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I’ve visited Daniel twice previously, ordering the tasting menu on both occasions. The regular prix fixe might be the better way. Tasting menus are exhausting. It’s more like running a marathon than eating dinner.

The three-course prix fixe is now up to $108. In contrast, it’s $98 at Jean Georges and $120 for four courses at Le Bernardin. So there is a sense of getting a shade less for your money than at comparable establishments (though the absurd Gordon Ramsay is somehow getting $135 for three courses).

The staff won’t seat incomplete parties, and I over heard a gentleman at the bar being told that if his guests, who were 20 minutes late, did not arrive within another 10 minutes, they would lose their table. I do realize that a busy restaurant that turns tables cannot wait indefinitely, but I think the staff at Per Se or Eleven Madison Park would find a better way of handling it than: “Tough luck!”

But once seated, I have never had anything less than the first-class service than you expect at a restaurant of Daniel’s caliber. (I do not think they recognize me as a blogger—not that I would expect them to care anyway.)

The food, as I have noted before, does not offer the culinary fireworks of Daniel’s four-star brethren. There aren’t any dishes that you dream about, or that you remember vividly months or years later.

Yet, there is a technical accuracy that you have to admire, starting with a trio of exquisitely composed beet amuses (above left).

That same sense of precision was seen in a trio of Yellowfin Tuna (above left): a tartare with caviar, a confit with anchovy dressing, or cured with compressed celery. It was all very beautiful.

So too the mosaic of parsnip and Mallard duck (above right), a meticulous preparation far more elaborate than any ordinary terrine.

These are old-school French portions. Sea bass (above left) was wonderful, but it amounted to a fillet the size of a cigar. Québec suckling pig (above right) was perfectly cooked, but it was a tiny chop that amounted to, oh, about six bites, with a slightly smaller helping of crisp belly underneath.

Of the desserts, a Mandarin-Chestnut Vacherin (above left) was somewhat more worthy of multi-star dining than a mere quartet of sorbets (above right). However, it was my birthday, and I’ve no complaint with the extra cake that was sent out.

The concluding petits fours were lovely (above left), ending whimsically with two tiny cubes of chocolate (below right).

One could get lost in the wine list. The sommelier’s first suggestion (a bottle around $200) was more than we cared to spend, but after we rejected that, he came up with a Savigny Lavières Burgundy at $120 that paired well with both meat and fish.

Daniel offers less bang for the buck than the other restaurants in its class, but for most who choose to dine here, another $10 or $20 a head is really beside the point. If you have to ask, you don’t belong here.

The service, though falling short of extraordinary, is nevertheless excellent, and the artistry of the cuisine is classic. The dining room, re-modeled and updated several years ago, is one of the most beautiful in Manhattan.

Daniel (60 E. 65th Street west of Park Avenue, Upper East Side)

Food: ***½
Service: ***½
Ambiance: ****
Overall: ***½

Reader Comments (4)

All restaurants at this level in NYC only hold tables for reservations a short time past the confirmed reservation time. This can range from 10 - 30 minutes depending upon circumstances. No one at Daniel would ever say "tough luck" in reference to a late reservation so perhaps what you heard or think you heard was A.) out of context and B.) without perspective relative to that particular situation and C.) none of your business

November 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Thanks for the comment. As a reviewer, I reserve the right to comment on the service I see or hear, even if it didn't happen to me personally. The exact words "tough luck" weren't uttered, but that was the tone implied. I was sitting right next to the guy, so the context was apparent. I don't believe this would be the universal response at all restaurants of this caliber, and I've been at enough of them to have a pretty good idea.

November 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarc Shepherd

Your view that tasting menus are "exhausting" is really off the wall. You chose not to have the tasting menu, which is your perogitive. But this does not make them any less interesting or enjoyable.

You also chose to eat at Daniel, which many consider over priced and tired. Your money would have gone much further at some of the other 4 star establishments.

November 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Thanks for the comment. I doubt I am the first to have called tasting menus "exhausting." I've had them a lot: I find there is often a point of diminishing returns, and many restaurants don't put their most interesting or inventive dishes into their tasting menus. I haven't sworn off tasting menus for good, but I am somewhat less fond of the format than I used to be.

I've been to all the four-star places, and they all have their charms. I think I agree with you that Daniel doesn't quite have the same bang for the buck as some of its brethren, but I don't consider it over-priced or "tired." Once you have decided to spend that much money, you aren't in for bargain dining no matter where you go. Daniel isn't my favorite of the four-stars, but I don't dislike it either. I'm sure I'll go again.

November 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

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