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Jun 17, 2009 05:26 PM

Why I love Tocqueville (review)

It's my go-to upscale restaurant for business lunches and dinners, from intimate 2 people to the upstairs room for 25.

Last night there were 8 of us, and we went early for the pre-theatre $44 prix fixe. For an additional $15 you can have 3 wine pairings, and all of us but one went this route.

There was only one other table occupied when we arrived at 6, and when we left at 8 or so, only a few more tables had people at them. There were people at the bar, including the executive chef, Marco.

Tocqueville puts great items on the prix fixe. First, an amuse, which was a lobster tofu square. Tasted like a bit of pate to me. First course, I had six delish Fisher Island oysters on the half shell-- the wine pairing was a pinot blanc sparkling wine, French. Perfect way to start. Others had the pea soup and really loved it. White asparagus was also a favorite choice around the table.

For my main course, I chose the "confit of sea bass" served with a bit of eggplant almost ratatouille style. The dish was described as having a moqueca style, but the Brazilian expert in my group, just back from Rio, said he didn't detect much of the typical ingredient (onion, cilantro, pepper, etc). It was a great dish, though, and it went just fine with my Quincy wine pairing (though the Brazilian expert asked for a red instead, and his Sonoma Pinot Noir was spectacular). Others enjoyed the skate, risotto, and a veggie dish with ramps.

For dessert, most of us had churros with chocolate and other sauces. The wine pairing was a sweet sancerre. One person had thee selection of ice creams and sorbets, which she loved, and another had a cheese selection-- very generous and well chose, with a port to drink. Mini gardises finished the meal.

Service was perfect. We were able to enjoy conversation, great food with perfect pacing, and spend well under $100 per person all included. WOW.

I don't understand why Tocqueville isn't more crowded, or why everyone goes ga ga over EMP (which I also enjoy) but not over Tocqueville. On the other hand, I can get IN at Tocqueville when I need to!

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  1. I totally agree with you about Tocqueville, simetrias. While EMP remains our #1 favorite restaurant in NYC, Tocqueville has always been on our favorites list. We have had many lunches and dinners at both the original space (where sister restaurant 15 East is now) and in the current location, which has, imo, one of the most elegant and beautiful dining rooms in the city. Every one of those meals has been expertly prepared and totally delicious. The $24 3-course lunch prix fixe is an unbelievable bargain for food of such high caliber. The wine list is excellent, and service is friendly and professional.

    Like you, it flabbergasts me that Tocqueville seems to travel under the usual culinary radar. Those who have neglected going there are missing out on a first-rate dining experience.

    2 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      I'm often in the upstairs dining room, which feels private, has its own waitstaff, and is conducive to quiet conversation... a rarety in NY restaurants these days. When we are the only party upstairs, I ask them to turn off the music!

      1. re: simetrias

        They play music? It's never been on when we've been there. I've always found the noise level in the main dining room to be conversation-friendly, even if the room is full, which has been the case when we've been there for dinner on a Friday or Saturday.

    2. simetrias, thanks for this timely review. I've been looking for a special place to take a dear friend to dinner for her birthday. For birthdays, (as opposed to other dinners out) we generally like to go somewhere 'fancy' in the sense of great service, a nice ambiance, and 'fancy food.' Her tastes (and actually mine, these days) tend toward seafood and well done 'lighter fare,' and at least from what I can tell from your review, this might fit the bill (the website was somewhat informative, too.

      May I ask a question, if you (and RGR) have been there several times: are there any tasting menus? And is the wine pairing only for the prix fixe? I'm not sure if she'd want to have dinner that early...

      Your post was great, but any other insights you might have are most appreciated.


      2 Replies
      1. re: drummergirl


        Iirc, they will do a tasting dinner upon request. I don't recall ever seeing a published tasting menu.

        Whever we've had dinner at Tocqueville, we've ordered from the a la carte menu, and since I don't drink, my husband has done pairings with each course. However, the cost will depend on which wines are paired according to what you order, unlike the already set "bargain" wine pairings with the prix fixe. Of course, if you do pairings, you should discuss with the sommelier what kinds of wines you prefer, as well as your budgetary parameters.

        Chef Moreira's cuisine is a good match if you are looking for expertly prepared fish and seafood and a lighter approach to cooking. I've attached a photo of my main course salmon with beets when we had the lunch prix fixe in March. It was truly delectable!

        I think Tocqueville is a lovely place for a special occasion meal. If you go, I hope you and the "birthday girl" have a wonderful experience.

        1. re: RGR

          Thanks a lot, RGR (the salmon looks lovely!). I think it's between Tocqueville and Blue Hill, barring any other suggestions she might bring up.

          Appreciate the comment.

      2. Can one eat at the bar? I have not been to the current location -- have been to the previous. Loved the food, so thought I might try it solo tonight if they serve at the bar.

        3 Replies
        1. re: rossinyc

          Yes, you can eat at the bar. It's located in a space between the entrance foyer and the main dining room. I believe the dining room menu is available there except between 2 - 5 p.m., when there is an afternoon bar menu.

          1. re: RGR

            Not only can you eat in the bar area (which has a few tables), you can get the prix fixe there all night.

            RGR, they had a jazz track playing when we were there. It's rather unobtrusive, which is the point-- maybe you didn't notice it.

            As for tasting menu... one trick I use at good restaurants, and they don't seem to mind, is order everything to be split. So you end up with four courses, each different, to share. Tip more if you do this cuz it is a pain for the servers!

            1. re: simetrias

              My wife and I had our 10th Anniversary dinner there last night and we were blown away by the room, the service and the food. (They did have jazz playing, very softly, but thankfully not "smooth jazz," but Coleman Hawkins! Another plus.) Someone heard us wish each other a "happy anniversary" when we toasted our glass of wine, and were given a plate of special deserts with "Happy Anniversary" and a candle on it. What an elegant touch!

              We certainly will return. We were also amazed how empty it was.