For those of you who are regular readers of Ginger+Salt, you may have heard me mention my close friend, Sarah. We have been lucky enough to eat together in multiple cities and countries and she is one of my favorite dining pals. I trust her taste in all things food and restaurants implicitly. You might remember her from brunch at The Wandering Goose, our marathon feast at Tertulia, or my hot dog binge at Crif Dog (among many others).
This past weekend Sarah celebrated a birthday in New York with her lovely significant other, Spencer. Spencer clearly has read a book or two on how to be the best boyfriend ever and treated Sarah to a very special dinner at Daniel. I would typically be green with envy at this dining experience (okay fine, I still am), but it’s lessened by the fact that Sarah sent me a thorough play-by-play of her night which allowed for the perfect vicarious hit.
FULL disclosure here: Sarah sent me the below as a personal email (yes, these are the kind of casual emails my friends and I exchange re: food and eating). It was never intended as a blog post, but it was so candid, thoughtful, and fun that I wanted to share it with all of you (and she kindly obliged). I assure you that she does not use the phrase ‘best meal of our lives’ lightly. Enjoy!
Spencer and I had an incredible experience at Daniel – we both agreed that it was probably the best meal of our lives. I think we got very lucky with timing- they seemed to be pulling out all the stops in the wake of the Pete Wells controversy. Daniel himself was there pulling out tables, taking drink orders, speaking with diners (and I’m sure overseeing the kitchen).
To start: the space is beautiful and does not feel stiff/cold. The lighting is dim, there’s a nice bar area for drinks and casual dining, and the main dining room is pretty cozy and relaxed. We had the best table in the house. THE BEST TABLE. The dining room has a sunken square (most tables are in this area) with columns and a second “balcony” level around the outside (do not want to sit there). We were in the main square at a two-top that overlooked the entire restaurant.
The service was nothing like anything I have ever experienced. I went to place my purse on the floor and someone grabbed it and placed a stool under it. There were mini purse stools at every table! When I mentioned to Spencer that I was going to use the restroom someone was suddenly at my shoulder pulling out my chair and telling me they would guide me there. You have a waitress but throughout the meal there are 6 people waiting on you – everything runs so smoothly, I have no idea how they coordinate as a team at each table.
The cocktails were A-MAZ-ING. Mine had Cynar in it, which is an artichoke liquor. There was a mini artichoke bud frozen into my ice cube…it was crazy. The amuse bouches were so so good – the flavors were so intense, so complex- how do they do it? We had the 3 course prix fixe. I had the cured hamachi, Spencer the peekytoe crab salad, and we both had the duo of beef. The short rib in the duo of beef melted in my mouth…. it was perfection. The peekytoe crab salad was literally a fist of crab meat wrapped in thinly sliced tomato.
PEEKYTOE CRAB SALAD WITH SAFFRON-TOMATO VINAIGRETTE
Avocado, Basil, Niçoise Olive
TRIO OF HAMACHI
Beet Cured with Chive Oil
Tartare with Wasabi and Northern Lights Caviar
Confit with Sorrel Coulis and Yellow Beet
DUO OF BEEF
Braised Black Angus Short Ribs
Horseradish-Cauliflower Purée, Hen of the Wood, Broccoli
Seared Wagyu Tenderloin, Crispy Potato, Smoked Beef Tongue
The service was also made exceptional by the timing of the courses. We had amuse bouches and appetizers and then a solid 25 minutes of wine and bread. It felt relaxed – we were being encouraged to enjoy ourselves and take our time. (and OH the bread! The foccacia!)
For dessert we chose the first two listed below and the waitress brought us the last one for my birthday. The peanut butter one was like a gourmet Butterfinger and the strawberries were indescribable (this was Wells’ favorite dessert).
KENYAN COFFEE GANACHE
Dark Chocolate Crémeux, Rice Crispy, Chocolate Sablé, Coffee Ice Cream
PEANUT BUTTER FEUILLETINE
Caraïbe Mousse, Caramelized Peanut, Turron Ice Cream
MINT SCENTED STRAWBERRIES
Biscuit Rose de Reims, Watermelon Sorbet
As we were digging into dessert a server appeared at my side with a little bundle of treats – “Madeleine, miss?” Yes, please! A basket of mini Madeleines for the table. After we finished dessert they brought out chocolates, and then a tray of an assortment of miniature cookies.
We also went for the cheese cart (before dessert) – it was a huge cart with like 25 cheeses. I think our waitress liked us because she gave us an extra cheese (and we were the only table to get the strawberries as a birthday treat). The cheeses were so decadent (they came with a compote, cherries, spiced apricots).
Overall it was a pretty magical experience. Great atmosphere, a prime table, attentive and warm service, and food that did indeed “transport me into another world.”