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Daniel

A strong bid for perfection amid glorious French food and wine

Kim Marcus
Posted: September 11, 2002

Chef Daniel Boulud (left) with sommelier Jean Luc Le Dû.
 
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From the moment you enter Daniel, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, until the time you leave, hours later, every element at play in this temple of French haute cuisine combines to produce a truly profound dining experience.

It's hard to decide which takes precedence -- the stellar food, the grand dining room or the smart staff, who deliver the goods with flawless precision. Yet there is one overriding theme for those closest to Daniel's inner workings: "Daniel is all about service, and that includes the wine staff," says sommelier Jean Luc Le Dû.

Le Dû has brought Daniel's wine program to the same high level as the rest of the dining experience. The list is rich in first-growth Bordeaux, Rhône wines and fine Burgundy. It also provides top California wines and reasonably priced reds from France's up-and-coming Languedoc region. Selections of key Italian and Spanish producers are well-chosen, if fewer in number.

Since Daniel's move in late 1998 to its present East 65th Street location, the wine list has grown substantially in breadth and depth to the current inventory of 1,510 selections and 24,000 bottles. The move also allowed Le Dû to put his own stamp on the cellar, situated in a tight but tidy, temperature-controlled space. "I designed it all and planned it all," Le Dû says.

The wine list is presented in two handsomely bound volumes: one for reds and one for whites. Prices are high for prestige labels, but there are enough choices to allow for more moderate budgets. The cornerstone is red Bordeaux, powered by impressive verticals of all the first-growths: Lafite and Latour to 1893; Haut-Brion to 1937; Margaux and Mouton to 1961. Many of the second-growths are represented by verticals as well, including Ducru-Beaucaillou to 1959 ($638), Cos d'Estournel to 1982 ($516) and Montrose to 1959 ($1,048).

The Rhône offerings are led by verticals of E. Guigal's three single-vineyard bottlings in the Côte-Rôtie -- La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque. In Hermitage, there are mini-verticals of Paul Jaboulet Aînû La Chapelle and Jean-Louis Chave. Top producers such as Alain Graillot, Auguste Clape, Yves Cuilleron and Jean-Michel Gerin are also well-represented.

Over the last couple of years, Le Dû has concentrated on bulking up the red Burgundy selection. There's an 11-vintage vertical of Christophe Roumier Bonnes Mares, as well as grands crus and premiers crus from Denis Mortet, Bernard Dugat-Py, Marquis d'Angerville, Jacques Prieur and Dominique Laurent.

The California Cabernet Sauvignon on offer includes bottlings from Dalla Valle, Colgin, Bryant Family, Araujo, Phelps and Dunn. The largest vertical is an 11-vintage lineup of Shafer Hillside Select dating to 1984.

The key to the restaurant's success is chef and owner Daniel Boulud. He makes some of the best French cuisine on either side of the Atlantic, and he has imprinted his drive for perfection on his staff. Boulud is a master at assembling complex flavors with finesse. He enriches rustic dishes with luxurious refinements, and adds contemporary touches to classic cuisine. He also knows how to make simplicity exquisite, with offerings such as warm white asparagus served with a truffled poached egg dressing.

The 100-seat main dining room, framed by pilasters and balustrades and accented with soft, plush tones, serves as a veritable agora for New York's movers and shakers. There's not a bad seat in the house, either. In every way, Daniel ranks close to the top in New York, if not the world.

Daniel
60 E. 65th St., New York, NY 10021
Telephone (212) 288-0033
Wine Selections 1,510
Number of Bottles 24,000

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