HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


Dovetail or Picholine?

Where would you choose? Both have been on my list and would probably do the tasting at each. Both menus look great and are similarly priced. Has anyone experienced either tastings? I've heard the portions at DT are small overall.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The meal we had at Dovetail with uhockey a few weeks ago was rather disappointing. Aside from the food not being as good as the first time Mr. R. and I were there two years ago, we got a lot of attitude from the sommelier with regard to taking photos of the wine labels. Also, it was very noisy this time. And you know how I feel about that!

    We haven't been to Picholine in quite a while. But the last two times, we did the tasting menu, and they were stellar. ellenost has been there more recently and posted that her dinner was excellent. Service is always pleasant and professional, and the ambiance is lovely and civilized.

    So, Picholine -- definitely!


    1. Dovetail was wonderful when it opened, but then became less interesting, and the menu rarely changes. I have not been in quite a while. If you want to try something that is more like what Dovetail used to be, with really interesting and innovative dishes, look into Gastroarte. For a high-level dining experience, Picholine is a great choice.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rrems

        I've been to Dovetail 3 or 4 times, with varying results. Picholine is a once-a-month place for me, and I have never been disappointed. It is consistently one of the best dining experiences in New York.

        1. re: rrems

          Interesting. We went to Gastroarte on a Savor deal. Loved it, but I don't think I would compare it to Dovetail or Picholine. The tapas menu was perfect for pre-Lincoln Center

          1. re: JC2

            I was not comparing it to Picholine, which I highly recommend, but to Dovetail, which I no longer do. Did you only have tapas? If so, I don't see how you would know how it compares to Dovetail.

        2. Fyi. the portions at Picholine are even smaller than at Dovetail.

          1. For me the clear winner is Picholine. Have done several of their tastings (varying the amount of courses) and we have NEVER felt underfed and the food has never been less than wonderful. The service had a little hiccup a while back but I think they've regained their footing. Dovetail for us has just been okay but I will say I didn't think the portions were overly small.

            If you choose Picholine (which obviously I hope you do) we tend to prefer the front dining room to the rear but I'd be interested in hearing what others think about it.

            2 Replies
              1. re: Spiritchaser

                Definitely request the front dining room. It's a beautiful high-ceilinged space. The back has low ceilings and is cozier, but it makes me feel a bit claustrophobic.

              2. While I haven't dined at Dovetail, my two dinners at Picholine were excellent. I definitely need to schedule another dinner at Picholine.

                1. Last night I actually had dinner at Dovetail. Mainly because I could not secure a reservation at Picholine for my desired time, and secondly because I had a $100 Opentable gift certificate to use. I figured since DT has been on my list why not give it a shot, even with many saying they were unimpressed on recent trips.

                  In depth report is coming.

                  1. Last night I actually had dinner at Dovetail. Mainly because I could not secure a reservation at Picholine for my desired time, and secondly because I had an Opentable gift certificate that was close to expiring. I figured since DT has been on my list why not give it a shot, even with many saying they were unimpressed on recent trips.

                    I have to say I didn't care for the room and overall atmosphere. Even after the remodeling, it seems to be very boring, drab, and lacking energy. Still, if a restaurant can deliver great food and service I have no problem overlooking my surroundings. As I has mentioned earlier, I had an Opentable gift certificate to use and therefore decided on the tasting menu. For $135, it is not cheap but you get 10 courses which sounds like a very substantial amount. Overall, it really isn't which I will get to as the review goes on. There were some outstanding tastes, but some were boring and unnecessarily added to pump up the price. I have to admit the service for the most part was terrific. They let me make a few swaps for the tasting menu and one addition. My server was friendly and the bus boys were incredibly warm and attentive. Clearing plates, refilling water, and checking on me over the span of my 3 hour tasting dinner.

