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Tocqueville vs. Modern Bar Room (or other suggestions)

While my girlfriend and I have eaten at many of New York's "best" mid-tier restaurants, we are still young and (hopefully) working our way up to being able to afford the upper-echelon restaurants that the city has to offer. In the near future, the two of us plan on going out to celebrate a recent special occasion and want to try a restaurant that is somewhere above (in price) the restaurants we love and frequent (Balthazar, Breslin, Locanda Verde, Casa Mono) and those that we certainly cannot afford (Per Se, etc).

Two restaurants that have caught my eye are Tocqueville and Modern Bar Room. I am interested in opinions choosing among these two, or similarly priced restaurants that you'd choose ahead of those two.

Because price is often (necessarily) asked, I'd say we're looking to spend around $150 (can be a little higher, but definitely under $200) before tax and tip, without drinks.

In advance, I appreciate your thoughts, advice, and feedback.

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  1. We're also thinking about Marea.

    I know each of these cuisines is very different; we are just looking for the most delicious meal!

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    Marea
    240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

    1. It depends on exactly what you are looking for since Tocqueville and The Modern's Bar Room are entirely different with regard to cuisine style and ambiance.

      The Bar Room's cuisine is French with strong Alsacian leanings, while Tocqueville's cuisine is Contemporary American with definite French influence. Tocqueville's food is more refined. (The more refined cuisine at The Modern is served in the formal dining room.)

      The Bar Room's ambiance is casual with a farily boisterous noise level. Tocqueville's dining is elegant -- one of the most beautiful in city -- and the noise level is low.

      Dress in the Bar Room can be very casual, i.e. jeans, etc. While jackets are not required at Tocqueville "business casual" is the appropriate dress.

      Of these two, Tocqueville is the one that says "special occasion" to me.

      Bar Room at The Modern photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

      Tocqueville photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

      1. All three restaurants you're thinking about are excellent.

        I agree with RGR. Tocqueville is the one that's the most "special occasion" to me because of its ambiance and elegance. I've posted a report on this board of a meal there. You should be able find it if you do a little search.

        The Modern Bar Room is the restaurant that I visit regularly due to its casual atmosphere, wonderful food, and close proximity to where I live. One of my favorite restaurants in the city.

        However, Marea is where I had the best meal of 2011 thus far, though the room does feel a little corporate. I've also written a report on this board. Sorry I can't link directly, my internet is acting odd and I can't open my profile to find the specific posts.

        Honestly, I think any of the three works well. It really depends on your cuisine preference, and what you're looking for in terms of ambiance.

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

        The Modern
        9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

        Marea
        240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

        3 Replies
        1. re: Cheeryvisage

          Here's the link to your Marea review, Cheeryvisage.

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/805785

          As you know, I don't share your enthusiasm for Marea as there were problems with the two dinners we had there.

          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

          1. re: RGR

            Thanks for finding that thread, RGR! There are some good information from RGR and others regarding the pros and cons of Marea in that thread. It should help the OP when considering his options.

            1. re: Cheeryvisage

              Thank you both, RGR and Cheeryvisage, for sharing your experiences both with words and photos. I appreciate the feedback in trying to choose one of these establishments, although the decision is not easy, as all look wonderful to me.

              I think after reviewing everything above, we are going to choose the Bar Room at the Modern. It seems to be one of the only restaurants that gets universal praise on this board and elsewhere. To me, if you can please just about every guest, you must be doing something right.

              I will report back after this weekend with the details.

              Again, thanks for the help!

        2. I'm also curious about Tocqueville-- but wondering about their reservation policy. Can anyone tell me how many days in advance you can book a reservation? Thanks in advance.

          1. I've reviewed Tocqueville here a number of times (here's the most recent one: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/795922) and will defend it to the death! For a special occasion, its super-formal decor is perfect, and the friendly (not pretentious) service will make you feel appreciated.

            The food, for me, is so much better than even that of The Modern's dining room, and they have prix-fixes that are such a bargain we can't help but go back every time they change the menu. (Try the pre-theatre menu before 6:30 p.m.–under $60 per person with wine pairings!

            )

            I don't mean to come off like an ad for the place, but I really, really love it.

            9 Replies
            1. re: plumpdumpling

              I completely understand your adoration for Tocqueville, p.d. It truly is a wonderful restaurant in every respect. Each time we go, we come away stupified at how amazing the food is. It boggles my mind that it still remains pretty much under the usual culinary radar. Why it does not have at least one Michelin star is beyond my comprehension.

              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

              1. re: RGR

                When we were in a couple of weekends ago, I told them I'm going to personally head up the campaign to get them a star! It's just bizarre.

                1. re: RGR

                  I couldn't agree more - we loved our visit to Tocqueville. It's far more deserving of Michelin attention than at least half of the other starred restaurants I've visited.

                2. re: plumpdumpling

                  OP asking is asking how it compares to the Bar Room at the Modern, not the Dining Room.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Oh, yes, my point was that Tocqueville's even better than the dining room, which is better than the bar room. So Tocqueville is much better than the bar room.

                    1. re: plumpdumpling

                      Wow, really? I really love The Modern. While I enjoyed Tocqueville too (the 2 times I ate there), I'm not sure if it's better than The Modern. I guess I need to visit Tocqueville more often to better evaluate it.

                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                        In my view, the quality of the cuisines at Tocqueville and in The Modern Dining Room are equal. The big difference, as I pointed out above, is the style of cuisine. Also, Tocqueville's cuisine might be more "user-friendly" because its flavor profile is fairly traditional while some of the flavor combinations at The Modern can be a bit unusual.

                        I will say that the ambiance at Tocqueville appeals to me more. Not only do I think its dining room is more elegant and beautiful than The Modern's, but also because when the Bar Room is very busy, the noise from there filters into dining room, which I have found to be disturbing.

                        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                        1. re: RGR

                          Our experience at Tocqueville has been that they take mundane ingredients and elevate them to new levels, while The Modern Dining Room took ingredients like truffles and made them flavorless. But I would like to try it again, based on how much a lot of people seem to love it!

                          1. re: plumpdumpling

                            i find tocquevill takes too many mundane ingredients and elevates them all at once in the same dish. I found the Modern had balanced flavored dishes

                3. Although I have never eaten at the Modern or Marea (George Mendes was the chef at Tocqueville at one time), I have been eating at Tocqueville for many years. It is one of the finest restaurants in Manhattan for the price.
                  The staff is excellent and ownership is wonderful as well. You cannot go wrong.

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