Hello NY hounds,
Well I awaited my dinner at Daniel last week with eager anticipation. What I actually got was the most perfunctory and insulting meal I have had in a fine dining establishment in quite some time.
To get the positives out of the way first, the bar staff was incredibly friendly, helpful and generous.
But pretty much from when we sat down to eat for the next 2 1/2 hours, what I got was a laughable farce of a fine dining experience.
My overall comment is that Daniel does not seem to be about the food at all. This is true of many places, but I had been given the impression that this was a temple of fine cuisine. This it most definitely was NOT. See the food section below. I have better meals in less fancy restaurants for 1/4 the price on a weekly basis. It is in my opinon definitely all about the "fancy" feeling and a feeling of triumph that one is simply flush enough to dine there. The stiff furnishings of the dining room remind me of something one might find at Versailles. (I find the bar and waiting area is much more warmly appointed.)
The service: One might think that if it's not all about the food, then it's all about the service. While our server made a sporting effort to be as polite as possible, it truly was the worst service I have had in a reasonably fine dining restaurant in recent memory. I have to list it out just because the number of transgressions was in my mind so staggering:
- we were presented with wine menus upon sitting down. fine. we both had almost full cocktails/champagne flutes from the bar. we perused the wine list for awhile, then were prompted twice to order a bottle of wine. This is before we had even seen a food menu, and we were pressured to order a bottle of wine. This makes no sense to me.
- Upon being presented with the food menus, we were instructed that a certain dish, the potato encrusted sea bass, was a signature dish and very good. We found this strange that a dish would be pointed out as a signature dish but without explanation. Kind of cookie cutter. We heard the same patter given to other diners as they sat down near us.
- I ordered the wine. My companion was also female, and possibly looked slightly older than me (I am 30 but look younger). When the wine came, she was presented with the bottle and the taste. This is the first time in my life that this has been screwed up, and I was shocked this happened in a place like Daniel. My companion insisted I taste the wine as I know more about it than her. They looked annoyed that she insisted that I taste the wine I ordered.
- Without fail, our server tried to remove our plates before we were done. For every course, The dining room is set so that servers can watch your every move. It's not hard to figure out when you are done or not done. I actually had to stick my hand out to prevent my dish being taken away.
- When we finished our 1/2 bottle of wine we shared for our appetizer, we had to practically stand up and wave our arms to get someone over to take an order for an additional glass of wine with our entree. Again, I would not expect this from a restaurant of Daniel's supposed caliber.
- In general, whenever we asked for a list, we got a suggestion. When we asked for a suggestion, we got a list. We had to beg for a dessert wine list. This was met with shock that we would not pair our dessert with the suggested dessert wine. We had to ask again for the dessert wine list. Perhaps we were insulting them, but we wanted a choice.
- We were not ready to order dessert when our server came to take the order. (Very clearly so - still with menus open and perusing/conversing about the list). When he came over to ask again if we were ready, his tone was almost hostile, like we were putting him out.
- There was a hard-to-identify green leafy item on top of my pea ravioli. It had a light, incredibly mild taste, kind of like chervil. I called our server over to ask him what it was. He did not have an idea, but then feebly said "I think it's basil." He volunteered to ask the kitchen. While he was gone we established that it definitely was a pea shoot. He came back from the "kitchen" about 10 seconds later with the definitive news that it was basil. It was DEFINITELY not basil, not any variety I have ever seen or heard of. I felt like he was lying and had definitely not gone to the kitchen but just wanted us to feel he was right in his initial assessment.
- We were being treated to this dinner by my friend's colleague and had been given to understand that there would be no check. However, we needed confirmation of this before just leaving the restaurant. We sat in our chairs for 20 minutes after dessert dishes were cleared waiting for any sign. My friend finally went to the maitre'd area to confirm this. When she got back, our waiter swiftly came over and curtly told us "Good evening."
The food: With the notable exception of my pea ravioli with duck pancetta, the food was at best mediocre. The vegetables that accompanied my braised beef short rib were plain, boiled, and actually overcooked. The "signature" sea bass in a potato crust was undersalted, underseasoned, and completely uninteresting. The scallops in my companion's appetizer were large and tasty, but the accompanying components did not really tie the dish together. I will say dessert was quite good, and the complementary basket of freshly baked small madeleines was definitely the one sublime point of the evening. I would expect that every dish at a restaurant of this reputation would at least be solid, if not shine. I was truly shocked at the low level of the cuisine.
Anyways, perhaps we hit an off night for the kitchen as well as the service. Even if that happened, one would not expect that both things could be so disappointing in a restarant like Daniel. I was deeply disappointed in the entire experience and was sad I wasted one of my two nights out in Manhattan.
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