                    I was pleased to see that most of the dishes on the online tasting menu matched the actual menu. The exception being only the first course and dessert courses to be different. From the regular menu, they were featuring appetizers of a tempura soft shell crab and added a pork belly dish not on the online menu, Being lovers of both, I knew I wanted to include these in my tasting. After consulting with my server, I swapped in the soft shell crab for a vegetable consomme and added the pork belly as an additional course, making my tasting 11 official courses. After doing so, the server warned me and it a sort of condescending tone said "It is A LOT OF FOOD. Are you sure you want to add the additional course"? To which I replied OF COURSE. Let's just say I had a hunch that the additional course wasn't going to kill me at all.

                    After the order was placed, something that continally seems to happen to me when dining out occurred yet again. The dreaded "Are you in the business?" Code language for "If you are we would like to know so we can try and make ourselves look as good as possible". No I am not a food critic for the NY Times or someone looking to sabotage your business. I am just an everyday New Yorker who enjoys eating out.

                    The cheddar cornbread then arrived with a fried arancini ball and a cracker. No bread was brought, so as usual I requested it. My server agreed to bring it, but seemingly forgot as a good 5 minutes went by without the butter. As he reappeared into view with no butter in hand, I requested it a second time and it was then brought. I have to say the that "butter" had a very yellow hue, and upon eating I could tell it I suspect it to be margarine. Really? In a Michelin starred restaurant they are serving margarine instead of a good quality butter? I did not say anything to the waiter about it but just quietly spread it onto the cornbread and dug in. I have to say the white cheddar cornbread was delectable. I agree with my friend uhockey that cornbread should be in every bread basket. And no I did not consider this a proper bread basket, but rather a set of canapes. After devouring it, I actually requested more and managed to polish off three of the mini corn breads over dinner.

                    Then the amuses started to arrive. I was to receive three of them and honestly none really appealed to me. The first was a grapefruit gelee topped with caviar (not a fan of those flavors so it was a bit offputting), 2 mini oysters in a bacon broth (nothing terrific), and a smoked trout in a creamy yet acidic sauce (this was the best of the three). All were served cold and personally I am not a huge fan of cold savory preparations but I do not get caught up in loving/hating amuses as they are "freebies".

                    Then the tasting got under way.

                    First course- White provencal asparagus, shaved carrots, ramp sauce, and melba toast. This course arrived to the table and was a cold preparation. As I stated above, I do not have an affinity for cold food prepartions so this course was a waste for me. The vegetables had a sort of pickled taste and overall I could have done without this one. I can appreciate a simple plate of vegetables as a starter but this just didn't appeal to me. It seemed to be a filler to add a "course" to the tasting menu honestly.

                    Second course- Egg souffle, asparagus, green garlic. I love eggs and souffles so I was eagerly anticipating thise course to see what was in store. I was expecting something of a mini frittata with a souffle-like consistency. However, what was brought to me was an actual egg shell, filled with some asparagus custard on the bottom topped with an egg mixture that had a consistency between a souffle and a foam. I actually really loved the flavors in this little bite. The egg flavor was delicious, loved the consistency, and the asparagus surprise on the bottom had a great combination. I can truly appreciate the chef's finesse, presentation, and creativity with this one. However, again calling this a "course" was really misleading. This was more the size of an amuse bouche.

                    Third course= Tempura soft shell crab, cloe slaw, malt tartar sauce (swapped for the vegtable consomme). So I have to admit after the first 2 "courses" I was starting to get worried that I would be leaving DT disappointedly hungry. I did have 9 more courses plus dessert ahead, but from the size of the first two courses being merely a few bites I wasn't overly optimistic. This is when the soft shell came. I absolutely love soft shells, and tis the season! I've been trying to get as much of them as I possibly can around the city this month. So if I see it on a menu, you can bet I will be ordering it. The size of this course was better than the first two. Although, it was definitely scaled down some for the tasting because it was larger for fellow diners who ordered it as part of the three course. As for the taste, it was wonderful. As long as the soft shell crab is properly fried, seasoned, and fresh it is hard to mess up. This dish was all three of those things. Sometimes, places do not properly batter the legs and they tend to be hard to chew and swallow. At DT it was perfectly fried, fresh crab, and I liked the combination of the acidity in the malt with the creaminess of the tartar like sauce. Decent size soft shell and it left me wanting more. One of my favorite soft shell preps I have had. Thank god I swapped this for the consomme. There's no question in my mind the consomme would have just bee another throw away course to fill up space ont he laundry list of tasting dishes. If you order from the three course menu and this is an option I highly recommend it.

