It's an interesting thing, finally eating at Daniel after having been to so many other Daniel Boulud restaurants first. Clearly this is a world-class dining establishment, as evidenced by a bunch of Michelin stars and Barack Obama visits. But we've had enough bad experiences at his other restaurants in town (DBGB and Boulud Sud) to wonder if the Boulud way is one that two idiots like us can truly appreciate. We know good food when we eat it, but classic French dining is not what this site was built on.
Knowing that, it shouldn't surprise you when I say that while I was very excited to finally be going Daniel for dinner, a part of me was a bit skeptical. Restaurants like this either live up to your expectations or they don't. There's no in-between. I was sure this would be a good meal - but would it be exciting? Only time would tell. Time and lots of money.
It turns out that our meal at Daniel was absolutely incredible. It lived up to all expectations and even exceeded some. To start, the service was perfect. Never once did we get the French guy stink eye - only friendly and attentive stewardship from people who know what you want better than you do. The food is classic, with little deviation from standard French practice, but it's also inventive and insanely satisfying. We ate a lot, and not one thing let us down. What surprised us though, was how lively the restaurant was on a Saturday evening. Considering that this place is situated in the epicenter of old money New York City, we expected to see nothing but cranky old ladies wearing fur and treating the bus boys like personal property. Instead, we found lots of young couples and people from out of town who were crossing this place off their bucket list. It's a nice environment, especially if you eat in the salon area that's a bit more informal and upbeat.
Ultimately, Daniel is one of the best dining experiences we've ever had, and we're glad to be saying that. And while this definitely doesn't change the way we feel about the other places of his that we're less fond of, it does add a little bit of context, and help us understand why people are still giving this guy money. If someone hit me up right after this meal to invest in a "downtown gastropub modeled after CBGB's" I probably would have done it.
Good thing I've got all my money tied up in this little gold mine of a website instead. Who wants to buy some banner ads?
The menu at Daniel changes regularly, but take a look at the photos in the Food Rundown to get a sense of what's on offer.