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Image 1: When I left the exclusive Daniel Skybox after an extraordinary VIP treatment last time, I promised I would come back soon to experience a meal in their dining room. I couldn't believe my "soon" ended up being almost seven years after visiting 60+ other Michelin 3-star restaurants and even completing the 2012 World's 50Best list.
Image 2: After the closure of Alain Ducasse at Essex House back in 2007, Daniel is probably currently the only place in town that offers grand dining experience. My solo night of classic French haute cuisine began with a greeting in French from the cloakroom lady!
Image 3: Gorgeous dining room with high ceiling and spacious area surrounded by white columns with bookshelves and fresh flowers served as backdrop.
Image 4: After a warm welcome by the manager and introduction to my waiter for the evening, a taste of beets was served as the amuse bouche. A cube of yellow beet confit with chive, olive, potato, and truffle.
Image 5: A small cup of red beet purée with compressed apple.
Image 6: A sashimi of yellowtail with a slice of golden beet.
Image 7: Next amuse bouche was English pea royale; pea purée blanketed by a crab mousseline topped with crispy bacon and chopped morel. There were two choices of tasting menu - a Classic menu, which Daniel was known for, and a Seasonal menu, which looked appealing and in particular the abalone course. For a greedy person like me, I took the Classic and added the abalone as an extra course!
Image 8: One more amuse bouche, a posh one! Resting on a bed of leek royale were a combination of crunchy seaweed cracker, Plymouth Bay oysters coated in sea water jello, Santa Barbara sea urchin, and a generous quenelle of Osetra caviar! The urchin was creamy with a pure clean flavour while the oyster was not overly salty, which worked perfectly with natural saltiness of the caviar. What a luxurious treat!
Image 9: They offered six choices of bread and two types of butter: salted butter and plain butter infused with rosemary and tarragon.
Image 10: First course arrived but unfortunately, it was my least favourite of the night. A mosaic of beef, foie gras, and yellow beet. I appreciated the skilful hand work but I didn't see how the savoury and meaty beef, the rich and creamy foie, and the soft and moist beet, could have had a chance of achieving any form of harmony in my mouth! Confusing flavours and very confusing texture! I separated each component and enjoyed each one by one.
Image 11: The meal continued with my second least favourite of the dinner! Stood on a pair of delicate wafers filled with crab custard was a daikon salad roll. Sat on both sides were two extremely tiny pieces of Alaskan king crab tempura where the batter was thicker than the crab itself! A rather bland course in that the crab flavour didn't come through at all.
Image 12: Though the first two courses were not that great, the meal was well compensated by this Jade Tiger abalone from Australia!
Image 13: Accompanied by chickpea, lentil, spinach, and sesame roulade on the side.
Image 14: The abalone was first removed from its shell and cooked sous vide until tender. It was then sliced and stuffed back on a layer of wild herb and barberries before finishing off with a layer of vichyssoise. Each slice was remarkably soft with a deep shellfish flavour which was further enhanced by the onion and leek aroma. I really wouldn't have minded having a few more of this abalone. Truly amazing dish!
Image 15: The meal definitely rebounded rapidly. A sensational dish consisted of perfectly poached lobster and thin ravioli that had an in-the-mouth explosion of sunchoke cream and black trumpet mushroom. Moreover, the sauce base was very aromatic using vadouvan, mixed spices with a French influence; a good amount of spice but without being spicy at all! Again, I could have had another serving easily!
Image 16: One more seafood course before the meat. A wild turbot with a pecan and black truffle crust offering a crunchy texture in contrast with the moist fish. The Périgueux sauce was a touch too strong on my first bite but it mellowed out with braised bok choi underneath and the sweetness from the caramelized salsify. Very decent course!
Image 17: For the main, a tasting of milk fed veal - braised cheek with caramelized spring onion, tenderloin with white asparagus, and crispy sweetbread pioppini mushrooms. The veal and oregano jus was delightful and I loved the light touch of mustard to round off the flavour. This was the type of main course I expected - tender meat with delicious sauce. Very satisfying!
Image 18: The dining room was fully booked on a Monday evening and even Daniel came out from the kitchen to visit as many tables as he can. After a long chat with Daniel, my first dessert was served, a light and fruity Orchidea Vacherin to start off. Mango passion fruit sorbet garnished with calamansi meringue and vanilla chantilly.
Image 19: Followed by the chocolate dessert Bitter Brew. Deep flavour from the tube of milk chocolate and sea salt ganache ideally partnered with an intoxicating scoop of Abbey Ale sorbet. Wonderful!
Image 20: And the last dessert was an almond and hazelnut cake with a flourless biscuit base decorated with praline mousse and chocolate lemon confit, served with praline citrus ice cream. An intense, citrusy, and nutty finish to the meal!
Image 21: And while I was enjoying my cup of tea, the manager brought me warm Madeleine fresh from the oven…
Image 22: … and petits fours of kumquat jello and kafir lime sorbet, raspberry on chocolate, and a tiramisu chocolate truffle.
Image 23: Despite the first two weak courses, the tasting menu overall was very solid with classic flavours and artful presentations seducing both the eye and the palate. There was no chance for any slip ups in the service with a professional team of staff on the floor plus a manager at each end monitoring the whole dining room at all time. If you are looking for a special occasion dining, Daniel has the whole package that nowhere else in New York could match.