Entering Daniel's, the diner immediately gets a crass earful of Sinatra, just to say "you're a swinger now, baby!" While new-car luxury abounds, this is not the elegant and clubby environment of the old rich. These are the "I've heard it's expensive there -- it must be good!" people.
The house bread was safe and inoffensive with its French-loaf appearance and soft, Wonder-bread texture. We followed with the Beefsteak Tomato and Onion Salad with Maytag Blue Cheese Dressing ($8.95), a predictable throwback to the '50s steakhouse days. The sliced tomatoes, layered alternately with crunchy and mild onions, were slathered with overrated Maytag Farms Blue Cheese. Our waiter -- we'll call him "Stan" -- liked to say Maytag, as though it were a coded indicator of quality. The Seasonal Fresh Vegetable ($5.95) turned out to be a pile of heavily salted broccoli, salty enough for us to shove the dish to the side and move on to a pleasing Spinach and Pecan Salad ($5.95), another throwback with its chopped eggs and warm bacon dressing. Our anticipation grew as we awaited the arrival of the steak, shrouded by a god-like aura at Daniel's. (In the waiting area is a haughty display case, with raw pieces of meat laid symmetrically, as though they were old and valuable jewels.)
Finally out came the meat, carried ritualistically by proud young steak technicians, all moving with a brisk and purposeful stride. As the sizzling plates were placed ceremoniously before us, we ooh-ed and ah-ed as if on cue. We had ordered the 12 oz. Prime New York ($28.95), Grilled Double Cut Lamb Chops ($31.95), a 12 oz. Rib Eye ($23.95), and Chilean Sea Bass ($27.95). In we dug, slinging about our official Daniel's Broiler steak knives (for sale in sets of four at the front). Immediately we re-coiled. "Jesus, this is salty," we all noted. What the hell, maybe it's just that we haven't eaten at a place like this for awhile. Onward we plunged, slowly realizing that we could not eat the meat in this condition any longer. One of our party acted quickly, summoning "Stan" and speaking quietly to him about the problem. Initially he squealed "REEEAAALLLY?" in horror, but soon regained his composure. As his look of shock melted into a steely look of determination, he marched away with the meat, assuring us that another steak would be prepared in a prompt fashion.
Sitting stunned over our remaining meat, we had no interest in eating any more of the sodium-packed flesh, and were no longer hungry enough to send it back. Granted, the Chilean Sea Bass was a worthy enough dish. We also had our ridiculously huge baked potatoes to comfort us until the second steak arrived, this time carried by a suited man with a very concerned look on his face, escorted by an equally glum "Stan." Breaking down into a football coach stance, the newcomer hovered over our table, awaiting our brave party-member's faked approval of the rib eye. "Stan" and his buddy left, not knowing that this new steak was equally as inedible as the others.
What had gone wrong? Had we had a tablewide salty hallucination? Was it in the pre-cooking phase that the meat had been so heavily salted? "Stan" didn't know, but kindly knocked the twice-rejected steak off the bill. Huge pieces of uneaten beef and lamb lay on our plates as we exited past large and numerous pictures of Husky men's basketball coach Bob Bender (what is his connection here, anyway?), past private wine lockers of more celebrities (there was his name again, Bob Bender!), past the lobby's beefy altar. Earlier discussion about the aging process of steaks no longer mattered. Who cares how a steak is aged if you can't even put it in your mouth?