Review - Danube (30 Hudson St, 212 791 3771)
We had a big group dinner at Danube recently, where we went through a fairly long tasting menu. Although expensive, it was pretty good, although I doubt I would go back.
The ambience is unusual, and lavish, feeling like some kind of Oriental harem room. There are strange couches, paintings, and mosaic styled walls, mostly in a lapis and purple tone.
The service is of a very high level but somewhat cloying. They keep a large staff of waiters and busboys on hand it seems so you are always getting fresh plates, stemware, and water filled up. It's wonderful, but for my tastes, just a little bit too hovering. That being said, its better to be too attentive than too little.
We had a large tasting dinner, and they started with a number of different kinds of breads. The basket had pretzels, and a variety of tubular rolls. They were pretty good, and served with fresh, softened butter.
Then came an amuse bouche of a winter squash soup with pumpkin seeds on top. It was creamy but very bland. I thought at first that maybe I was getting a cold (I was kind of dizzy that night) and could not taste anything, but others also noted it was very mild.
Next came a panna cotta of some kind. It was very bland and had the texture and taste of tofu. It was in a small pool of mushroom broth. By this point we had been there for an hour and I was pretty underwhelmed by the food, which was pretty enough but seemd too muted in flavor.
The next course was a piece of warm poached salmon with a marzipan crust. This was texturally quite smooth, but again not particularly flavorful. You could tell it was an excellent piece of fish and that the marzipan crust was fresh, and probably made there. I was thinking I was seriously pulling down a head cold now since I could taste so little.
After that they brought out a plate of mushroom ravioli with cepes. This was excellent and you could really taste the rich earthy notes of the mushrooms. I could have eaten about 3 more portions of this.
Next up was a lamp rib chop, which was served rare and quite delicious. It was on a bed of some kind of green I think. Very juicy and excellent quality, although a bit small.
After that came loin of venison, over braised red cabbage. Normally, I don't care for the livery flavors of deer, but this was not gamey and the cabbage was a perfect pair. This was delicious and a real unusual treat. It definitely seemed very central European.
After that came a braised beef cheek with baby parsnips. This was absolutely brilliant -- the meat was rich and flavorful, tasting like a kind of brisket/short rib. Very filling, very juicy and just fantastic. The parsnips were excellent as well, ripe and sweet.
Then we had a cold sherbet with raspberry compote to start the desserts. This was pretty good.
Next up was a chocolate cake with some molten interior. It was cakier than the trite molten flourless cakes that are ubiquitous in NYC dessert menus. Probably more true to what Viennese would make.
Then finally came petit fours and some kind of mini cinammon cake wedges. These were also very good and quite nice with coffee for those who got that.
As you can see, we had a lot of courses, and dinner was pretty time consuming, probably around 3.5 hours. It was excellent, but quite expensive, and I can see why it gets the Michelin ratings it does. As much as I liked it, the next time I was looking to drop $$$ for a special night I'd probably try another place that I had not been to.