Images by Liz Clayman
Dining at Daniel is a rite of passage for anyone who's serious about food. Opened originally on 76th Street (where Cafe Boulud now resides), Daniel Boulud's namesake restaurant relocated to its current home on E. 65th Street (a space that housed the original Le Cirque) in 1999. For the last 20 years or so, it's been one of the most coveted reservations in town, with executive chef Jean-Francois Bruel at the helm for the last 14 years. During that time, the New French menu has evolved and the tasting menu has grown both in size and price. To be fully swept up in Daniel's otherworldly spell, you must order the $234, seven-course experience, which changes seasonally (optional wine pairings for an additional $135 and $225). Sound too pricey? It's definitely steep. But make no mistake — there are few restaurants like Daniel left in NYC. It's one of those dining experiences that is transporting and all consuming with no need for distraction, even in the age of smartphones. In this sense, $234 to escape all your problems for a few hours is a bargain. It's also a rarity that a seven-course French tasting menu will not leave you feeling gutbombed and nauseous afterward. Bruel delivers just the right amount of acid, salt, fat and protein in each course. You'll feel spoiled without feeling overly gluttonous. The restaurant's pastry chef Ghaya Oliveira also recently won the 2017 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, if you need another reason to visit.
In case you can't afford to shell out for this bucket list experience (or in case you're considering it), allow us to take you through the seven-course menu (which includes a few surprises) in photos. Having recently switched over to the summer menu, Bruel highlights ingredients like fresh seafood, summer beets, wild strawberries and corn.
Also note, a three-course, $119 Prelude menu is available Monday through Thursday from 5:30–6 PM.
Canapés are considered part of the "surprise" aspect of the menu as a light starter but we'll go ahead and count this as the first course. Here, we have beets three ways plus a panna cotta on the side. The first (far left) features roasted yellow beets with lemon crème fraîche and duck prosciutto. In the middle is a cardamom beet mousse with nettle oil, and on the right is a red beet salad with smoked horseradish vinaigrette. To the side, on its own artful oblong plate, a Parmesan sable with Roquefort panna cotta with green peppercorns and spinach. All together, it's like eating a much more delicate and elevated version of the classic beet and cheese salad.
Second: Rabbit "porchetta"
Rabbit saddle (loin) is roasted and formed into a creamy terrine-like texture studded with chorizo and served with dots of tarragon mustard. A small springy salad with young macadamia nuts is served on the left side of the plate.
Third: Fluke salad
Thin slices of citrus-cured fluke are the star of this next dish which mingle on the plate with celery shavings, radish, chayote squash and pickled wild strawberries. It's all topped with crispy tapioca pearls dusted in cardamom, with a tapioca vinaigrette.
Fourth: Seafood salad
Next up, more flavors of the sea. This warm seafood salad with shrimp, abalone and squid is mixed with yellow corn, piquillo pepper, daylily buds and a sorrel emulsion.
Fifth: Sea bass
The seafood parade continues, this time with a more substantial main-sized portion of pan-seared black sea bass. The skin is crisped up and then brushed with a verdant arugula sauce which also streaks the plate. A mixture of young chanterelle mushrooms, artichokes and herbs are served beside the fish.
Now for the heavier stuff. Caramelized veal sweetbreads are served beside a hunk of roasted Oregon porcini that's topped with a spinach salad, red wine shallot jus and served with garlic confit.
Seventh: Wagyu beef
For the main course, Scharbauer Ranch Wagyu striploin is served with shaved purple and orange carrots, cipollini onion and a bone marrow "soubise," with "bordelaise sauce." It's only a few bites of steak, but it's all you need.
Dessert: Option 1
Ghaya Oliveira's award-winning desserts are a sweet finish to this summery meal. For dessert you have a choice between two options, the first being a grapefruit crémeux and pomelo confit with biscuit pâte à choux, puffed wheat and rhubarb-beer ice cream. This dish is presented like a half-moon–shaped wall made up of multiple layers, with the ice cream in a quenelle on the side.
Dessert: Option 2
A second option, for the chocolate lovers out there, is this chocolate dentelle with Cru Sauvage bavaroise, roasted cocoa nib, ma khaen berry (a rare peppercorn from Asia) ice cream and a smoked Mexican vanilla-chocolate crémeux. The overall effect is that of a Mexican hot chocolate: a little spicy, but sweet with plenty of rich chocolate notes.
A few surprises await at the end of the meal. The first round of petit fours is this tiny trio featuring a soaked herbal biscuit with lime geleé (bottom right); honey custard tartlet with fresh strawberries garnished with a chamomile flower (top middle); and chickpea cake with fried quinoa (left bottom). Warm madeleines are offered and passed around the table (top left).
A second round of treats
Chocolate bonbons! Several varieties of these little square chocolates are offered by servers at the very end. Not pictured is the parting gift: a homemade canelé (small rum vanilla) pastry to take home with you.