Monday was our one year anniversary and Lon took me to Daniel Daniel. I don’t even know where to begin on this post. It was just an exquisite evening, but of course, being married to Lon makes everything seem more wonderful.

There are so many little details that make the Daniel experience memorable, from the rotating doors into a hotel-like lobby, the floor-to-ceiling wall of fresh flowers in the center of the dining room, the fact that the chargers and bread plates match the pattern on the carpet. The staff (more male than female) is sharply dressed and has great posture, despite many being quite tall. And those are just some of the few things you notice immediately.

After greetings, Lon chose an Alsatian wine, Domaine Albert Mann Riesling ” Cuvee Albert” 2007. We were happy to see that they offer many wines in half-bottles, great for light weights like us. They also have very reasonably priced wine pairings for all the tasting menus, but again, we’re light weights. Back to the Cuvee Albert, which was described to us as pure. It was exactly that, so clean and unhindered by any distractions. If you’re going to drink more later, this is the perfect one to start with.

Our first amuse arrived as a set of three bites exhibiting watercress. One was a razor clam sitting on watercress puree (I think), topped with a slice of olive.

razor clam

One was the most perfect bite of lobster. I can’t remember what was the watercress part now.

lobster amuse

In the center, a watercress mousse with a purple potato crisp, and some insanely good oil. Lon and I both thought this one was just divine. How do you make watercress as satisfying as a dessert? I’d take this over chocolate mousse!

watercress mousse

Next, there was another amuse, a very light ceviche. I honestly can’t remember what it was but it was refreshing.

Ceviche Amuse

When they brought the next plates and said something about a first course, we realized that all the previous was not yet part of our Chef’s Tasting Menu (8 courses). What’s even more amazing is that we soon noticed that we were getting different dishes for most of the courses, so we actually ended up tasting 13 dishes (amuses, breads, cheese plate, and sweet desserts not included).

For our first course, the Foie Gras Terrine was set before me. The Kumquat-Date Napolean, Asian Pear, and Mache Salad were all perfect accompaniments, adding touches of acid to cut the fat of the smoothest foie gras.

Foie Gras Terrine

Set before Lon was the Chilled Rabbit “Porchetta” with Chorizo, another work of art. Each one was served with toasts, but they were paired purposefully, mine being a brioche that melted in your mouth, Lon’s being a sturdier toast.

Rabbit Porchetta with Chorizo

At this time, a bread basket filled with choices came around. We tried a few then, and a few more later, going through the gamut of Three Seed, Olive Focaccia, Garlic Focaccia, Butter Roll, Baguette, and two different sourdoughs, which were the favorites.

three seed, olive, garlic breads

For our second course(s), a focus on fish. The Duo of Hamachi included a romaine wrapped tartare with roe and Tandoori Spiced Hamachi with pickled onions and a sesame tuile.

Duo of Hamachi

The Tai Snapper Ceviche was served unlike any other. Dill oil was rubbed around the bowl, Persian cucumber, shaved radish, tapioca pearls, and fish was placed inside. Something like a chilled cucumber soup was poured in at the table.

Snapper Ceviche

For the third course, I believe the idea was to showcase seasonal vegetables. It was certainly the best white asparagus I’ve ever tasted. Lemon Balm Mousseline was dropped into dressing to look like a poached egg. There was actually 4 dressings on this plate and all delicious.

white asparagus

Lon got the Savory and Fava Bean Agnolotti, with Saint Nectaire, Virginia Ham, and Oregon Porcini. It was just a little bowl of deliciousness.

Savory and Fava Bean Agnolotti

The fourth course was shellfish. Lon got perfectly tender Broiled Sea Scallop shaped into a “Rosette”. The Stewed Brussels Sprouts were ultra soft, making a nice contrast with the crispy rice, but Lon felt it was a bit too “over-cooked cabbage” for his taste.  And the black miso sauce, which tasted like oyster sauce, was a bit over-powering.

