My 30th birthday was pretty much the biggest birthday celebration that I have had since my bat mitzvah. It was multiple days, surprise after surprise, tons of friends, and a meal I have looked forward to since I first read Garlic and Sapphires.
That’s right…I finally had dinner at Daniel.
Some people might call Daniel Boulud’s eponymous flagship restaurant over the top or antiquated. I find it neither. Rather, it fires on all cylinders, all the time – from the moment that you walk into the grandiose yet sleek space, with cavernous ceilings and stools for ladies’ handbags, to the moment that you leave, the taste of warm, vanilla scented madeleines on your tongue as the hostess walks into the street to get you a cab – you are treated as you should be.
As a dear friend who just so happens to be used to the finest things in life.
Even if this is a massive, once in a VERY long while treat.
Please note – because photography is frowned upon, there are no photos of this epic meal. So, for those who are not reading inclined, I do apologize, but who wants to incur the wrath of the chef making you one of the great meals of your life?
Tasting of Heirloom Tomatoes with Chilled Soup, Salad with Coomersdale Cheese Octopus Terrine, Chorizo Oil, Arugula Salad
The terrine was a miss (muddy tasting and dense), but everything else was a resounding hit. The gazpacho is rich and earthy and sweet and savory. Truly complex, highlighting every facet of the tomato’s flavor. The salad was light and acidic, with curls of sharp, salty cheese to round out the vegetable’s flavor. It’s tomato season, and the chef knows how to remind you of that in the most delicious way possible. It’s better than my gazpacho and better than any gazpacho I have ever had. It’s just the essence of tomatoes in the best way possible.
Crispy Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with Artichoke Purée, Pine Nut-Raisin Chutney, Pickled Jalapeño
Delicious. Shrimp at its best is sweet and tender, with a slight snap and a very barely salty hit. This is all that and more, with a crispy coating and rich sauce. The sauce is so very…artichoke-y…that it truly can’t be compared to any other taste. It’s smooth and vibrant with flavor that stands in startling juxtaposition to the shrimp. The pickled jalapenos add just a touch of vinegary heat and the chutney is sweet and chewy. Once again, this dish highlights the chef’s ability to play with textures and flavors on all facets – it’s masterful.
Seared foie gras
The best I have had since Paris. No exaggeration and no other reason for me to expand upon it. Melting, meaty, rich, and a tad sweet. Perfection.
Alaskan Red King Salmon Baked in Clay with Melilot, Roasted Fennel, Huckleberry Coulis
Marcona Almond Pommes Duchesse, Sauce Genevoise
This salmon is almost otherworldly. It’s brought the table in a thick, gray slab of clay. Then, tableside, the head server deftly removes the top layer of clay by tapping it with his spoon until it breaks off cleanly. The salmon is served medium are all the way through, as though it were cooked sous vide. It’s almost creamy in texture and the taste is just the cleanest, butteriest salmon you have ever had. The melilot is a sweet, grassy herb that adds some unexpected lightness to the fatty fish and the huckleberry coulis is just groundbreaking. Berries and fish…who would have thought? It’s such an unexpected, delicious take on fish. This dish is sublime – King salmon is only in season a short time and I can’t recommend this enough.
Warm Guanaja Chocolate Coulant Liquid Caramel, Fleur de Sel, Milk Sorbet
A down home, rich, moist chocoaltey cake with a liquidy caramel center. It’s such a familiar set of tastes after a meal of nouveau and unique tastes – sweet and soft with creamy milk sorbet.
Of course, some mignardises finished the meal.
This meal is perfect from start to finish. Not too much, not too little. The service is helpful but not overbearing – for example, when we ordered a glass of sauternes to share with the foie gras, our server graciously put it in 2 glasses without us asking. And the cocktail and wine list…extraordinary. Of particular notice is that sauternes – the most expensive glass of wine that I have ever ordered, but also the most delicious. It’s thick and tastes like raisins and heaven – it enhances the foie to no end. You can do a tasting menu or a prix fixe, which is what we chose to do, and then each added a course. This allowed us to try dishes like the spot prawns and my husbands delicious beet cured hamachi. 3 hours for 4 courses and it felt like I was in a dream the whole time.
This meal is a major splurge and a worthwhile one.
Here’s to turning 30 at least 5 more times.