                    Fourth course- Ricotta gnudi, truffles, broccoli, parsley root- Another one of my favorite things is gnocchi and gnudi. The difference being that gnudi is basically like the inside filling of a ravioli and not made of pasta. I highly anticipated this course as well. It was presented with four marble sized balls of ricotta in a vey large bowl, dotted with some shaved broccoli sitting in a pool a creamy truffle flecked sauce. This was another incredible little dish. The ricotta flavor was so intensely fresh, creamy, and cheesy. Broccoli and cheese are such a natural combination so it was a wonderful addition. And finally, the truffle sauce was the cherry on top. This was an awesome "course" and I definitely could have gone for about 10 more of those little pillows of gnudi greatness.

                    I said the service was great at the beginning and it was. But halfway through the meal something got me a little annoyed. The manager came over to check on me which was a fine gesture. But then of course he proceeded with the dreaded "Are you in the business" question again. Also saying it was "rare to find a solo diner ordering the tasting". Then proceeding to question if I lived in the area and if I had ever been there before. Kind of felt like I was in an interrogation room honestly lol. After telling him I was not in the business, did live in Manhattan, and just appreciated great food and dining out in general he kind of smiled giving me a skeptical look as if I was bullshitting him. "So you just follow the food world and keep up to date with the press"? Really? I just basically nodded and wanted to end the conversation. I just don't get it. Is it impossible for someone to just appreciate good food and like to dine out? Does there have to be some underlying conspiracy theory as to why a solo diner my age would be eating the tasting menu at Dovetail? After he just smiled, told me to let him know if I needed anything, and walked away. I'm sure it was nothing personal or anything but it just left me feeling very awkward and "watched". He seemed to continually pass by my table throughout the meal too. I hate to have that feeling when all I want to do is enjoy my meal without feeling my every move, facial expression, gesture is being monitored.

                    Fifth course- Marinated scallops, sorrel, hibiscus. So after having two awesome dishes, I was starting to warm up to DT a little bit. Thinking that maybe the meal was starting to hit its stride. I had confirmed whether this was a cold prep before ordering, and the server said it was indeed cold. I would have loved for it to be hot, but I love scallops and can bear to eat them chilled. This was essentially one scallop that was sliced in three and sitting in a chilled hisbiscus infused beet like broth. The scallops were fresh and naturally sweet. The beet broth also added some more sweetness as well. It was nothing overly creative or mind blowing and again merely 2 a two bite dish at that. I guess the chef figured this would be a good way to provide a "break" halfway through. Certainly, a severe step down from the 2 great courses ahead of it.

                    Sixth course- Halibut confit, fava beans, crayfish, spring onions- Another one of my favorite things is Halibut. I have grown a great love for fish after dining in several fine restaurants, especially Halibut. As a choice on the menu, I am always drawn to it. If I ordered of of the three course, this was the dish I would have certainly selected so I was very excited for this one. It is one of the DT "signatures" that doesn't leave the menu. Only the accompaniments change with the seasons. Being that this was the first "entree" course of the tasting, I expected this to be much larger than the previous 5 courses. It turned out to be the largest of all 11 courses, which I was delighted about. Even at that the Halbiut was about a 3 inch block, perfectly cooked. No doubt confit and poached, this was one of the better fish dishes I have ever had. It was so incredibly tender and soft that it flaked and separated with the mere prick of my fork. This was the most beautiful of the plates as well. Surrounded by a spring onion sauce, crayfish foam, fava beans, block of spinach, and a few chunks of crayfish. All of the flavors were incredible when combined on one forkful. I especially loved the crayfish and was wanting more than just those 2 mini chunks. I wish I could have quardupled it in size, as I never wanted it to end. This dish was so satisfying and probably my favorite one of the night.