Sea Scallop Rosette

The Abalone, perhaps my favorite for being so unique, thought it’s hard to chose. It was so thinly sliced and layed over soft stewed vegetables, and covered with a fine brunois of zucchini and tomato. The shell sat on coarse salt with peppercorns and fennel, which smelled wonderful. We even took some and sprinkled on the butter.

Monterey Abalone

After some needed resting time (timing and pacing was impeccable), we saw plate warmers being rolled over for our 5th course.

plate warmers

French service is rare these days. It’s time consuming, space consuming, and requires highly skilled waitstaff. Our waiter did a beautiful job with the Noirmoutier Turbot, removing the skin and separating each filet.

 tableside service 2

The fish was much bouncier than I remember turbot, which Lon and I enjoyed but it was just a smidge fishy. The light lemon-y sauce was a good counter for that and I liked the tapioca balls. The artichoke and fava beans were tender. There were also some thinly sliced and crisped artichokes, and a tater tot (I’m sure that’s not what they called it). Overall, it was a more classic dish, and a bit less interesting to me.

Noirmoutier Turbot

The 6th course was a Tasting of Milk Fed Veal, where you get a taste of all the best parts, the tenderloin, cheeks, and sweet breads. The Oregon Morels were exploding with flavor and even Lon (who previously did not eat mushrooms) adored them. The fava bean coulis was nice but fava beans were showing up a bit too much. The thin sheet of pasta on the bottom was perfect but served no purpose in this dish.

Tasting of Milk Fed Veal

The 7th course: red meat. The Spiced Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Chop was Lon’s favorite dish, perfectly cooked, spiced, seasoned, and paired with a wonderful chickpea panisses (chickpea flour fries).

Lamb Chop

The Duo of Dry Aged Black Angus Beef was a plate of comfort foods made gourmet. Red Wine Braised Short Ribs that melt away, perfectly pink rib eye, with the essential potato side, pomme dauphine.

Duo of Black Angus Beef 2

I had to get a close up of the carrot and potato gratin, a piece of modern art.

carrot gratin

In addition to our tasting menu, Lon had told them that I was very fond of cheese (he knows me well) so out rolled this beautiful cart where we chose to our delight.

cheese cart

Besides a wonderful selection of cheese (except that there was only one blue cheese), the dried apricots are on some super dose of steroids and the lightly candied walnuts were feather light. I can’t remember all the cheeses we had but my favorite was a goat cheese that tasted almost like some blue cheese was mixed in. Anyone got a clue to what cheese that is?

cheese plate

We were stuffed already but Lon had requested that the chef prepare something special and not offered on the menu, something that involved cheese. The Chef decided on a blue cheese souffle for our dessert course. Unfortunately, we didn’t like it. The top formed a skin and the inside was oozing with oil. The whole thing tasted too eggy.

cheese souffle

However, we were completely impressed with what the souffle came with. I wonder if the chef was going for a savory candy bar? At the base, there was some mashed dried fig pressed together. The center was a melty cheese that stayed pretty soft even when it cooled and held together by thinly sliced porcini mushrooms.

savory candy bar

Then, there was more dessert. The Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse (with some crispy wafers) was intensely flavored but so light in feel. The Pate de fruit, again intensely fruity. The salted caramel ice cream, just delicious.

chocolate hazelnut, salted caramel ice cream

Of course, we couldn’t end without petit fours and warm madeleines (forgot picture). Our favorite was the strongly coffee flavored one, but at this point, it was hard to taste anything anymore. We needed a cot on the side and nap. We had eaten for over four hours.

petit fours

The big questions with expensive restaurants is always if it’s worth it. This meal cost us $600 (including tax and tip) and we both thought we got our money’s worth. Every dish had expensive ingredients in it and you felt as if the best part of each animal was plcuked out and placed on your dish. The architecture of each dish was masterful and I cannot imagine the amount of labor some of these intricate details take. The service was impeccable and passionate. They even brought a stool for me to rest my camera on so I didn’t have to bend down to reach it each time. Most importantly, I felt myself smiling throughout the evening and saw that Lon was too. There are three prix fixe options, ranging from  a 3-course option for $105, to the 8-course Chef’s Tasting Menu that we chose. I highly recommend Daniel to everyone.

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