It was the evening of an annual surprise location dinner. We were walking on 65th Street, not quite sure how much further, until I noticed the number 210. We had to go to 60. “How much further?” he questions. “It is already 7:30.” I mumbled something about it being in the next block. I wasn’t confident. But then, looking up, I saw the name on the marquee. It is his name too, so I quickly called ahead, before he could notice, “Daniel, turn around.” I whipped out my camera and asked him to pose while I smirked at the label above his head. He irritatingly responded, “Like we have time for this. We’re already late.” I basked in the pleasure derived from the revelation of a surprise. “We’re here, Daniel!”
The revolving door that says ‘keep coming back’, the lounge, and at last the dining room, which appeared to me as a Roman atrium – all were inviting and not too imperial. However, an aura of affluence surrounded me when the waiter handed me the menu and addressed me by name. That was the golden ring of ambiance. All the while, as exclusive as Daniel was making me feel, I reflected momentarily on David and Eric. I had already been unfaithful to my first love Le Bernardin with Bouley, and now I am cheating on the guy I cheated with. One always searches for the greener grass, but I can tell you from the second I was teased with the amuse bouches (yes, we got two plates), this Daniel guy was going to have to work real hard at winning my taste buds because slots one and two are already full. The chickpea theme was a clever beginning and got my attention.
Bread is just as sweetly satisfying as dessert for me, so I take it seriously. Four small roll varieties were presented: olive rosemary, garlic parmesan, five-seed whole green, and a butter roll – served with farm-fresh butter with and without sea salt. I thought back to the bread “cage” at Bouley as I was biting into the five-seed role, and the image evaporated. At that moment, I believed it was the best roll I had ever tasted, but sometimes that is biased because it is the most current memory. At this point, doesn’t someone always say, “Don’t fill up on bread.” To which my response would be: ‘Shut up! I am swallowing every crumb of both rolls that I selected and am sampling the other two he chose.’
Then came our first courses:
SHIMAAJI “AU VIN BLANC” - Poached with Riesling and Celery Mustard Salad; Tartare with Northern Lights Caviar
SICILIAN PISTACHIO AND LICORICE CRUSTED MAINE SEA SCALLOPS - Gourgane Panisse, Spinach, Sauce Diable
Then our second courses:
OVEN BAKED BLACK SEA BASS WITH SYRAH SAUCE - Aleppo Pepper, Caramelized Red Onions; Roasted Parsnip, Yukon Gold Potato Confit
DUO OF SUCKLING PIG – need I say more? It went like this: crackle, crunch, soft fattiness, bursting flavor and juice, crispy crunch, oh wow, yum.
Our dessert course was a delightful end, and our stomachs squeezed the additional celebratory mini-dessert they brought us. The waiter announced: “We’re not done with you yet,” as he held a paper bag filled with warm, just-made madeleines. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to reach in with my fingers. I hesitated, and he continued to hold the bag and then placed it down for us to finish.
The final ratings of Top 3 Food Loves so far are:
1. Le Bernardin – my true love
2. Bouley (maybe just because we had more courses to taste than at Daniel). Bouley is #1 in decor/atmosphere, which includes the bathroom (see my blog on Bouley)!
A very close 3. Daniel – If you treat me just as well next time, and I get to know you a little better, you could be my first choice to cheating on LB.