Yesterday, the Boy had his last exam for the semester. We had discussed going out all night, really celebrating in style, but there is a transit strike going on, so going far away was completely out of the question. Instead, we took the opportunity to find a simple, easygoing, affordable restaurant near home.
After reading aloud a panoply of restaurant reviews, we finally settled on Danal, a French restaurant in the East Village. However, their kitchen closes at 10 pm, so, at 9:30 we rushed over.
Apparently, there was no need to rush. When we arrived, at 9:50, we nervously asked the maitre d' if it was too late to eat. He glanced at his watch and told us we were fine; we just had to hurry. We peeled off our layers and were seated comfortably at a table for four. Glancing around, there were two other tables, one enjoying a bottle of wine and the other finishing up dessert. At least it wasn't empty!
We were brought hand-written menus in red leather picture frames. The menu changes daily, so there is only a small assortment of dishes. However, the dishes are very varied (though mostly French influenced), with risotto, meat and fish all offered as well as several appetizer salads.
Danal itself is a cozy, comfortable restaurant. The chairs don't match the wooden tables (no tablecloths) and there are long wooden benches covered with pillows along the side. It is well-lit and the service was perfect--charming, but not overbearing.
As we began looking at the menu, the maitre d' walked over, smiling. "You don't actually have to worry. I was just teasing," he told us.
We were still ready to order as our waiter came over. We also requested a bottle of Cotes de Rhone, my favorite kind of red wine. It was a Jean-Luc Colombo 2003 Les Abeilles and was absolutely superb. Perfectly warming after the freezing air outside and slightly spicy without food, though it mellowed once we ate and complemented all our dishes.
The waiter also set down a wire basket of what tasted like Homemade Bread--multi-grain and rye, as well as a little pot of delicious butter. We were both starving, so we ate a fair amount of both breads as well as some butter. The breads also proved perfect for sopping up our sauces later on in the meal.
To start, the Boy had an earthenware bowl of French Onion Soup. The soup was piping hot and filled with perfectly caramelized onions. The broth too was quite tasty. Unfortunately, there was not quite enough cheese for his tastes. The Onions were really the main attraction of the soup, and well worth it.
I began with Mussels, cooked in a white wine and cream sauce with, you guessed it, lots of onions. The Mussels were plump and sweet and married wonderfully with the sauce. It was also quite a big serving of Mussels--unfortunately uncommon in the States. The sauce was so good, I almost wanted to drink it like soup, though I contented myself to soaking it up with the bread.
For his main, the Boy had a Skirt Steak with Bearnaise Sauce and Fries. I was slightly surprised by his order since he normally does not like Bearnaise on his meat. However, the sauce was wonderful--deliciously vinegary and not too sweet. It was even better on the Fries than on the Steak! The Steak itself was very simple, letting the flavor of the meat shine through. Ordered rare, it was perfectly saignant, in true French fashion.
My main was Pan-Roasted Cod Wrapped in Bacon, with Caramelized Pearl Onions and Spinach Souffle. The Cod was tender and delicate, with the Bacon lending a smoky rather than overly salty flavor. The Onions were, once again, delightful, Pearl Onions being naturally sweet and even more so once caramelized. But the best part of all was the Spinach Souffle. The Boy said it was the best Spinach he had ever had and it certainly was up there--think the lightest Creamed Spinach imaginable. Truly superb.
Surprisingly enough, we still managed to have room to share a dessert. Not wanting anything too heavy, we opted for a Cranberry-Apple Cobbler, not too sweet and very tangy due to the Cranberry. It was served warm with a small dollop of homemade Whipped Cream on top. The Cream was ever so slightly sweet, beautifully rounding out the dish.
This was a delightful, comfortable evening and a great discovery of a restaurant to which we shall certainly return.
90 East 10th Street
New York, NY
Food and Drink and Restaurant and New York and French