Last week (Dec 10-17) I spent in New York. It was my first time visiting the city on any kind of large budget. As such, I tried to visit a number of good restaraunts. In particular, I reserved well in advance for Nobu, Alain Ducasse and Daniel,
First came Daniel. We came for lunch and my girlfriend and I ordered a five course tasting menu, with some of Daniel Boulud's smoked salmon to start. The salmon may have been the best I've ever had, but lox is lox and at this point it ain't gonna blow my mind. The room was nice, if a little bizarre. Lots of curtains, strange roman influenced mosaics. The rest of the meal was good, very good. Perhaps, in the top ten of my life. The service was very polite. My girlfriend conversed with the waiters about Paris in her perfect french. It was polite but, it wasn't spectacular. I never felt like I was special. Like I was the king of the world. This is the way I like to feel when I'm eating three-star cuisine.
Next was Nobu. We ordered a 160 doller Omakase menu. It brought delightful things. (Kobe beef, ocetre caviar... I will go into more detail at the slightest request.) The place is only slightly more attractive than a Starbucks and the service is about as good as at your average really hip restaurant. That is to say, erratic, friendly/scary, just weird.
Finally ADNY. I had heard so much bad stuff about this place, it really gave me a chill to think I might be dropping so much coin. Maybe the restaurant really did suck in it's early days. Maybe not. Either way, ADNY is the greatest. Nearly every dish we had was a model of it's kind. Crabcake and shrimp froth amuse guele, sea urchin mousse and crawfish bisque or velouté. Black angus ribeye (the best steak I've ever had.) The sole was somewhat bland but the peppers that accompanied it were stuffed with cheese and were incredible. The baba au rum was magnificent. The candy cart blew my mind. The bread was better than I've had in Paris. The sorbet was worthy of Berthillon. Only one problem. Arizona beef sucked. It was very tender, yes. Unfortunately it had been covered in so much pepper that you couldn't taste it. Though it didn't appear to have much flavour, anyways. I mean, you might as well have just eaten the fancy pepper he gave us in a little bowl. At least there wasn't much of it. I'm not lying it was painful to eat. Oh also, their cheeses are priced at 18 dollers per person. Their preperation of these expensive cheeses would embarass most three-starred restaurants. (obviously Alain Ducasse NY has no stars)
That said, the service was perfect. This is the kind of restaurant that makes you feel wonderful. They complemented me on my tie. They escorted me to the washroom. They carved things artfully in front of me. They wheeled around gorgeous wooden carts and recommended things to me. The servers were so talented that they took on personalities as if they were actors in a play. I can still recall their faces and gestures. If I had dined at ADNY alone, I would have felt in the company of friends.
So there. I visited many fine restaurants in New York. I was quite often impressed by the cuisine. But, if any of these places wants to compete with Paris, (or even London these days!) they'd better take a few pages out of m. Ducasse's book. Dining out isn't just about food. Otherwise we'd eat sitting on paper boxes in empty wherehouses where all of the money could go to the ingredients and the chef. Not only was the food at ADNY (for the most part.)superior to any other I tasted, the total experience wasn't even comparable.