Thursday, December 22, 2011

East Coast Raj

I remember the first time I met Raj Vaidya, I had ordered a bottle of the 2002 Huet sparkling at Cru - far from the most expensive wine on the list at that time, to say the least - and Raj practically bounded to our table with the bottle, asking "Who is the smart person who ordered this??" Well, of course this was a person that I liked right off. And I've seen this same attitude again and again from Raj in a multitude of situations. He gets ebullient and jazzed about wine, but comes across in a disarming manner, quick to appreciate other people's love of wine as well. This is a pretty much ideal disposition for a man with his job: Big Man on Wine at Restaurant Daniel.
And have you seen the list at Daniel lately? It is a superb mix that includes classics from the likes of Raveneau and Chateau Latour, offering vintage depth, with superlative lesser known producers such as Ledru in Ambonnay, and Gahier in Arbois. There is tremendous drinking at all price levels, and wines that are very much in keeping with the spirit of the food. After having been in his role for two years, it is easy to see that Raj is very eager to maintain the Daniel tradition of offering guests a "thrilling document" (as the NYT once phrased it) from which to select wine.
Raj and I recently sat in the skybox at Daniel, a perch that is one of the country's truly superb tables, and we spoke about how Raj got to Daniel and about what he wants to accomplish there in the future. Along the way, he gave a few tips to those looking to break into the business, and described some of the wines that he most loves. Check out the interview on snooth.
Restaurant Daniel especially glows during the holidays. It possesses that same halo as the tree at Rock Center, or The Nutcracker production at Lincoln Center. A highlight of New York City in December. Maybe this would be a good time of year for you to introduce yourself to Raj?

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