In a city like Manhattan, what is a jaded diner to do? Perhaps more than any other place in the world, a surprisingly large percentage of residents eat dinner in celebrity chef restaurants on a near nightly basis. A large percentage of these are high-powered executives conducting business over high-end dinners. Following that is the city’s large affluent population, who consider restaurants like Restaurant Daniel an extension of their dining rooms. And then there are the voracious “foodies” who, wealthy or not, consider frequenting high-end restaurants on a fairly frequent basis a necessity.
So what happens when the jaded diners described above have a real cause for celebration? A special birthday, engagement, or job promotion? Since they have been everywhere and done everything in the city, where can they go to feel “special” and not like they are having just another dinner?
Recently, I had the idea of surprising a friend for his birthday by planning the ultimate dinner. Business dinners in luxury restaurants are a nightly theme, and it was inconvenient to leave the city and go somewhere new, so I developed the idea of finding restaurants that offered a “chef’s table” in the kitchen. Very quickly into my research I discovered an even better option would be the Sky Box at Restaurant Daniel.
The Sky Box is a luxury for the person who has it all. It is a little box outside Chef/Owner Daniel Boulud’s tiny office that overlooks the entire kitchen. At the time of this writing, an eight course wine and food pairing is $350 and four occupants are required (it only seats four).
Before the meal, I arranged a phone interview with sommelier Raj Vaida to see what the pairings would be and do a little research on the wines. Raj has learned about wine from ten years on the job and tasting with many of the celebrity chefs he’s worked with. More to the point, from working with thousands of high end customers he has an instinctive feel for what would play best.
So we arrive at Daniel and are met by a host, who guides us through the dining room, into the kitchen, and then up the sturdy but steep staircase to Chef Boulud’s office and then to our table. The setting is simple and elegant, something akin to a French country kitchen if you have ever visited a family-run chateau in Bordeaux or southwest France. The view of the kitchen is incredible – you feel very intimately involved with all the action, yet you are far enough away to focus on the cuisine and your conversation. A glass window blocks out much of the noise (there is not much).