparagus is lightly blanched until it reaches a creamy consistency, soft enough to separate into strands rather than a clean cut when you touch it with a knife. It’s a buttery base to go with a buttery nut—this dish is as much about the pistachio elements as it is the asparagus. Swirl the drizzle of pistachio oil into the creamy brie and brown butter sauce, and get a piece of the pistachio-laced puff pastry squiggles and kernels in each bite. It’s a simple-looking dish, but one of the most memorable ones.
A dish at Daniel.

photo credit: Neha Talreja

Maine Sea Scallops “Rosette”

Scallop rosettes are a signature move from the chef. The scallops are cut into thin slices and then overlapped to create a rosette shape. As the scallops cook, the thin slices seal together and create a disc. In this case, that disc is flavored with a sweet citrus passion-fruit vinaigrette (just fine) and topped with salty celtuce and sea grapes (obsessed).
A dish at Daniel.

photo credit: Neha Talreja

Wild Atlantic Turbot

Our favorite dish of the evening. This mound of turbot is served with castelvetrano olives, buckwheat campanelle, and a sauce Roscoff that’s heavy on the mustard. The sweet fish is good on its own, but we can’t get enough of the bright, peppery greens, pressed together in a wet, emerald mound, under a seafoam-like nettle sauce. Together with the gravy, they give this dish some unexpected spice, and wake up those buckwheat noodles.
A dish at Daniel.

photo credit: Neha Talreja

Colorado Springs Lamb

This spinach and brassica-stuffed saddle is the main entree, but it’s a letdown, especially following the turbot dish. The lamb is too gamey, and neither the cucumber confit or mint-infused lamb juice add much, except a slight bitterness.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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