                    Seventh course (added for a minimal and reasonable extra $10)- Pork belly, broccoli rabe, black eyed peas. This was the course I added that my waiter thought would somehow push me into food overload.. HA. Another welcome addition to the tasting menu along with the soft shell crab. Again, it was definitely a scaled down portion for the tasting, and I apprecaited that they took that into account by only charging me half price from what was printed on the three course menu. This featured two mini blocks of rich (of course) pork belly with a nicely crisped skin. It came with a tempura fried piece of broccoli rabe which I did not expect, providing a nice crunchy textural contrast to the soft pork belly. Little bits of black eyeds dispered throughout under a creamy sauce which I could not tell you was made of. This was a very delicious dish. After the Halibut, it was nice to have some fatty meat. I love the combo of the pork belly and the broccoli rabe. Again, I would recommend this as an appetizer from the three course, although I cannot vouch for what the size difference would be.

                    But for the $10 supplement I was extremely happy with that. Eight course- Chicken in mourning, heirloom potatoes, swiss chard, truffles. I was curious what "in mourning" was. The waiter told me this was a skin-on chicken breast stuffed with black truffles and that it was "realllllllllllly good". OK, fair enough. I for one never ever order chicken when dining out. I feel it is too pedestrian and never as appealing to me as other options on a menu. Usually there for those diners who are looking for something more familiar, which I can respect. If given the choice I probably would have swapped this out ahead of time for the duck, which is another of my favorite foods. Even though this was listed on the "entree" part of the menu, this portion was quite small. It arrived as literally a 1 inch by 1 inch piece of chicken, smear of mashed potatoes, and a baby fingerling. It was sauced table side with a chicken gravy. It all tasted fine but was gone in 2 bites. Again, chicken just seems so blah to me, which is why kitchens try to fancy it up with truffles and such. The piece was so small that you could not appreciate the crispy skin or even the truffle.

                    Ninth course- Sauteed foie gras, graham cracker, huckleberries. At this point I must admit I was 2 and a half hours into the meal and didn't really know how I was feeling. Some incredible dishes for sure, but some that were either unnecessary or just not special. However, the next 3 courses were more DT signatures and was hoping for a really strong finish. I knew that I would not get the same piece of foie from the three course menu, but that was expected. I must say this was one incredible few bites of food. It was only a tiny block of foie gras, but the flavors were perfection. It was perfectly seared on the outside, but not overly so. The inside was creamy, and still pink which I love. Impeccable care was taken in the cooking process of this dish. I absolutely loved the sweetness from the blueberries paired with the nuttiness from the graham cracker sauce. It was salty, sweet, and rich goodness with the foie gras. Sort of a peanut butter meet jelly thing going on, which seems to be a popular concept with foie gras these days. I even alternated a few bites of leftover cornbread in the with foie which was awesome. I tried to savor as much of that little baby as possible and when it was all gone I had to restrain myself from dragging my finger through the leftover sauce and licking it off the plate. This would certainly be in the running for a contest of "best one bite of food you ever had".

