Tocqueville

September 5, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006, Linda and Michael dined at Tocqueville, 1 East 15th Street. We had already had our apéritif at friends’ house nearby so we skipped that step here. We ordered from the à la carte menu with about eight choices for starters and for main courses. There are also a $90 five-course and a $125 seven-course surprise tasting menu.  Linda began with an excellent special first course of braised duck leg and foie gras ravioli with a foam sauce and three surprisingly tasty slices of summer truffles. I had the sea urchin, soy, lime and sea lettuce on angel hair. I would not have been able to identify the sauce blind, but knowing what was in it, I could identify the ingredients; I enjoyed it. Linda then had the squab with potatoes, pistachio purée and roasted cherries. I had the 60 second sirloin and 24-hour short rib with puréed smoked potatoes, root vegetables and bitter chocolate. Both plates were beautifully composed and the cuisine was excellent. The desserts of peach galette and wattleseed cheesecake were okay, but not up to the high level of the first two courses. We had a nice bottle of Tantara Pinot Noir. The restaurant recently moved from down 15th Street to these newly refurbished quarters. The décor is sort of 1950s; the high ceiling, well-spaced tables in a modest-size room and a calm clientèle created a serene ambiance, although we didn’t get a real test as it was only half full on this Monday in late August. The staff is somewhat amateurish, but efficient.  www.tocquevillerestaurant.com.

Tocqueville 2

February  4, 2007

Well, it had to happen some time: truffled grits.

On Saturday, February 3, 2007, Linda and Michael had lunch at Tocqueville before a matinée at The Classic Stage, 13th Street and 3rd Avenue. Lunch is a much more modest affair than dinner; two inexpensive menus are offered in addition to the à la carte listings which include some wild descriptions. The service was quite prompt as we had said we were going to the theater. The restaurant was half full, or half empty. 

A small amuse-gueule of cuttlefish, grapefruit and mayonnaise was offered. Linda started with the “Catskill Forest Mushroom Risotto,” which conjures up an image of gathering them by brushing away the snow under the oaks above Grossingers. But the mushrooms were obviously Shiitakes; the foam spread around it unneeded and the watercress topping quite pretty. It was a good risotto. Linda then had the “Diver Sea Scallops” with a small piece of sautéed foie gras and various little vegetables. The scallops seemed to be cooked well, but had such a heavy metallic taste she did not eat them. The foie gras and veggies were good, but the sauce was too acidulated. She had a glass of dolcetto with the lunch.

I had the prix fixe menu at only $24 starting with the house-made gravlax, mayonnaise and sliced radishes. The gravlax was okay, but the double oily combination did not work well. A “seafood chowder” followed, which wasn’t really a chowder at all, but a very nice piece of striped bass (I think) with crispy skin on top of a clear seafood broth with various pieces of seafood and small veggies: a very satisfactory dish. (A foam collar had been sprayed around it, but it didn’t bother me as it is tasteless.) I drank a glass of Vermentino with the fish. I finished with an okay “sesame pudding” and a cappucino. The whole meal, including tax and tip came to $130. The disappointing experience would not deter me from going back to try the tasting menu in the evening when the ambition and the prices are higher. But if I do go back for lunch, I will certainly try the “Truffled creamy parmesan grits and sunny side up country egg with house-cured veal bacon.”

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