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Mar 22, 2011 07:39 PM

Tocqueville is quite impressive

Loved my dinner at Tocqueville the other night. It hit on all cylinders. The perfect trifecta- great food, wonderful service, and a very lovely dining room. The staff was very accomodating and attentive. When I asked about the 5 course tasting menu, they said the chef would prepare a special menu according to what was in season. If there was a dish on the regular menu that stuck out to me they would tell the chef to include it. Seeing 5 courses that easily appealed to me I took a shot and asked if I could create my own custom 5 course menu. The server didn't even blink an eye and said that would be fine.

After making my selections, I was greeted with one of the best bread selections I have experienced. Their brioche and focaccia were incredible. I could have eaten these all day but ibviously I did not want to fill up. The brioche in particular was really wonderful, like a mini popover. It had a touch of sweetnes to it and was incredibly soft. A little butter and some sea salt and it was perfect. The focaccia was so buttery and studded with lives. Again spectacular.

Then it was a parade of amuses- beet canneloni wrapped around goat cheese, celery root croquette with blck truffle, cheese gougers, a sunchoke soup and poached shrimp. All delicious and I didn't even have my appetizer yet.

Now onto the selections for my personalized tasting:

1. Truffled creamy grits with sunny side up egg and veal bacon- This was a wonderful way to start the meal. Even though the ingredients sound very rich, the portion size was just righ for my starter. The best way to eat this was to break the runny yolk to combine everything together. The creamy grits, eggs, and veal bacon in one bit was like the best upscale breakfast. I even had a brainstorm and took a piece of brioche to sop up all the goodies and make my own sort of bacon and egg sandwich. This dish was a winner.

2. Seared diver scallop and foie gras with chanterelles, artichokes, apples, and cider gastrique. Coming in I knew this was the one dish I had to have. Two of my favorite things scallops and foie gras in one dish. My mouth was watering. I was presented with the largest scallop I have ever encountered, topped with a nice slab of foie gras amidst the chanterelles, artichokes, and nice cider broth. Everything worked incredible. The scallop was cooked to perfection and was insanely sweet and buttery. I ate the foie gras together with it and was in heaven. Again, a mind blower and I could have had 3 more plates. Needless to say there was nothing left with this one when I was finished with it.

3. Sauteed Lobster with celeriac, lime, parmesan, and lime- This dish is the one that surpised me the most. I am a lover of lobster and this was actually the last dish I had decided on including. Boy I am glad I did. The lobster was incredible and the portion was very generous. I'd say at least 8 oz of tail and claw meet. The presentation was beautiful and the lobster was topped with a parmesan crip, hidden by a mountain of foam, basically looking like soap suds. Underneath the mound of lobster was celeriac (which reminded me of eggplant), dill (which was wilted down like spinach) and an intense and wonderfully savory lime tomatoey broth infused with bits of parmesan cheese. Usually, cheese and seafood is a no-no but this totally completed the dish. The salty bits of parmesan combined with the sweet lobster, earthy dill, and savory broth was a work of art. a+ bravo chef Moreia.

4. Medallion of veal filet mignon and veal breast with trufled polenta and osso buco sauce- My final savory course would end off the savory portion with a monster bang. Just reading the description and I was salivating. Veal, polenta, osso buco sauce? Sign me up, count me in, I'm awesome. The filet mignon of veal was easily cut with my fork and no that is not an exaggeration. The veal breast was braised for hours and reminded me of short ribs but a little gamier. The flavors were so intense and I loved the polenta and osso buco sauce to pair with the rich meats. I am a total sucker for dual meat presentations so this was right up my alley.

5. Frozen banana souffle, roasted bambini banana, and yogurt lime sorbet- At this point it seems like I had eaten a lot of food and it was but the portions were sized perfectly so I was not uncomfortably full. This dessert was the appropriate size and just what I wanted. Just a little sweet to end the tasting off nicely. Again, I am a sucker for certain words when I see them on the menu. Souffle is one of them. Yes, this what not your typical souffle in that it was not baked, yet it was frozen. Therefore not really a souffle at all. However, it was real good. I love banana, and frozen things, and souffles so this was something I wanted to try. Basically, it was kind of like a banana semifreddo with a banana like cake which I guess was the souffle component on top. Alongside was a half of caramelized bana with a topping of creme brulee top and a nice yogurt lime sorbet. All the elements I look for in a dessert.

After dessert I was presented with petit fours- 2 each of a mini hersheys crunch like piece of chocolate, pistachio madelines, and my favorite of all was a vanilla macaroon I believe.

All in all, Tocquevlle was very impressive and has vaulted to the top of my list. I am definitely looking to return for more repeat visits and was sure to inform the staff of a job well done. Their willingness to allow me to craft my own tasting was very accomodating. That left a great impression and was similar to the way EMP works. That alone speaks volumes for me about this operation. Portion sizes were just right, meal was paced perfectly, and the food executed with precision. I left feeling as if I had just spent some of the best money I had at a restaurant and the $95 was well worth it for what turned out to be something like 10 courses. The kitchen is doing great things and I urge anyone looking for a new place to try to head over and see the folks at Tocqueville.