                    Tenth course- Roasted sirloin with beef cheek lasagna, king trumpet mushrooms, onions- The last savory was one of my most anticipated. This one never leaves the menu and I figured there had to be a good reason. Now many know that I am a steak lover, and really just beef lover in general. I've had my share of incredible steaks in my day so I know a little bit about the subject. The beef cheek lasagna was also something I was looking forward too immensely. When the plate arrived, it was one slice of sirloin =, one mushroom, one onion, and basically a mini dollop of beef cheek lasagna. The bordelaise sauce was drizzled tableside. I mean come on! I know it was the last of a 10 courses tasting but this is supposed to be an "entree" course. Would it have killed them to put another piece of steak on the plate? Maybe a few more mushrooms and certainly a bigger piece of the lasagna. The dish was extremely delicious though in its own right. The steak was properly cooked to my rare specification and properly seasoned with just salt and pepper letting the beef shine. The beef cheek lasagna was another one of those "bites of heaven". It proved not to be lasagna at all as there was no pasta. Essentially it was layers of thinly slices potato and slowly braised beef cheeks the consistency of short ribs. Fantastic. And nothing goes better with steak than mushrooms and onions. Overall, this was another of the better dishes in the tasting. I just wish there was more of it.

                    After the savories, the server came back to see if I was doing OK after "all that food" and had room for the sweets. Wink Wink. I assured him I was perfectly fine. At this point, I did consume 3 pieces of cornbread, 3 amuses, and 10 plates of food. Was I stuffed? Certainly not. Was I hungry? No, but I would have definitely loved some of the better courses to be larger and some of the crappier unneccessary courses to be thrown by the wayside. Maybe make the tasting only 6 courses and cut the price down to $100. I definitely think they are making it a 10 course to justify charging the $135 price tag.

                    I was then brought a "sweet" palate cleanser of cucumber and mint sorbet, with a bit of black pepper infused whipped cream. I had to admit, I dread when pastry chefs put savory ingredients into a dessert course. What's the point? I want dessert, something sweet, no more savory stuff. Especially after I just endured nearly 3 hours of dinner. But this was actually pretty good. The cucumber flavor wasn't too intense and the whipped cream kinda helped this border on being something resembling a "dessert".
                    Next was a pre-dessert bite. Ricotta creme brulee, with cherries. This was awesome. The little ricotta ball was almost frozen giving it an ice cream like texture, and the top was bruleed for a terrific crunch. The little slices of cherry added a nice sweetness. I really loved this little treat. It was something between a gelato, creme brulee, and panna cotta in flavor. Maybe a deconstructed sfogliatella even.

                    Dessert course- Bittersweet chocolate souffle, sour cream ice cream, caramel sauce. If a souffle is on the menu, I get it. Plain and simple. It is one of my absolute favorite desserts on the planet and a DT signature. I swapped this is for the chocolate creamux on the tasting, and was delighted they did not charge we a supplement. The souffle was cut on the top tableside and drizzled with the caramel sauce. It was super delicious, albeit maybe a teeny bit undercooked inside. But still, I am glad I got this. The bittersweet chocolate was rich, but not overly cloying, and the souffle was nicely eggy but stiff on top. The caramel sauce gilded the lily even more, and the sour cream ice cream provided a superb balance to the sweetness of the other two flavors.

                    The final thing to come to the table before the check was the mignardises which included three chocolates. A bacon chocolate, a brownie, and a coconut filled chocolate. Three nice sweet little bites to end the meal.

                    I have to say Dovetail is very good. Top 20 in NYC like Platt said (he somehow rated it no.18)? No. Top 100? Maybe. There were many dishes that were incredibly delicious, even memorable. The soft shell crab, pork belly, halibut, sirloin, and certainly that foie gras is awesome. The service was really on point the whole night. Friendly, attentive, and warm. None of the snafus others suggested. My little conversation with the waiter and again the manager was a little irksome but eh whatever. I just felt that as whole the meal was inconsistent, the portions for some courses were laughable and just added to justify the price tag of the tasting. Did I enjoy my meal? I certainly did but I must say that if I didn't have that $100 OT gift and had to pay the $180 after tax and tip, I definitely would have left feeling like the price was unjustified. For $80, it was justified. I got to experience Chef Fraser's cuisine and can admire some of the things he turned out..or at least conceptualized in his kitchen. My suggestion to them would be to cut down the tasting some, get rid of the unnecessary courses, and get some real butter. Overall though, I am very happy I experienced Dovetail, but with a tasting for $135 you should be able to say it belongs in the pantheon of the NYC greats like EMP, Gotham Bar and Grill, Bouley, Daniel, etc. As far as that goes, I cannot say that.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: steakrules85

                      Thanks for the review.

