Sunday, July 10, 2011

Daniel NYC

Every once in awhile for birthdays we go to super-exciting fancy restaurants. Like, the kind of restaurant that you see on the Food Network and Top Chef and never imagine actually eating at. The best of the best that we've been to was Citronelle in DC, and that experience was hard to top.

Daniel NYC managed to top it.

We went there last night with my parents, brother, and mother in law. It was a Big Deal to celebrate the birthdays of me (2 weeks ago), my mom (today) and my dad (next weekend). I originally wanted to go to Gordon Ramsey's restaurant in Manhattan (we're all only about an hour outside the city) but he had no vegetarian options and he is known for his disdain of vegetarians anyhow. Sad face. So I started looking for restaurants known for being amazing but also with vegetarian selections. Lo and behold, I came upon this magical place, which not only has vegetarian options but has its own vegetarian prix fixe menu. Holy crap! And Daniel has three Michelin stars, was voted #8 in the Top Restaurants in the World in two different major food publications, and a four-star rating from the New York Times. So I wept a little with happiness and I made reservations and we all went.

First of all, it was the fanciest place I've ever been in my life. Absolutely gorgeous. The wait staff were insanely nice and though they presented as being all frou-frou pretentious, I got them to joke around with me by the end of the meal and it was fun.

Having had this experience, I can tell you three major lessons learned about Really Fancy Restaurants.

1) You get what you pay for. I know it sounds ridiculous to pay so much for food (my mom so eloquently stated, "tomorrow I will have the most expensive poop of my life"), but you really do get quality food, substantial portions (we were stuffed!) and amazing service.

2) You can't really go wrong with ordering.

3) There are always surprises.

Since there were six of us, I can't go through what everyone ordered since it spanned so much of the menu. I can do a general coverage though! Ready?

Right after we ordered we got a little surprise tasting of three things involving beets: a beet puree, a little square of beet with smoked salmon, and some even tinier squares of beet with a slice of octopus on top. For real. Octopus. One of the waiters, who I will call Mr. Awesome, kept coming over to me to check if it was okay. ("You ordered off the vegetarian menu, but you also ordered seafood, so is this going to be ok? Are you able to eat these things? Are you sure?") Yes. And they were all delicious.

A dude with a basket of bread came around and gave us a selection of rolls. Because I am Lauren and have no self-control, I got a few different ones. We agreed the olive-rosemary was the best. SO GOOD.

Appetizers! I got a lobster ravioli with mushrooms and wild spinach, my brother got rabbit to be a jerk but ended up really liking it, I think my husband and my dad both got fish, and my mom and mother in law got a scallop thing that was really yummy (I tried my mom's). My ravioli was phenomenal. Everyone was super happy. You have to keep in mind with all of this, my dad and my brother are really picky, and my mother in law is not an adventurous eater. So the fact that after every.single.course we had all eaten everything on our plates? A miracle.

Main courses! Mine came off the veggie menu. I was worried it wouldn't be substantial. It was fennel with black mission figs. Turns out, it was TOTALLY substantial and totally delicious. With almost all of our meals (husband got a beef, brother got duck, the other three got various fish) there was a cool cube type thing going on. Like they pureed vegetables, solidified it, and made it little cubes. It was AWESOME. So I had a bunch of cubes of fennel with roasted figs and then Mr.Awesome poured a fig sauce on top. It was so good, I was so happy. My mom found some pin-bones in her fish and mentioned it to the waiter, and he brought her a new one immediately. My mom was scared they had fired the first waiter because that's what happens on TV (sigh) but not to worry, he was still around when we left! So everyone was happy with that.

And then came dessert! Oh my gosh! We all got different things and tried each others' and everything was incredible! The pastry chef gets all crazy with different textures and patterns and preparations. If you go to the website you can see all the things I've been talking about in the photos (we couldn't use phones/cameras in the restaurant). I had a chocolate mousse with coffee cream and toffee and I was so happy. And then! THEN! They brought out a pineapple-coconut dessert for us all to share! AND THEN they brought a little tray of very tiny little desserts to try! I discovered that I do not like macaroons. Gibby had a miniature raspberry pie. They were beautiful and tiny and amazing.

AND THEN! They came out with these little baskets of tiny citrusy madeleines because, apparently, the pastry chef decided to whip some up on a whim and they brought them fresh to the table. Holy crap. It was so awesome. I must have eaten like 10 of them. One of the best things I've ever eaten. AND THEN AND THEN!!!!! With our coffee, they brought out a selection of tiny flavored truffles and we got to pick which ones we wanted. Of course, my dad and I have no self control (see above) so we both got all four. Peanut butter won hands-down.

All in all, it was ridiculously expensive and worth every single penny. I can't see how anything will ever, ever top this. Ever.

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