The Blanc de Blancs was cold and the velouté was hot. At 5:30 on Wednesday night, the dining room at Restaurant Daniel, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, welcomed back its first guests since March 13. There were only five occupied tables in the entire restaurant, and yet, according to city rules, it was at capacity. After having our temperatures checked and hands doubly sanitized—the second time with towelettes at the table—my Air Mail confrère Michael Hainey and I settled into our seats directly across from one another at our four-top. Not quite six feet of distance, but close enough.
A sparse assortment of silverware was laid bare over linen—a decorative plate is technically just another virus-attracting surface—and the centerpiece consisted of a hunk of a QR code printed on a sheet of paper and ensconced in a wedge of plexiglass. When scanned by an iPhone, it summoned the menu. Adieu for now, canard à la presse served tableside in its own bloody sauce: chef and proprietor Daniel Boulud has dressed things down considerably, temporarily reimagining his temple of fine dining into “Boulud Sur Mer,” a play on Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the seaside village on the Côte d’Azur. “You couldn’t travel to France this summer,” said Boulud, stopping by to greet his guests in his starched jacket, a steel-gray canvas face mask, and fresh-out-of-the-box Comme des Garçons Play high-top sneakers. “So we’re bringing it to you.”