Normally Fork and Spoon start the reciting of adventures with a little bit of info about the restaurant or owners or chefs, but we need to get something out of the way first…..
EXQUISITE! FANTASTIC! BRAVO! BRAVA!
Everything about this dining experience was sensational. The food was incredible. The service impeccable. The restaurant so beautiful and welcoming.
Open in this location in open in 2006, Tocqueville is the lovely restaurant owned and operated by Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitsky. As we have said before, one of the nicest things about some of the restaurants we have reviewed is seeing the owners there, present, working, making sure everything is perfect.
And at Tocqueville it is just that perfect. When we were there for lunch Jo-Ann Makovitsky was in and out of the dining room, making sure diners were happy, answering questions, setting tables – and making sure already set tables were set to her standards. Watching her walk through the dining room going about her routine you could see immediately that this restaurant is truly loved.
Unlike the rest of this restaurant, the greeting area is quite plain and unassuming. The one sour note, they do not seat you until your entire party has arrived. I can understand this with a table for 6 or 8 or 10, but with a table for 2, how uncomfortable for the person waiting.
But once you step into the bar area and then through the archway into the dining room you are completely taken to another place. The dining room is smallish, but not crowded. The din is quite acceptable. The atmosphere is elegant, but not over done. Nicely lit. You would never know there were as many diners in the restaurant as there are at any given time simply by the sound.
The staff is very attentive. Once we were given our menus someone took our drink order. The iced is bottomless, the first glass very fresh, the second must have come from a different pitcher, not so fresh. Downside of the iced tea – $5 a glass. The special hibiscus tea on the menu was $5 a glass, how can plain old iced tea also be $5 a glass. I sometimes wonder if restaurants know that diners understand exactly how many gallons of iced tea can be made from $5!
But let’s not have the iced tea issue cloud what was an incredible dining adventure!
As we waited for our iced teas, a server came over with a basket of breads. As we looked at the basket, he placed a small dish with a column of fresh, salty butter. The breads smelled delicious! They looked delicious. Spoon and I each took a bread stick infused with rosemary, crusted with salt. It was light and flaky, warm, delicious and just when you thought that was all the flavor there was, there was the subtlest taste of cheese. The brioche? tender, with a nice tooth, and oh, so buttery. Fork must say as an aside, Spoon and I took full advantage of the offer for more rosemary breadsticks! I think we had 3 each. Yes, I know, a little piggy, but they were so delicious!
My, my, my, you would think that would be enough! As we were looking at the menu, munching on bread, sipping tea, along came a plate with delightful gruyere gougeres, warm out of the oven. They were so airy and tender and delicate, and then POW a nice hit of pepper! Lovely way to start a meal.
To start, both Spoon and I had the Union Square Market Tomato Salad and Consomme.
The truly unfair thing about our starter is that as the reader you cannot smell this incredible dish or taste it. The photo does it some justice, but not anywhere near enough! This dish alone warrants another trip to this restaurant. Fork and Spoon have one planned already!
In the center of the dish is a stack of fresh flavorful tomatoes, both red and yellow, peeled to make enjoying this lovely dish easier. Surrounding the tomatoes is a very light consomme sprinkled throughout by tomato seeds, pulp and thyme. Around the edge of the consomme is a ring of vibrant green basil oil. Floating in the consomme are thin slices of radish. Sitting atop the tomato stack is quenelle of olive oil and thyme sorbet. I know, it sounds a little odd, until you taste it. Until you have a bit of this and a bit of that on your spoon. It is a party in your mouth. It is sensational and makes you want to cancel your entree and order another of these! It is absolutely impossible to explain in any sort of detail how absolutely perfect this dish is. I urge you to run in and try it before the menu changes!
Sigh, even writing about it makes me not want o move onto the entrees! But I will as they were just as delicious!
For the entree Spoon had Homemade Gnocchi with Wilted Arugula, Parmesan and and Brown Butter. Spoon and Fork are suckers for anything in brown butter! Although it wasn’t mentioned on the menu, there was also some ricotta and lima beans peeking out from under the gnocchi. Fork has always found that gnocchi can be either very very good, or very very bad. I was very pleasantly surprised to taste that these were very good. Not too heavy or dense as some gnocchi can tend to be. The heat from the gnocchi and brown butter melted the parmesan and arugula so that it all melded into forkfuls of flavors that were so perfect together.
Fork ordered the Seared Flat Iron Steak with Tomato Hyssop Marmalade and Confit Potatoes. Again, a perfect portion size for lunch. Perfectly seared and seasoned. We asked for medium, we were served medium. The steak was over a tomato hyssop marmalade that, again, was oh-please-don’t-end treat. Under a tiny bundle of greens with a light dressing were confit potatoes. Well, three nickle sized slices of potatoes. But aside from having to mention it, you wouldn’t notice it.
Off to dessert!
Spoon ordered a Frozen Strawberry Souffle with Strawberry Compote, Raspberries, bluberries, Vanilla Ice Cream and a honey tuille cookie at the top. I twas almost too lovely to eat. More like a piece of art than dessert. But dive in we did. Very light and refreshing. Again, a perfect combination of texture and taste, a wonderful complement of ingredients.
Just to have something polarly opposite, Fork ordered the Warm Chocolate Torte (sprinkled with Maldon salt), Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, and a delicate cacao nib tuille. This is a small torte, but it packs a wallop of chocolate flavor that a serving size any bigger than this would be too rich to eat. The tuille had an interesting bite to because of the nibs.
Both desserts, as everything else, were the perfect size.
Upstairs at Tocqueville is a lovely private dining room. It comfortably sits up to 14 people. The room overlooks the main dining room, but has a curtain that can be drawn shot for a more private dinner.
The portions here are perfect. The plating is absolutely beautiful. Every dish, every ingredient is well thought out, is paired perfectly with everything else on each dish. It is an escape to visit a restaurant like this, to be treated so well, and to enjoy a meal so thoroughly.
The Lunch Prix Fixe is offered all year round, just the menu and ingredients changing to follow the seasons.
Tocqueville . 1 East 15th Street, NYC, NY . 212.647.1515