For our final Restaurant Week meal, my boyfriend and I were torn between:
A) Tocqueville, which had a decent menu but looked especially formal, and
B) City Crab, which we’ve been meaning to go to anyway but which only listed their entree as any of the chef’s daily specials. And that’s scary to a non-seafood-lover.
So we chose Tocqueville in the end and think it may be the best Restaurant Week dinner we’ve had. It’s hidden down 15th Street near Union Square, and although I’m sure it cuts down on their business, the restaurant’s quiet location only adds to the feeling of being special–maybe even elite–that you experience upon entering. The hostess leads you back a short hallway to the dining room, which is the size of your studio apartment but with much higher ceilings and much posher furniture. Soft French music complements your intimate conversation as you recline on a pillow at a plush corner table.
And the service! Our waiter was not only attentive but well-dressed and equipped with a brilliant accent. The manager came to talk to us twice, first to ask us how we found out about the restaurant and to explain the greenmarket menu, which is decided upon daily based on what’s available at the Union Square farmer’s market. The second time he came around, it was to ask us if we’d visited a nearby restaurant; it seemed like a friendly conversation about Portuguese food, but we figured the two restaurants must be related somehow. (Later, we found that the former Tocqueville chef is now there.)
The best part, though, was that we were brought not one but two dishes on the house. The first was a cool watermelon soup with giant lumps of crab, meant to be sipped directly from the tiny bowl as an amuse bouche,
and the second was an array of amazingly flavorful sorbets that arrived when our ordered desserts were taking too long.
From left: dark chocolate, kiwi (the best!), melon, lime-coconut, and pineapple.
Here’s the Restaurant Week menu:
• APPETIZERS •
Creamless Puree of Chilled Asparagus Vichyssoise
Union Square Market Tomato Salad and Consome
Olive oil thyme sorbet
Sautéed chicken liver, pickled onions and pancetta vinaigrette
• ENTREES •
Wilted arugula, parmesan and brown butter
Seared Flat Iron Steak
Tomato hyssop marmalade and confit potatoes
Mediterranean Sea Bass
Carolina sweet corn, summer succotash and huitlacoche flan
• DESSERTS •
White Peach Gazpacho and Peach Sorbet
Warm Chocolate Torte
White chocolate sorbet and maldon sea salt
Frozen Strawberry Souffle
Berried treasures strawberries and star anise rhubarb compote
I don’t like tomatoes, and Kamran warned me that I probably wouldn’t care for chicken livers (WRONG!), so I went with the asparagus vichyssoise, and it was both lovely and refreshing. I’d heard the word vichyssoise before but had no idea what it was, so when the waiter plopped a bowl of asparagus parts down in front of me, I thought that was the deal. But then he poured a super-creamy soup around the parts, and it only got better.
Kamran’s chickweed salad was even better, though, because the salad wasn’t the focus at all. The toasted bread and chicken livers were crunchy and sweet, and even as a tomato-hater, I loved the garnish and vinaigrette.
I was slow to give up the steak, but gnocchi is one of my favorite foods, and I knew I’d regret not ordering it. I know it’s supposed to be light and fluffy, but I have no idea why anyone would want a non-dense dinner. It was the perfect density for me, so do with that what you will. I could take or leave the arugula, but the cheese and the butter sauce were mouth-watering.
Kamran thought his steak was perfectly cooked and loved the tomato hyssop marmalade around it. I thought it was horribly rare, of course, but even I’ll admit to not hating the marmalade.
After the assorted sorbets, we were already so in love with Tocqueville’s desserts that what we actually ordered didn’t much matter, but we happened to enjoy them, too. My torte was the darkest, richest chocolate
and Kamran’s souffle was creamy and light with berries at the peak of their ripeness.
Even if the food had been terrible, the service and atmosphere were so nice that I would go back in a second for another quiet, romantic meal. Their Restaurant Week menu is available until August 28th, and they have a year-round lunch prix fixe, so there’s plenty of opportunity for you to try it out, too.