There may be no more perfect restaurant in New York for a very special occasion than Daniel, Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Upper East Side salon. Earning near perfect marks for food, decor and service from Zagat, Daniel stands at the top of a very impressive list of world renowned New York restaurants. If you are truly a lover of food and wine, this will be your Mecca.
The main dining room is dramatic and nothing short of spectacular. Fashioned in a Venetian Renaissance style with soaring 18 foot ceilings, massive chandeliers and marble columns, it is bathed in soft light and decorated in hues of silvery gray and chocolate brown. The dark carpet sets off the creamy wall panels and rich red leather chairs add a splash of color. The main dining floor is surrounded by intimate dining knooks and there are fragrant bouquets of flowers everywhere. The artwork, personally selected by Boulud, is quite remarkable.
Cocktails are an art form at Daniel, so you’ll want to be sure you arrive early enough to enjoy one in the bar, a fashionable UES haunt in its own right. Perhaps a DB Blini; Grand Marnier, OJ, peach and Champagne or a fig and cinnamon infused vodka with lime juice or even a White Cosmo; vodka, Elderflower St. Germain, lime juice and white cranberry.
No expense has been spared to make this a truly extraordinary experience. Crystal, china, silverware, candle votives and linens have all been custom designed just for Daniel and are elegant and substantial at the same time.
Boulud has a wide ranging culinary empire from the U.S. to London and China, yet he seems to keep a firm grasp on his operations. He still cooks and you will never hear he’s stretched too far as you do with other celebrity chefs.
Boulud’s acclaim comes from delivering quality ingredients, expertly prepared and presented in a way that dazzles. The presentation is so terrific, you hesitate to disturb it. Unlike many high end restaurants, there is no obsession here with obscure ingredients. Rather, the obsession is with wonderful seasonal items paired with items that perfectly compliment the main item. Imagine Carolina shrimp with a basil pistou, toasted pine nuts and thyme croutons and a tomato confit. Delicious!
I love when Boulud offers one item prepared a number of ways; a trio of sea scallops, a duo of Abalone (where other than the West Coast can you get Abalone?) or a quartet of milk fed pig Provencale to name just a few. It’s like getting multiple meals in one.
For dessert we shared a chocolate upside-down soufflé served with pistachio ice cream and paired it, at our server’s suggestion, with a 2004 Maury Mas Amiel. Just amazing.
The service is impeccable and manages to be both efficient and unobtrusive. Often, in places like this, the service is somewhat stuffy, so I was pleasantly surprised that our wait staff was pleasant and had a sense of humor.
The wine list is remarkable both for its depth and very fair pricing, unusual at a restaurant of this stature. 15 countries are represented in over 2,000 selections and 25,000 bottles. There are about 15 wines by the glass, starting at $12, lots of half bottles and 100 full bottles priced at $50 or less. Of course, if money is no object, there’s a Romanee Conti for $10,000 and a Lafite that dates to 1798. Daniel takes its wines seriously and it is evident in the knowledge of its wait staff.
ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Very high, this is a wonderfully seductive restaurant.
WHAT OTHERS SAY…
Michelin 3 Stars
AAA Five Diamond Award
Forbes Five Star Award
Wine Spectator Grand Award
A “wow every time”, Daniel Boulud’s “luxurious” UES “icon” “sweeps you into another world” with “masterly” New French fare and a “rarefied atmosphere” defined by “magnificent” decor, “VIP” service and a “dressed-up” clientele (jackets are required); granted, the prix fixe–only tabs are “Himalayan”, but “you’ll understand why” – and the bar provides the “same stellar” quality à la carte. ZAGAT