Tocqueville’s Tasting Menu – French/American (New) – Union Square
April 21st, 2011 by plumpdumpling

I keep calling Tocqueville my maybe-favourite restaurant in NYC. And then I keep giving it four and a half donuts. But thanks to a purchase on one of those deal-a-day websites, I had my best meal at Tocqueville to date and also one of the best meals I’ve had in NYC period.

The stage was set with a specially-printed menu on thick, shimmery silver paper and an offer by the sommelier to pair the meal for us. First up were warm cheese puffs, or gougéres, that tasted so strongly of cheddar:

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu
cheddar gougéres

They were a little crispy on the outside but bready on the inside. They were certainly more beautiful than the ones we had at Per Se, but my boyfriend liked the liquid center of the Per Se ones more.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu
amuse bouche: sunchoke soup

Our sunchoke soup, a staple on the Tocqueville menu in our experience, was earthy in a way only a root soup can be. We thought we tasted mushroom, as well. And I have no idea how they expect me to believe this stuff is creamless, because it’s so smooth and thick you could caulk a bathtub with it.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu
amuse bouche: shrimp with asparagus

The shrimp and asparagus was a perfect little bite that included freshness from the lettuce puree and crunch from the crouton.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu
yellofin tuna tartare and sashimi, green apple, crystalized English mustard, basil

Everything about this dish screamed, “I am too complex to make sense!”, and yet all of the elements complimented the others so perfectly. The apple puree had just the right amount of spice, and the darker sauce–which tasted like beef jus–gave just a touch of meatiness to an otherwise bright dish.

The roe on the tartare was WILD; it was flavored with what tasted like ginger to me. Now, I’ve come to appreciate roe in recent months because of the brine and texture it adds to a dish, but this roe was legitimately DELICIOUS. It was the first time I’ve eaten roe without consciously reminding myself of the fact that it’s kind of gross in theory.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu

But what I loved most about the dish was this crystalized mustard. It was like roe for people who don’t actually want to eat it, because while it added the crunchy texture, it didn’t fill my mouth with fish babies.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu
truffled creamy parmesan grits, sunny side up country egg, house cured veal bacon

This was the one my boyfriend couldn’t stop talking about for days, and for good reason. TRUFFLES! And lots of them. We’ve never had a more truffley dish, in fact. It wasn’t just those two slivers you see on top but truffle shavings penetrating the entire bowl of grits. The contrast in texture between the nutty truffles, the creamy cheesy grits, and the gummy egg was just perfect. The bacon wasn’t crispy, the way I imagine most people like it, but it actually worked perfectly because it wasn’t at all fatty. It was all so rich and earthy that I couldn’t even finish the whole thing.

Plus, our wine pairing was so perfect that I couldn’t tell where the food ended and where the drink began. I wish I had gotten the sommelier’s name, because not only did he wow us with the taste everything, but he was full of information and seemed to love sharing it.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu
seared diver sea scallops, foie gras, chanterelles, braised artichokes, cider vinegar gastrique

Slightly Asian-inspired, this was the best of scallop and the best of foie gras. The foie took away all of the fishy flavor from the scallop, and the scallop took away all of the bitter flavor from the foie. The rich broth was a wonderful contrast to the crisp vegetables that made a bed for the scallop. I’m really starting to understand why everyone’s into scallops: you get the sear of a steak, the texture of flan, and the slightest taste of ocean.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu
sixty second seared dry aged sirloin, frisee salad, toasted brioche, Squire Farm Aracana egg, mushroom jus

This was definitely one of the most interesting steak preparations I’ve had. Since it was only seared on one side, all of the flavors from blackened to rare were present.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu

That the restaurant cures its own meat is evident in the flavor. It wasn’t the most tender steak I’ve had, but I actually loved the toothiness of it. Obviously, I could’ve gone without the salad (and I did, for the most part), but LET ME TELL YOU WHAT. The egg and brioche on the other side of the plate was THE. BEST.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu

I kept telling my boyfriend, “This is the best thing I ever ate! You know that Food Network show ‘The Best Thing I Ever Ate’? I should be on that show! And I would say that this is the best thing I ever ate!!”

The brioche was just so crunchy on the outside and so buttery and sweet on the inside. And when the egg yolk burst and soaked into the bread–it was breakfast and dessert and everything that’s great in the world.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu
Costa Rican gold pineapple soup, coconut sorbet

This was another Tocqueville dessert that didn’t make me miss chocolate. It was just a nice, refreshing, not-too-sweet treat, and I especially loved the slightly grainy texture of the sorbet. If this hadn’t been a tasting menu, I probably would’ve wanted a heavier dessert, but the lightness of it was welcome after such a filling meal.

