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!
1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003
85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011