New York Botanical Garden, the Whitney and Daniel
Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
192Trip End Oct 14, 2011
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My friend, Bill, and I grabbed a quick breakfast on our way to the subway and then headed for the New York Botanical Garden. We had a little trouble dealing with modified train routes due to maintenance, express vs. local trains and the Metro-North Railroad, but we eventually made it.
There isn't a lot in bloom outdoors yet so most of our visit was spend inside. They have a large greenhouse that, in addition to the usual tropical plants, contained their annual orchid show. We spent a few hours in the greenhouse before catching a narrated tram tour. After the tour we spent a little time in the library building before heading off to catch a train back to Manhattan. The library, with a collection of over one million items, is considered the largest, most comprehensive botanical library in the country.
Our original plan was to go to the Guggenheim and then to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is open late on Fridays, until it was time to make our way to Daniel for our 9:00 dinner reservation. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to Manhattan the Guggenheim was closed. Bill had noticed ads for the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art and, since it's also open late on Fridays, we decided to go there instead of to the Met.
While the Whitney is a large museum, we went through it much faster than we expected. That was partly due to some areas being closed to set up for upcoming shows and partly due to the Singular Vision show, which features only 12 works, mostly large, with each given its own space. It was late enough when we got out it didn't make sense to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art but it was still about an hour and a half until our dinner reservation. We walked over to Daniel to see whether they could take us early.
By the time we got to Daniel we were still an hour early for our reservation. They couldn't accommodate us in the main dining room until the time of our reservation but we could get the same food in the bar area immediately. We went for immediacy.
Daniel is rated number eight on Restaurant Magazine's World's Best Restaurants list and is one of only five Michelin 3-Star restaurants in New York. Chef-Owner Daniel Boulud has won numerous awards including James Beard Foundation awards for "Outstanding Restaurant" for Daniel, "Outstanding Restauranteur" and "Best Chef, New York."
We each ordered six-course tasting menus. Bill got the standard tasting menu while I got the vegetarian tasting menu. I'm not going to attempt to describe each of the courses. Our overall impression was that Daniel is a very good restaurant and it's place on the World's Best Restaurants list is understandable.
It was natural for us to compare it to Per Se since we were just there yesterday. In some ways Daniel come out ahead. Daniel brought us three amuse-bouche vs. the two we received at Per Se. We both preferred Daniel's bread selection if you leave Per Se's Parker Farm roll out of the comparison. The courses at Daniel were slightly larger so you had a few more bites to savor. In other ways Per Se came out ahead. They offered us two different butters instead of the one at Daniel and they were served slightly warmer at Per Se so they were easier to spread. The view at Per Se was much nicer. The service was also better at Per Se but that could be due to our choice to eat in the bar area. Overall, the quality of the dishes at Daniel was less consistent than at Per Se. While Bill and I each received a couple dishes we thought were a bit weak some of the other dishes were outstanding. But any differences were minor; they are both excellent restaurants.
After our meal we were curious to see the dining room so we could see what we missed. They gladly accommodated our request and also offered to give us a tour of the kitchen. The dining room was a much nicer setting than the bar area where we ate but neither of us regretted our decision. While it's much nicer than the bar, it doesn't compare to the setting at Per Se with their view of Columbus Circle and Central Park.
The kitchen tour was a surprise. There were dozens of people rushing around. While we expected a large staff it was much larger than we expected. And then we were told that we were only seeing half of the operation; the prep kitchen on the floor below is roughly the same size and similarly staffed.
After dinner we took the subway back to our hotel and got ready for an early start tomorrow.