February 9, 2016
Chef Michael White has opened several successful Italian cuisine restaurants in New York in recent years, including Marea and Ristorante Morini. So it was a surprise last year when he opened a classic French cuisine restaurant at Park Avenue and 63rd Street, in the heart of the old school Upper East Side: Vaucluse. (Actually, he is not Italian, but a big blond man from Wisconsin.) Linda and I went for dinner on January 28, 2016.
We were seated along the far wall of the front dining room. There is also a connecting room with a bar and tables along the wall and, in the back, a quite large room, which might seem like Siberia, but also could be quieter than the surprising din in the front room. This was the view from our table and, below, the view back into the front room by the door as we left.
We ordered glasses of Brut Blanc de Blancs ‘Experience’ Andre Jacquart Champagne for Linda and Crémant de Loire Domaine de la Bergerie 2013 Loire for me. Both were good starters. An hors d’œuvre of salmon roe with crème fraîche arrived.
The bread basket was passed.
There is no prix-fixe offering so we chose from the à la carte menu. In keeping with the restaurant’s theme, we ordered a bottle of Vin de Pays de Vaucluse ‘Merlot-Syrah’ Domaine des Tours 1999.
The wine list is quite large and varied, but there are few bottles more than three years old at reasonable prices. This wine had a nice flavor, but was surprisingly tannic.
Linda’s first course was
rabbit & reblochon cheese ravioli, black truffle.
This dish was outstanding. The ravioli were melt-in-your mouth excellent and the (meat) sauce with black truffle shavings topped them off beautifully.
My starter was
blood sausage, potato-comté ravioli, green apple, calvados jus
The dark traditional blood sausage meat had been formed into a rectangle, grilled and topped with crunchy nut shards. The ravioli were filled with a potato-cheese purée; they were topped with julienned green apple sticks and dressed with an apple brandy sauce. The flavor combination was traditional and very good. The textural contrasts worked well also.
Linda went on to
FILET DE VEAU FAÇON ROSSINI
veal tenderloin, foie gras, caramelized onion tartine, black truffle jus.
The three slices of veal tenderloin were tender, had great flavor and Linda rates them as the best veal she has had, which is a great compliment. The spinach under the veal slices was delicious, too. The foie gras on tartine made a good contrast. Bravo.
L’AGNEAU EN DEUX CUISSONS
duo of lamb rack and shoulder, carrot écrasé, apricots, pistachio.
The thick lamb chop was nicely rare and benefited from the crunch of its pistachio crust on the seared side. The cube of braised lamb shoulder meat was rich. The mixed carrot and apricot slices were an unusual, colorful accompaniment that worked well.
Linda’s dessert was
caramelized puff pastry, crème mousseline, confiture de lait, milk glace
A very good, classic, light dessert.
My dessert was
cocoa sable, toasted hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate crémeux, Chantilly
Inside the dark chocolate icing was a crunchy, but light, hazelnut and chocolate meringue filling. Excellent.
There was a little mignardise of a sweet orange gel.
The cuisine was uniformly excellent. Traditional French ingredients were combined in updated classic combinations and forms. Michael White has done his homework and used his savoir faire and imagination well. Bravo.
The service was very good and the pace okay. My only disappointment was the high noise level, surprising for an Upper East Side clientèle in a large, high-ceiling room.