Saturday, 9 July 2011

Decadent Dining with Daniel

Roasted spring lamb with jus at Daniel
On my last evening in New York, we dressed up and went out for a gourmet evening at Daniel, Daniel Boulud's restaurant on the upper east side. It was quite appropriate since I've dined a few times at Maison Boulud in Beijing, once at DB Bistro in Vancouver last year (before it closed down) and now one of his eight restaurants in the Big Apple.

From the outside Daniel looks unassuming mixed in with the other tony apartment buildings on the same block. But inside you enter a fantastical place that entices the senses. In the long corridor before the dining area is the Bar & Lounge on the right. Next time we know, but here not only can you have drinks mixed by a bartender, but also order a la carte from the menu. The seating is more laid back, but you are getting the same food.

Rabbit porchetta with chorizo, mushroom and artichoke
The dining room is on the dim side, but very sophisticated and elegant. There are circular chandeliers hanging above, a colonnade of pillars creating sections within the room, two giant vases filled with sunflowers and moldings and stained glass on the ceiling. On the walls are avant garde "portraits" invoking Piero della Francesca, where he did side view portraits of husbands and wives. Here there are the same profile views, but instead they are faceless collages made of textured paper.

We perused the menu and found that it's a price-fixed menu -- three courses is $108, six courses $198. We opted for the latter and I settled into a rose wine from the Loire region. For our amuse bouche, we were given a trio of tiny dishes on a tray that fit perfectly on our plates. It was a small slice of salmon with red onion, a refreshing shot of chilled pea mousse, and a poached prawn with a slice of asparagus and a tiny mushroom.

Maine sea scallop rosette with avocado and hearts of palm
Bread also came periodically throughout the meal and even though I have been cutting my carbohydrate intake in the last year, I could not help munching on rye with walnut, but in particular sourdough, a bread that's practically impossible to find in Hong Kong. There seems to be an endless army of wait staff, the majority of which are French. Some speak eloquently to guests, others mumble or ramble quickly when introducing the dishes as it's old hat to them.

For my starter, I had the rabbit porchetta with chorizo, pickled Saint Georges mushroom, Orleans mustard cream and artichoke salad with arugula leaves and radish. The two medallions of rabbit were delicious and hardly gamey.

Another appetizer was the trio of hamachi, confit with sorrel and hearts of palm tartare with Northern Lights caviar, lemon-omani tuile cured with bergamot, and snap peas. One slice of hamachi was topped with half a soft-cooked quail egg, another with cream and caviar, the third like a sausage. Very refreshing.

A light appetizer called trio of hamachi
Our third plate was the Maine sea scallop rosette with lovage, Hawaiian hearts of palm, avocado-tomatillo coulis, and pickled Fresno pepper. it was a layered cake full of textures with the hearts of palm chopped up on the bottom, thinly-sliced scallops on top and then the avocado mousse on top.

Finally the mains arrived and I ordered the spring lamb, which came in a beautiful pink colour cooked medium rare, with mushrooms, morels and stuffed cherry tomatoes. The jus was served at the table and a pity it was too salty otherwise the dish would have been perfect.

The slow-baked seabass was a winner with fennel and figs
We thoroughly enjoyed the slow-baked sea bass with Sumac roasted Black Mission figs, fennel royale with a Syrah sauce that the waiter added at the table. Presented as a long narrow rectangle, the sea bass practically melted in the mouth, and the cubes of fennel curious but delicious.

The last dish was a roasted salmon that was just a tad overcooked, again with a sauce added at the table for drama and potatoes topped with foam. It looked deceivingly small, but there was actually a big chunk of salmon, meaty and fresh.

If the mains were impressive, so were the desserts. We had trouble deciding what to order and depended on our waiter to give suggestions. My blackberry and fromage blanc vacherin with Swiss meringue and creme chantilly was amazing. It had layers of mousse, a crunchy flake and then meringue on top and together it was an amazing play of textures and flavours.

The blackberry and fromage blanc vacherin was sweet heaven
Another was the citrus-marinated strawberries with a swirl of vanilla-raspberry gelee, sable Breton and yuzu sorbet. This was also a wonderful combination of tastes of textures that was refreshing and light. The final dessert was the lemongrass poached pineapple with a piped zig-zag of coconut meringue, lime-rum gelee, and pina colada sorbet that seemed more in place in Thailand than New York. Nevertheless we enjoyed the exotic flavours again with a variety of textures, rough, loose, smooth, sweet and tart.

Our dessert extravaganza did not end there -- we were treated to warm madeleines that we popped into our mouths and savoured the lemony taste. And then a waiter came around with tiny cubes of chocolate in various flavours -- coffee, passionfruit, peanut butter and berry. We joked that the peanut butter one was a high-end Reece's Peanut Butter Cup.

The grand finale was the petit fours, very similar to the ones served in Beijing.

Citrus-marinated strawberries with yuzu sorbet
Unfortunately like all good things, our dining experience had to come to an end. Our tastebuds sated, we walked a few blocks in the warm summer evening.

60 East 65th Street
New York, NY
212 288 0033

1 comment:

  1. i find daniel boulud is over-rated, over priced.