My memory of Daniel circa 2003/2004 was its seriousness and stuffiness, unfortunately, no memories of the good food whatsoever. After learning that Daniel had a recent facelift, I was eager to find out if it is new and improved.
Dare I say, if the old Daniel smelled old money, the new Daniel definitely represents new money (or whatever new money that's left in New York City). Mr. Boulud finally realized that frou-frouness is out, simplicity is in. The minute I walked into the restaurant, I was impressed, the bar room is really sexy. The decor in the dining room is beautiful, very subtle yet still cozy, there are contemporary artworks on the wall, the old opulent ceiling tent was gone, thank goodness.
On to the food, the Maine Peekytoe Crab with Fuji Apple, Celery Crème Fraîche & Hearts of Palm was a great starter. The peekytoe crab was very fresh and the dish was light but at the same time complex. I thought this was incredible, until I took of a bite of special appetizer of the day, seared foie gras and I almost collapsed on the chair in ectasy. I've had a lot of awesome foie gras and this was one of the top 5.
My entree was their new classic fish dish - Halibut baked on Himalayan sea salt with Fennel Confit, Thai Basil, Old Chatham Yogurt Curry Sauce. From the sauces, you can definitely tell that Daniel had ventured into Nouvelle French, and I can vouch that they did so, succesfully. The halibut was tasty, the sauce was subtle but just right. AX ordered the Trio of milk fed veal - veal cheeks, tenderloin and crispy sweetbread. The orange thingy on the right was actually a vegetable sculpture wrapped in thinly sliced carrots. I didn't try everything he had on that plate but he didn't talk after the plate arrived, I guess that says it all.
Lastly for dessert, we had the Cilantro poached pineapple (with coconut, accompanied by lime-Rum Gelée & Piña Colada Sorbet) and the Basil marinated citrus (with bergamot cream & olive oil sorbet). I definitely think the former was much better, the thin sheet on top of the poached pineapple was like a coconut candy that melted in my mouth, and the Piña Colada Sorbet tasted like a beach vacation. The latter dessert was a bit strange for me, the citrus tasted like blood, i know, don't ask me why, but that's the first word that came to my mind, the the olive oil sorbet didn't do it for me.
Overall, it was a very satisfying meal, well it better be for $105 for the pre-fix. I also want to mention how impeccable the service was. The restaurant was filled (what recession?) but the minute I looked up, someone was there tending to my needs. AX wasn't sure which dessert wine he wanted to get, and they let him tried both, still undecided, they actually poured him half of each. The service definitely enhanced the dining experience, and not in an annoying or intimidating way.
Address: Daniel, 60, East 65th Street (between Park & Madison Avenue), New York, NY 10065.
11 months ago