The very best hospitality experiences are emotional. They should be. It is about taking care of someone with such intensity and directness, that you are able to get "in" to them and touch them deeply. Will Guidara, former owner of Eleven Madison Park, spoke of this recently in a Ted Talk, referring to hospitality as "one size fits one". It is powerful.
I first experienced this at Disfrutar, leaving in tears - unable to process the generosity that flowed to me for 4+ hours. Nothing will top that, but Damon Baehrel and Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia followed suit.
Tonight, Daniel did the same.
I returned here with the same friend from my previous visit to relive that terrific experience (see below). It so impressed that I insisted my brother revisit, which he did a few weeks later. The maitre d' approached him that night. "Sir, did your brother visit just recently? You look so very similar." Sure, same last name on the reservation and all, but still an impressive gesture.
Tonight, immediately as I entered, the maitre d' made a beeline from his post to the hostess stand to meet me. "Mr. Shacket, we are so delighted to have you back with us. We so enjoyed hosting your twin brother soon after your previous visit."
I mentioned how wonderful our first visit had been and that we were here to relive just a bit of that at 6pm as we had dinner reservations elsewhere at 9pm. "Of course." he said effortlessly as he showed us to the clear VIP table in the lounge, which had been held for us. I said to my dining partner "I'm not sure why we are the VIPs tonight, but we are definitely the VIPs tonight."
We ordered their amazing signature cocktail (the white cosmopolitan) and asked for a few light dishes - salmon, scallops and a poached egg and truffle salad. The first dish arrived and looked nothing like anything we had ordered.
"I can not control the kitchen...they insisted that you have this." The fois gras and squab terrine was in front of us. Not the lightest dish for those going to, well, 2nd dinner in just a few hours. But it was delicious. And Daniel is known to provide an initial course that you did not order. (It happened the day before at Le Pavillon.) Generous, to be sure.
The salmon came out and was exactly what we hoped. Light, fresh, fragrant and crazy delicious. We had also received their initial amuse trio and the bread and butter, which can not possibly be ignored.
Another dish arrived that we did not order. It was....pasta...? I looked up to ask what this was and the waiter smugly and proudly was holding forth a white truffle for me to smell.
Are they gifting us the white truffle pasta?? A $150 dish? Omg. Yes they were.
I had no words. The dish is as glorious (and, um, heavy!) as it sounds. The undertone of "Going somewhere ELSE for dinner, huh...???" couldn't be ignored. But it was moving to be on the receiving end of such generosity.
The main two dishes were ordered could only take a step back from that dish. The scallop ravioli was brilliant, though the sauce was a bit heavy for the other flavors. And the poached egg and truffle salad fell a little flat - the egg was not even runny.
After a full (and heavy) 4-course meal, and with our actual dinner coming in just another hour, I begged our server NOT to bring the 86 desserts I was sure they were preparing for us. He insisted on bringing a few bites anyway.
Our total bill? $235. The amount of food we were gifted? Well over $400. It was over the top and emotional. I have no idea why WE were the subject of such largess, but it will not soon be forgotten.
The food alone is worth the visit here. They deserve 3 stars in my book. In fact, I mentioned that to our server, who made no attempt to hide their true disappointment in not receiving the 3rd star this year. "Michelin was generous in providing feedback on where they felt we should improve." I asked if they agreed with the feedback. A wry smile and he very properly said "We very much appreciate their opinions." Well played.
The food and experience is special. I have to admit - the sucking up goes a long way too, no matter why we were the recipients. I will be back. As many times as I can.
Thank you Daniel.
As a music major in college, it is to easy for me to liken my love of high end hospitality to an orchestra. Sure, you need the very best players at each position - masters of their craft. But the true beauty is when that group serves a higher, unified purpose. The result is magical. It's more than can be obtained singularly. It's exponential.
Restaurants are the same. And Daniel achieves its highest expression.
The space itself is jaw-dropping. Completely redesigned in 2021, the entry is formal and grand, visually funneling you towards it large, bright and cavernous dining room. It calls you with an excitement as you move towards it. We arrived 10 minutes early for the very first seating and the team was in place, ready and fully welcoming. Even the table we were led to - it's the table I would have chosen in this (currently) empty dining room. Purse stool, servers manning each chair as we sat down, an immediate delivery of scented hot towels...it was, well, a symphony.
Service was stellar all night. (They did mix up the initial still and sparkling pours, but it was never repeated.) Sure, it's a little more French snoot than I prefer, but you're at Daniel (pronounced "Danielle", in reference to its highly regarded French chef Daniel Baloud). But they did not miss a beat. Simultaneous deliveries, crumb catchers, water refills...it was all perfectly and effortlessly handled. The sommelier was outstanding. Friendly and engaging, with a depth of knowledge in her delivery and description of each wine. I did the higher wine pairing and the wines were special and delicious. Absolutely worth a fairly small upgrade.
The food was magnificent. Each was a work of art on the plate, but balanced and insanely delicious. Flavors, textures, colors...they were marvelous and kept you excited for more. While the overall pacing was a bit faster than I would have liked, it was a 3+ hour experience with all of the extras the menu didn't mention (the amuse, the cheese cart, the many additional desserts).
The best thing all night was probably the bread and butter. A perfect crusty yet soft-on-the-inside ring with all sort of segments to pull off and enjoy paired with a butter imported from the Loire Valley that was offensively delicious. I must admit there were times I was looking forward to finishing a course so I could slather yet another segment of bread with it.
The additional meringue dessert is among the best I have ever enjoyed. Brilliant in conception and execution. I have a detailed writeup in the slideshow below. And their signature cocktail (a white cosmopolitan) is off the charts incredible. You can pop in just for that drink in the bar without a reservation. (Do it!)
Ending the experience with a trip to the kitchen was a perfect end to a truly stellar meal. To me, this was a 3 star experience. I'll be curious to see if Michelin agrees when their new guide comes out soon.
Daniel joins le Bernadin, Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare and Atera as my must-visits in New York City. I expected to enjoy this experience, but I did not expect something at this level. Especially at this price point, this reservation delivers a truly high-end French tasting menu with all of the accoutrements one would expect from the very best restaurants in the world.
Bravo Chef Baloud. I am rarely surprised to this degree. I certainly hope to be back.
Replying to Steven Smith