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In Daniel’s Den

Oscar Foulkes October 25, 2009 Restaurants No comments

Henry David Thoreau “went to the woods”, he said, “to suck the marrow out of life”. While he was describing a more bucolic environment, getting the most out of three days and four nights in New York does require a similar level of gusto in grasping hold of each waking moment.

In our case, that didn’t involve a single Broadway show. We didn’t see either of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. We saw Ground Zero, but only because it’s adjacent to the self-proclaimed “New York’s best kept secret”, Century 21. We did, however, spend an afternoon getting to know Kandinsky, as we slowly made our way up the rotunda at the Guggenheim.

No, the prime objective was to eat at two of New York’s most highly rated restaurants (one two-star and one three-star – on the Michelin scale, of course).

It was therefore with much anticipation that we arrived at Restaurant Daniel, on the Upper East Side. We didn’t take much notice of the outside of the building, but the inside is grand in a classic, slightly understated kind of way. The lighting was set to the perfect level of dimness.

Having started our glasses of champagne in the bar we then moved through to the dining area, which has the feeling of an indoor courtyard – the larger area in the centre of the rectangle is surrounded by a raised area around the sides, separated by balustrade and columns. We were seated on this ‘verandah’, with an excellent view of the room. For reasons of space economy we were seated at positions ‘twenty past’ and ‘twenty to’ at the round table, which heightened the feeling of being spectators.

The dining room envelopes one in a den-like sense of comfort, accentuated by the carpeted floor.

danieldiningThe restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe, a six-course tasting menu, and – in fine print – an eight-course chef’s menu. Both of the latter are available with paired wines. Well, having travelled all the way from Cape Town, there didn’t seem to be much point in limiting our experience of the cuisine. We established that we could substitute cheese for one of the additional dessert courses (we’re not big on dessert) and ordered the eight-course chef’s menu, with wine.

One other expressed preference was that Andrea wanted substitutions in the event of game courses. The kitchen took that as a cue to give us two different eight-course meals, which only overlapped four times. I’d rather not think about some poor chef moaning about all the extra work, but it did enable us to taste a dozen different plates.

It was an extraordinary meal. When one considers the number of different plates that appeared before us, one cannot do anything other than respect the level of professionalism of the kitchen that has produced this kind of perfection. There are many chefs that could produce a couple of plates of excellence. But twelve, at the same time as producing the prix fixe orders? Wow!

Superlatives could flow easily were I to get into the specifics of each course (it’s reproduced below), but it’s worth touching on one of the courses, roasted turbot that was served with an Oregon pinot noir. It was accompanied by an abbey ale and ginger bread sauce that was the most sublime foil for the red wine. I don’t think there are many people that are still married to the idea of white wine and fish, but if anyone raises the issue ever again I’m going to send them straight to Restaurant Daniel with instructions to replicate our experience with the turbot. It was one of the most fabulous food pairings ever.

As far as the wine selections went, they got our attention (in a really good way) by opening with a 1999 Riesling that was just fabulous. The 2008 Gruner Veltliner was perhaps still a little aggressive, but from that point on we thoroughly enjoyed the wines (a bit too much, perhaps, as you can read about here).

While more formal than warm, the service was excellent. This excellence continued afterwards, when I emailed to obtain a copy of our menu, as well as the image you see above. Emails were answered promptly – with charm – and the requested information was forthcoming without much delay. Restaurant Daniel is a seriously slick operation, and will forever stand out for me as a source of inspiration when it comes to service excellence. Daniel’s reputation is huge, and it is well-deserved.

There wasn’t any marrow on the menu, but I’m sure that Mr Thoreau would have approved of the zest with which we savoured the entire experience.

The Menu

Mosaic of Capon, Foie Gras, and Celery Root

Pickled Daikon, Satur Farms Mâche, Pear Confit


Pressed Duck and Foie Gras Terrine

Chimay Gelée, Chestnuts, Red Cabbage Chutney

R, Haart Riesling “Piesport Kabinett”, Mosel 1999

. . . . . . .


Marinated Fluke with Seaweed

Pine Nuts, Radishes, Matsutake Mushrooms, Bonito Gelée


Maine Peekytoe Crab Salad

Celery, Walnut Oil, Granny Smith Sauce  

 Grüner Veltliner, “Freiheit”, Nigl, Kremstal 2008

. . . . . . .


Butter Poached Abalone

Yellow Curry Braised Greens, Crispy Rice, Chayote


Duo of Octopus

Tempura with Eggplant Caponata, Pine Nuts

Marinated with Tomato, Ricotta Salata

Meursault, Domaine Drouhin, Burgundy 2006

. . . . . . .


Turbot Baked on Himalayan Salt

Root Vegetables, Ommegang Abbey Ale and Gingerbread Sauce

Chehalem, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2007

. . . . . . .


Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Chop

Garbanzo Bean Fricassée, Chorizo, Rutabaga, Chickpea Tendrils

Bosquet des Papes “Cuvée Grenache”, Châteauneuf du Pape 2001

. . . . . . .


Duo of Dry Aged Black Angus Beef

Red Wine Braised Short Rib with Parsnip-Potato Gratin

Seared Rib Eye with Hen Of The Wood Mushroom, Gorgonzola Cream


Wild Scottish Hare “À la Royale”

Porcini Marmalade, Sunchoke, Chestnuts

Ridge “Santa Cruz Mountains Estate”, Santa Cruz 2006

. . . . . . .


A Selection of Artisanal Cheeses

La Rioja Alta “Vina Ardanza”, Rioja 2000

. . . . . . .


Spiced Poached Pear with Hot Chocolate Sauce

Almond Frangipane, Earl Grey Ice Cream

Château Pajzos, Tokaji Aszu “5 Puttonyos”, Hungary 1999

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