                      I'm wondering what would happen if your reply to "Are you in the business?" were "What if I am?" If I were you, I'd be interested to know what they would do differently if you were. And such a reply might possibly shut them up.

                      1. re: Pan

                        I've often considered it honestly. I should try it next time to see if i get any perks.
                        Hmmm what would I be? A food writer? Critic? Chef?

                        1. re: steakrules85

                          Better not to say; keep them guessing.

                          1. re: steakrules85

                            Tell anyone who asks that you're Rachael Ray. And please also videotape & post the reaction.

                            1. re: steakrules85

                              Why do you think you're getting that question so often? Just because you're dining alone? Although I would think that a pro looking to dine incognito would take someone with them, just for that reason.

                              1. re: gavspen

                                I honestly couldn't tell you. It could be that they see I make a lot of reservations on Opentable. It could be because I am rather young and they wouldn't think I would be interested in such restaurants. Not really sure to be honest, but it has happened several times. The first time it happened I thought it was kind of cool but then it started to get tired and bothersome. I'm not one to expect or want special treatment. Just want to enjoy my meal like everyone else. Like I said earlier, I totally appreciate the General Manager coming overm, introducing him or herself, making me feel welcome. But after the in depth questioning, it starts to feel like you are under a microscope for the rest of the dining experience.

                        2. Thanks for the extensive report, Steak. I think your descriptions are quite accurate. Now try Picholine. I'll be looking forward to that report.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: rrems

                            It's on the hit list for one of my next meals.

                            1. re: steakrules85

                              Sorry to bump this, but has anyone been lately? Reviews elsewhere seem fairly positive recently, but it does seem like most folks on Chowhound seem to think it's been going a bit downhill.

                              Any other similar place that has good vegetarian / vegan and pescetarian options (off-menu is fine -- doesn't have to be listed as long as you know the restaurant will accommodate happily), but good non-vegetarian stuff, about the same price or a bit less, and likely to have reservations on short notice? Picholine is closed for renovation until the 19th. I have looked at some of the places mentioned in http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/837360 -- Toqueville looks like it might work.

                              1. re: will47

                                I had another excellent dinner at Picholine in early June, and I look forward to the re-opening of the restaurant. I'm dining for the first time (finally) at Tocqueville at the end of the week.

                                1. re: ellenost

                                  Does anyone know if all the conversation about the notice from the landlord on Picholine's door is going to cause the restaurant to delay reopening or not reopen at all?

                                  1. re: Spiritchaser

                                    This is silly.
                                    Picholine, of course!

                                    1. re: arepo

                                      If you're responding to me, it's not an option, since this is for the 13th, and Picholine won't be open.

                                      1. re: will47

                                        Tocqueville would be a good choice but how about The Modern Dining Room, or maybe Jean George.

                                        1. re: Spiritchaser

                                          Right, if will47 was considering Picholine, he (or she?) might as well consider Jean Georges.

                                2. re: will47

                                  Ended up making reservations at Dovetail before the later responses, so ended up just going there. Thought it was pretty good, at least based on the things I tried. The vegetable stuff was good. The carrot and harissa 'entree' with rice was a bit of a disappointment - less hearty than I would have hoped, but the appetizers and amuse bouche were pretty good.

                                  My wife really liked the bison tartare, and my folks thought the duck and the corn soup were good.

                                  Wine and cocktails seemed well thought out. It was dead when we got there (on the early side of things), but filled up quickly - they seem to be doing a pretty good business still.