A quick report on a recent celebration at Daniel. In most ways, it quite lived up to its 3 Michelin-Star status. The numerous staff were ubiquitous, yet not invasive, very knowledgeable and helpful, and never tried to steer us in the direction of spending more. Indeed, when selecting a red that would also go with fish, they advised against two much more expensive Bourgognes (a Corton and a Clos du Roi) and advised instead a Beaune that cost $200 less! There are all sorts of little service gems: the stools for purses, reading glasses offered to guests who are having problems with the menu in the relative darkness, etc. The room is modern, but warm, lovely and gracious.
Most of the food was marvelous, worthy of 3 Stars--which to me, should mean, both technically flawless, and inventive and unique. The black bass in sirah reduction is one of NYC's very best dishes--maybe the best. The desserts (and the signature warm madeleines) are all fabulous. But my loin of lamb was "only" excellent, not memorable. This I can accept--after all not everything can by heavenly--but there were a couple of outright missteps. The beans with my lamb, while delicious, were distinctly hard. My foie gras had altogether too many nerves and veins. There was too much sesame oil in the marinated fluke. Because of these flaws, I would not have awarded Daniel 3 Michelin Stars (or 4 in the NY Times), and even though I enjoyed the overall experience rather more than at Bernadin (which is too austere and solemn for my taste), I cannot honestly say that I feel that Daniel is New York's best French restaurant.
But it is nevertheless a wonderful restaurant and offers a lovely experience; and in spite of the expense, it is certainly worth the money.