I've been shying away from writing this review. How can I do this restaurant justice?
From the moment you walk through the door, you are just completely aware that you are in one of the world's great restaurants. We got the sense that we were welcome, that they were delighted to have us as their guests, and that they wanted to make the evening (my wife's birthday) as special for us as we could.
I'll start with the service. The team who looked after us (drinks waiter, bread waiter, head waiter, maitre d') were just the essence of service. Attentive without being intrusive. Polite without being stuffy. Friendly without being familiar. They made it an occasion every time they brought something to the table, but not in an ostentatious way. It felt like the were really pleased to bring us something they thought was very special - and they were right. As an Australian, tipping is not a custom I am familiar with, but by the end of the evening I absolutely felt that a very substantial tip was justified. These guys were amazing.
The environment was also excellent. Too many restaurants - even "good" ones - cram just a couple too many tables into the dining area, because obviously the more places you have, the more diners you can accommodate. Not the case at Daniel at all. The tables were far enough apart that we felt like we were the only ones there, and everyone else was just a background extra. No doubt they felt the same. There was never any threat of being overheard, and never any moment when we felt that someone else's celebration was intruding on ours. The lighting was also ideal - low enough to be intimate and special, but sufficient that there was no need to squint, and we could enjoy the presentation of the food. The decor is tasteful modern; good and comfortable, without "reaching" for a theme.
Next, the food itself. Quite simply, this was the most extraordinary meal I have ever eaten. We had meals from the prix fixe menu (if you love seafood, try the scallops with caviar. I think that's what heaven tastes like), but were encouraged to try tasting trays of several different foods first, along with a range of piping hot bread rolls. The mains were every bit as good (I mean seriously, how does one make rabbit, of all meats, taste that extraordinary ... and rack of rabbit? an amazing concept and an amazing taste experience). Honestly, it's not just advertising - the food was genuinely world class. Oh, and we left feeling sated. How often do you have dinner at a great restaurant then need to eat again when you leave? Not this time.
Finally, the price. I notice quite a few reviewers objected to the price. Dinner for two, with drinks tip and tax, came to about US$400 for us. To put this in perspective, that's not a whole lot more than we paid for two tickets for decent seats at Yankee Stadium. Was it worth this amount to spend an evening, on a very special occasion, dining at one of the world class restaurants?
I used to be that guy who said "How on earth can you ever justify spending that much on a meal?"
But now I get it. I hope one day my wife and I get back to New York City, and have the chance to visit Daniel again.
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