Tocqueville – French/American (New) – Union Square
February 23rd, 2011 by plumpdumpling

My boyfriend and I ended up at Tocqueville for the first time almost by accident, but serendipitously, it turned out to be one of our most memorable dining experiences, and we were excited to return for their three-course, $39 lunch prix-fixe with wine pairings. I clearly wasn’t as excited about actually blogging the experience, since I’m just now getting around to it after five months, but that doesn’t reflect at all how I felt about the meal.

I think Tocqueville is one of (if not the) most overlooked and underappreciated restaurants in NYC, yet I have a hard time recommending it because of its atmosphere. It’s not for everyone. It’s not for first dates, guys with permanently-implanted Bluetooth headsets, party girls from the Meatpacking District, nor basically anyone who talks louder than the ticking of a watch. Some diners have called it stuffy, but I think of it as serene. It’s a very beautiful space with ultra-high ceilings, towering draperies, muted colors, and plush seating, but it’s very, very quiet. It’s wonderful for romantic dates, though, and the food is perfection.

Tocqueville NYC
amuse bouche

Tocqueville NYC
creamless sunchoke soup? maybe?

Tocqueville NYC
skate wing brandade

Tocqueville NYC
roasted monkfish

Tocqueville NYC
confit of lamb ravioli, flageolet beans, toasted crumbs

This dish is the only reason I’m posting this sad excuse for a review at all. Five months later, I probably talk about this dish once a week, and I definitely think of it almost daily. It’s almost ugly as far as fine dining presentation goes, right? You can’t even see the ravioli, and there’s just this big pile of cheese covering everything.

But underneath all that was one big pasta pocket with the most tender, non-gamey meat. The rich sauce was dotted with these crunchy breadcrumbs, and the texture combination is what I can’t get out of my head. It was so easily one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten that I’m actually saddened by the fact that it’s off the menu now, never to be tasted again.

Tocqueville NYC
pistachio soup

Tocqueville NYC
chocolate and peanut butter ganache, concord grape sorbet

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

Tocqueville NYC
photo via Tocqueville

I’ll never understand why Tocqueville doesn’t get the praise it deserves. The outstanding food, the opulent decor, and the personal service from staff that actually seems to care that you’re there make it one of the best restaurants in NYC. Their $24 lunch prix fixe has to be the biggest steal this side of the $15 Soba Totto lunch combo that feeds four, and the half-pours of their wine pairings mean you can enjoy a little afternoon refreshment without stumbling home and forgetting how you got there, a la lunch at Momofuku Ko. Tocqueville will continue to be my go-to special date spot, much-deserved Michelin star or no.

1 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003 (map)

9 Responses  
  • Heesa Phadie writes:
    February 23rd, 20111:31 pmat

    I scrolled down to look at dessert and couldn’t concentrate after seeing the chocolate and peanut butter ganache with the concord grape sorbet.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      February 23rd, 20112:27 pmat

      Um, YES. When I saw that was one of the options on the prix fixe menu, it was all over for me. There should be a soufflé and a peanut butter and jelly dessert on every menu.

  • Cristy writes:
    February 23rd, 20114:13 pmat

    I can see it would have to be the right occasion to go there. From a foodie perspective, that lamb dish may look messy, but I actually think it looks yum. :)

    I love the dessert combo – you’re right, pb&j desserts should be offered everywhere. :)

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      February 25th, 20112:31 pmat

      I guess I’ve gotten used to fancy plating, but really, a big plateful of meaty, saucy pasta is the best thing ever.

      I like when restaurants know we all secretly want to eat like 5-year-olds and just find ways to make our favourite childhood eats into gourmet dishes.

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    February 24th, 20111:25 pmat

    I can’t stop staring at the first photo. What are the little ball thingies?!

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      February 25th, 20112:26 pmat

      We would like to know! I have some memory of them being tomato-related, because I think it was kind of funny that they made a dish out of three things I used to hate: cucumbers, fungus (the truffle sliver in the bottom), and tomatoes. Well, I still do hate tomatoes, but sometimes they work, like in this case.

      If I’m wrong, I hope no one from Tocqueville ever stops by here and finds out I’m totally butchering the ingredients.

  • Cakewhiz writes:
    March 4th, 201112:59 amat

    Omg! Everything looks so good! I especilly like that pistachio soup. How unique!

  • nat @book, line, and sinker writes:
    March 4th, 201112:49 pmat

    is there such a thing as a dessert tasting restaurant? i’d be really into that and would GLADLY accompany you and blog about it, too.

    if not, maybe we can go out to eat and write a joint review about how i pushed everything around my plate or made you eat it. it would be fun! think of the opportunities! seriously, a neophobe and YOU at a swanky restaurant. hilarity ensues.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      March 4th, 20111:56 pmat

      Oh, Nat, there is! There’s a 5-course one at wd~50 that is MIND-BLOWING, and there’s also one at Chikalicious that I’ve never had myself but is highly recommended. Let’s do it! Like, literally, I’m available all the time (especially if you don’t mind Kamran tagging along), so just call me at a moment’s notice if you feel like coming to the city. It looks like I have your number in my phone, but let me know if you need mine.

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