60 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10065
Overall rating: 6/10
Date of visit: August 2010
I apologise for the pictures – the restaurant asked us not to use flash.
It’s been a while since I was at Daniel, but nevertheless I remember it quite clearly – for the simple reason that it was not very memorable.
I went there with two friends, and they had never before been to a restaurant like this. When we left, they were very impressed, but the next day they said they had practically forgotten the meal. Whenever I have asked them to come to a nice restaurant since then, they’ve always declined, as they didn’t want to spend this much money on “nothing”. That couple had in general horrible experiences with the food in New York. They called the food utterly disgusting and the portion sizes ten times too big. My impression of New York was also that it was difficult to find something (in supermarkets and restaurants) of proper quality, and even when we paid top dollar in Daniel, several of the ingredients didn’t seem to be of particularly good quality.
We went for the six course menu, choosing slightly different courses along the way. I seem to remember the price as $146 (€113) or $164 (€127), but it might actually have been $185 (€143) – at least now (April 2013) it’s $195.
First, we had an appetiser, which I believe was parsnips various ways. Eaten, then forgotten (4/10).
My first course was quail timbale with some lettuce on side. I’m sure this was cooked exactly like it was supposed to be, but it was awfully uninspired and incredibly ordinary (4/10).
My companions had duck paté instead:
My next dish was Spanish mackerel. Although the caviar on the plate was definitely top quality, they had put it on top of chilli. That was downright stupid. The chilli drowned all of the delicate caviar flavour, and I had to eat those two things separately. The mackerel itself was not bad but in no way exciting – it was just three pieces of mackarel, and that was it (5/10).
My companions had crab instead:
Then, finally, came a good dish: Scallops in a chorizo crust on a bed of corn. That was wonderful, but the foam on top didn’t have much flavour, and the powder on the side was the same. Nevertheless, really a great dish, which truly belonged in a restaurant like this. The corn is probably the best corn I’ve ever had (9/10).
One of my companions had raviolis stuffed with gorgonzola instead:
Slowly cooked halibut was dry, didn’t have very good flavour and didn’t seem very fresh. I’ve cooked halibut fairly often, and the halibuts you can buy in Denmark are usually magnificent quality. I’ve never cooked a halibut as dry as this. The mushrooms on the side seemed like something you would get in a cheap restaurant that tries to do fancy cooking (4/10).
My main course was lamb with ratatouille. The lamb itself was simply one of the best pieces of lamb I’ve ever had (9/10 or 10/10), but the rest of the dish (ratatouille, etc.) was utterly forgettable (max. 5/10 for the rest).
My companions chose beef cooked two ways, but after trying my dish they said the lamb was better:
The dessert of white wine sorbet and peaches was pleasant enough, but nothing spectacular. The sorbet was simply to defrosted and ran all over our plates within seconds (6/10).
As far as I recall, the petit fours were all just madeleines in different shapes. No added flavourings.
The sauces for the halibut, the beef, and the lamb seemed to be the same. They were all just regular braising sauces.
This restaurant has three Michelin stars, and at the time of my visit it was rated as the 8th best in the world by Restaurant Magazine. I’ve had much better and more inspired (and cheaper) food in restaurants with only one star or even no stars (Sangonereta in Valencia, Spain).
I’ve heard good things about Daniel both before and after this visit, so hopefully I was just there on an off-day, or maybe I was unlucky to have an uninspired menu. I can’t say how a meal at Daniel would be today, but after this meal I don’t intend to go back there to find out, and I have noticed that the restaurant has had a significant slide downhill on Restaurant Magazine’s list of the best restaurants in the world.
The scallop dish was stunning as was the lamb itself, but the rest of the food was uninspired and plain, and the ingredients were not as good as they should be.
At least in Europe you can find much better and more creative food than dish for less money. We shared a bottle of red wine for $70 (€53.30), which I believe was the cheapest red wine they offered. With the obligatory big tip we ended up paying almost €200 each.
Six courses + an appetiser: One good dish + one good element from another. €200. That doesn’t make sense.
With three Michelin stars you would expect a restaurant to better than most. Of all the Michelin star restaurants I’ve been to, including all the one-star places, at the time of writing (April 2013) Daniel has been among the five worst.
We all agreed that the service was flawless, and along with Pierre Gagnaire (Paris, France), Gordon Ramsay (Chelsea, London, UK), Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark), and Sant Pau (Sant Pol de Mar, Spain) and Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy) it has been some of best services I’ve ever had. The only thing I found a slight downside was this “jacket required” dress code (you can borrow one in the restaurant), but I suppose that has nothing to do with Daniel – that’s just the norm in the US I believe. Hence, the service might have been slightly more restrained and not as humorous as certain other places.