1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

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  1. Their lunch is a super deal as well. It's one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

    1 Reply
    1. re: buttertart

      Yeah I am glad that I went. It was right on par with some on my favorite fine dining in the city in every way.

    2. So, steak, you've finally discovered what some of us (like Mr. R and moi) have known for years. Tocqueville is fabulous! We started going there years ago when they were in the location where 15 East is now. A much plainer dining room (though I liked the simple ambiance) but the food was -- and, of course, continues to be -- superb!

      The scallops with foie gras has been on the menu since they opened and has become a signature. Iirc, you once said that you didn't care for liver. Now, it seems you can't get enough of foie gras. lol Congratulations on joining the "Foie Gras Lovers Club"! :))

      We've done many of the 3-course lunches. Chef/owner Marco Moreira never stints on quality. So, as buttertart says, $24.07 is a steal for cuisine of high quality. The last time we were there was in November.

      Tocqueville photos:

      It's definitely time for another visit. Mr. R. and I have been talking about going there for dinner. I think I may take a cue from you and suggest to him that we compose our own tasting menu.

      4 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        Yes, RGR I once again owe it all to you! LOL. I'm really surprised it is not mentioned in the same breathe with the usual suspects... EMP, Daniel, Gotham Bar and Grill, Le Bernardin and the like. It blew Gramercy Tavern and Del Posto out of the water in my opinion. Maybe we should keep it that way- our little secret.

        As far as foie gras goes, I was never really exposed to it. Now, I love it only when it is seared. However, I do not really like it served cold as a spread or like a torchon. I wouldn't like chopped liver in the deli style either. Not sure why but cold preparations of foie gras do not appeal to me.

        As for creating your own tasting go for it!

        1. re: steakrules85


          The first time I experienced foie gras was in France in the mid-80's. It was seared. I almost fainted from how insanely delicious it was. But for a very long time, I had a difficulty getting to like foie gras as a cold torchon. That despite the fact that I've always adored chopped liver. However, over time, I developed a taste for the cold by having little bites whenever Mr. R. ordered it. While I still prefer the warm versions (seared, poached, roasted), I do enjoy the cold and have had many exquisite versions.

          So, my suggestion to you -- similar to yours to uhockey vis-a-vis steak ;)-- is when you are dining with others, if someone is having a torchon, try a little taste (presuming that person is willing to surrender some - lol). Taste it in conjunction with one of the flavors on the plate; for example, I've had a torchon accompanied by diced pineapple -- an amazing combination. Do this enough times, and I'm guessing you will come to like it.

          1. re: RGR

            OK RGR, I'll take you up on that. As you know I am adventurous when it comes to food and an always open to trying new things and attempting to prove myself wrong when it comes to things I think I may not like.

            How is the foie at Ai Fiori? I assume cold. Are you planning on ordering it again? I know uhockey said he is going for that.

            Ai Fiori
            400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

            1. re: steakrules85

              Yes, at Ai Fiori it was a torchon. In a word: Superb!


              I wasn't planning on ordering it again since I want to try some new things. If I'm not mistaken, uhockey actually prefers the cold to the hot. Maybe you can convince him to part with a bit of it.


      2. This is actually my favorite restaurant in the city right now. I am so glad that you liked the lobster, too!! I absolutely HAVE to check out those scallops with foie. I basically wrote the most emphatic review of my LIFE on this restaurant. Gregory Vernick is in the kitchen full time now and just does a dynamite job!

        6 Replies
        1. re: sarahe1

          True about Chef de Cuisine Vernick, who took over that position when George Mendes, who always did a spectacular job, left to open Aldea. But it is Marco's cuisine, and he is always around to make sure things are running smoothly as is his wife and partner, Joanne.

          1. re: RGR

            Having the owners there makes a huge mark on the restaurant - you can totally tell how much they care. It is just a very special dining experience!

          2. re: sarahe1

            Funny thing is, my great friend RGR has been talking about it for awhile now and it had been on my list to try. One night I was googling and actually came across your blog. Your review and pics really put it over the top for me and convinced me that I needed to go. Great work!

            1. re: steakrules85

              Thanks so much!!! YOUR review has convinced me I need to get those scallops with foie gras next time!

              1. re: sarahe1

                They were indeed awesome. I got just one scallop because I did the tasting, so I assume if you didn't do tasting and just got this as your main it would be 3-4 scallops. That would be plenty though, considering those bad boys are very meaty. Usually people ask me what is you favorite dish after I eat out and most of the time I can somehow try and choose one. But I have to be honest, at Tocqueville each was executed with such precision it was hard to choose which one was my fave.

                I would have been perfectly happy having either the scallops or lobster or veal as my main, however the beauty of the tasting is that I got to try all three.

                1. re: steakrules85

                  The last time I had the scallops and foie gras was at lunch in the spring of '09. It was a la carte, i.e., a full portion. Here's the photo taken by one of our dining companions: