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Dinner at Tocqueville 9/20/11 - a review

biondanonima Sep 26, 2011 10:50 AM

We kicked off my parents’ visit to NYC with a trip to Tocqueville a few nights ago. Other stops on their restaurant itinerary for this trip included EMP, Public, Degustation and Del Posto.

It was a Tuesday night, so I wasn’t too surprised to find the restaurant mainly empty when I arrived at 6:30. My husband was on a phone call so the rest of us waited in the bar for him, where we were provided with delicious gougeres and a nice list of wines by the glass. They had no problem waiting until 7:00 to seat us even though our reservation was at 6:30 (and the dining room had begun to fill up a bit). Service was warm and friendly throughout the meal and they responded to our every request with alacrity.

We were served a tiny amuse-bouche to begin our evening, made with peekytoe crab and some pickled watermelon. A perfect bite for the three of us that eat seafood, but unfortunately they didn’t ask about allergies or preferences before serving it, so my mother was a bit left out. We ordered wine from their very interesting list (a number of unusual American choices) and enjoyed their excellent brioche, olive-rosemary focaccia and another bread with housemade butter.

For starters we ordered the parmesan grits with veal bacon, the foie gras terrine, heirloom tomato salad and a beet salad special. I can’t speak to the beets because I don’t care for them, but my mother was thrilled. My father’s tomatoes didn’t interest me particularly (I don’t love raw tomatoes, and the lemon verbena consommé wasn’t terribly appealing to me), although the tomatoes themselves were very nice specimens indeed. My foie gras was a BIG winner, though - an exceedingly smooth and nicely seasoned (not to mention generously portioned) puck of pate surrounded by tiny cubes of Riesling gelee, a rhubarb puree of some type and lovely roasted figs. With so many of my favorite things on one plate, they couldn’t go wrong! However, as good as my dish was, I was very, VERY jealous of my husband once I tasted his grits. Normally I don’t care for grits, but these were so savory, it was like eating a bowl of creamy parmesan cheese with crispy bacon pieces. The truffle flavor was subtle but present, and the egg was cooked to perfection. Comfort food at its finest.

When we dine with my parents, we generally try to order different mains so that everyone gets to try more things, but here at Tocqueville we just couldn’t make it happen - my dad and I were both sold on the scallops with foie gras, and mom and DH both wanted the chicken (but for different reasons - my mother because she likes lean meat, my husband because he likes anything fried!). The chicken, which is something I would never order myself in a restaurant, was simply incredible. By far the most tender piece of white meat chicken I have ever eaten - so much so that I thought it must have been done sous vide (though the menu says roasted, and the skin was crisp). The fried thigh was also juicy, delicious and perfectly seasoned. The scallops were equally superb - two plump, sweet morsels with a slice of seared foie on top, served over a sauté of various vegetables in a savory gastrique (which was not overpoweringly vinegary or sweet, just perfectly balanced and rich). The portion seemed a bit small at first glance (two scallops for a main always seems skimpy to me!), but given the richness of the dish, it was plenty.

We decided on just two desserts for the table, the chocolate with cherry ice cream and the selection of housemade sorbets. We had some trouble deciding whether to get ice cream or sorbet, so our waiter kindly brought us both! The sorbet included a delectable coconut lime and a shockingly tart (but super refreshing) strawberry yuzu, as well as the more pedestrian (but still good!) chocolate, mixed berry and one other. Ice creams (chocolate, espresso and vanilla) were also nice but the flavors were somewhat muted, as was the cherry ice cream which came with the chocolate dessert (a predictable but solid ganache torte in bar form).

Overall impressions? We really loved Tocqueville, and I’m surprised it doesn’t get more buzz both here on Chowhound and in general. The cuisine is uniquely American, which I think is a difficult thing to pull off in this type of place - I’ve been to plenty of other restaurants that describe themselves as being “new American,” yet are indistinguishable from modern French places. I thought the prices were also quite reasonable for the quality of the food and service. I hope to come back, and soon!

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Tocqueville
1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

Del Posto
85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

  1. r
    Riverman500 Sep 26, 2011 11:15 AM

    Glad you liked Tocqueville. I love their chicken too.

    If you like Japanese, Tocqueville's affiliate restaurant 15 East is one of the best sushi places in the city.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Riverman500
      biondanonima Sep 26, 2011 11:47 AM

      We walked past there on the way to and from Tocqueville and I recalled having heard that it was excellent - I will definitely give it a try sometime!

      1. re: Riverman500
        f
        foodwhisperer Sep 28, 2011 11:31 PM

        The owner Marco, used to cook at The Quilted Giraffe ( once an amazing restaurant). I love Toqcqueville, but I do find several dishes have too many ingredients, with some flavors that don't mesh.

      2. ChefJune Sep 26, 2011 11:20 AM

        We've been enjoying Tocqueville for many years -- way back to 15 East 15th. The food and service have never disappointed.

        1. s
          SomeRandomIdiot Sep 27, 2011 05:13 AM

          The ribeye there is also amazing. Aged about 5 weeks. Generally at steakhouses, the musty, minerally flavor is strongest and mostly in the areas around the bone and the outer areas of the steak where the fat is. They manage to get that intense aged flavor in every slice of meat.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SomeRandomIdiot
            biondanonima Sep 27, 2011 10:36 AM

            I didn't see a ribeye on the current menu - just dry-aged sirloin. I was hoping my husband would order it so I could have some, but he was entranced by the call of fried chicken! Next time for sure - I really enjoyed our meal and I can't wait to go back and enjoy the rest of the menu.

            1. re: biondanonima
              s
              SomeRandomIdiot Sep 27, 2011 12:09 PM

              I actually had it as part of the tasting menu a few weeks ago was hoping to go back to have it again. It was 42 oz and split 4 ways but I saw a table of two with a ribeye of a similar size.

          2. u
            uwsister Sep 28, 2011 01:05 AM

            Thank you for the review - I don't know why I still haven't been here after reading so many positive reviews on Chow lately. Every single one of your starters sound amazing as does scallops with foie. Must plan, must go, SOON.

            2 Replies
            1. re: uwsister
              Kurtis Sep 28, 2011 06:17 AM

              We recently celebrated my father's birthday there, and can't say enough about how everything comes together so elegantly there. While their protein dishes are excellent, I found their vegetable dishes really sing, too; current menu there has one of the best asparagus preparation I had outside of France, the pea soup is delightfully refreshing, and the tomato salad is subtle yet alive.

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              Tocqueville
              1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

              1. re: Kurtis
                u
                uwsister Sep 28, 2011 11:38 PM

                Asparagus, pea soup, tomato salad - all sound delicious, and this is coming from a devout near-carnivore. Maybe I'll convince my husband to go to Tocqueville instead of Craft this Friday.

            2. Kurtis Sep 28, 2011 05:54 AM

              Thank you for the nice review of the place where we often return to for their soul-satisfyingly good food, excellent wine list, and understated yet impeccable service that's difficult to match in town.

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