Tocqueville NYC Tasting Menu

Finally, we got a plate of petit fours that included a crisped rice one, a pure chocolate one, and one that reminded me of Fruity Pebbles.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

And then, just as we finished, our sommelier whisked us off to the kitchen for a tour. Now, we’ve seen a handful of kitchens at this point, and to be honest, we’ve sort of just smiled through them and then later felt bad about how drunk and awkward we were with the chef.

Thanks to Chef Greg Vernick, though, we had the most non-awkward time. He showed us every square inch of the basement kitchen, from the walk-in cooler with its dry-aging beef to the dry storage with his favourite brand of olive oil to the cheese fridge, which he made us smell. He explained what equipment was available at each station and showed us the starters for their house-made breads and sauces. We got to see souffles right out of the oven and got to talk about his time at Jean-Georges, where we were going for lunch the next day. He was so knowledgeable, passionate, and willing to take time for us that it’s clear why the food has so much soul.

Then, we unexpectedly got a moment with owner Marco Moreira, who had caught me intently scrawling notes and taking photos while my hungry boyfriend tried to take discreet bites when I wasn’t paying attention. Again, he was humble and gracious and talked to us about the Hunter’s Menu we’d had a couple of weeks earlier and what we could expect to see on the upcoming spring menu.

All in all, it was one of the finest experiences we’ve had in all of our culinary ventures.

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

21 Responses  
  • Heesa Phadie writes:
    April 21st, 201111:56 amat

    Oh….my….goodness! Every single mouthwatering word of this review has me drooling. This seems like the best meal you’ve ever had from the beginning to the end. Every single drop and morsel sounds incredible….I don’t even know where to start. I am actually salivating right now. There is not one thing here that I would not want to dig my teeth into. Even though there is a lot of food there, I would be tempted to ask for seconds :P This is why I can not eat at “high-end” restaurants. How many different wines were you served. If you don’t mind me asking…how much was the meal after the deal? When do you plan on going back?

    This is just…just amazing.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      April 22nd, 201111:49 amat

      Oh, I’m so glad how much I enjoyed the meal came through in the writing. It’s so tempting to just be like, “I can’t explain how good this was, so I won’t bother,” but I realize you can’t just take my word for it.

      I think Momofuku Ko is probably the best meal I’ve ever had, just because it was the first absolutely crazy creative, wine-paired, bank-breaking, make-me-actually-like-mushrooms-meal. But in terms of homey, soulful, emotionally-and-physically-satisfying meals, this was tops.

      I think we were given six wines, but they were only half-pours, so we managed to finally not get trashed. Success! The food was ridiculously cheap; I think it was $78 for the two of us. Having been there so many times recently, I think we’ve eaten the whole menu, so we need to wait for some new blood!

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    April 21st, 20113:15 pmat

    You know, I’m not exactly a fruit-soup-and-sorbet fiend, but for some reason, I want to drink that pineapple concoction THROUGH A STRAW.

    Too bad the closet I can get right now is a pineapple milkshake from Sonic. Damn.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      April 22nd, 201111:51 amat

      Oh, man, have I ever mentioned how much I crave Sonic? They show commercials for it in Manhattan every five minutes, but it doesn’t exist here! And then every time I’m in Ohio, I’m too busy eating all of the other things I miss. I’ve seriously only ever eaten the grilled cheese from Sonic, but the fact that they have grilled cheese is so cool.

      Pineapple milkshake, though? DO IT.

  • Serial writes:
    April 21st, 20118:31 pmat

    Is it just the photo angle, or is that asparagus set up like a cross in honor of Jesus?

    Eff. The south is really rubbing off on me, isn’t it?

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      April 22nd, 201111:57 amat

      Wow, it would be so scary to find out that chefs have been paid off by the Christian Coalition to plant propaganda in my dinners. I can see my grandmother having a hand in that, godblessher.

      • Serial writes:
        April 22nd, 201112:15 pmat

        It’s funny, I was recently talking to a guy who blatantly admitted that he used his job as a high school band teacher to build relationships with kids so he could make them into Christians, and I was kind of appalled, but he was just so delighted about how well it worked. And I wanted to say to him, “Just so you know, it’s only you people who do shit like that. The gays? They don’t do that. Stop freaking out about them wanting to be teachers, mkay?”

        Wow. Rant over. Anyway. That food looks good. Still trying not to hate you, because my mom says jealousy is ugly.

        • plumpdumpling writes:
          April 26th, 201111:55 amat

          I don’t know which is worse: that, or the fact that my high school government teacher convinced us all to vote for Bush. It took me a few years after that to figure out I wasn’t actually a Republican.

          Such a good point about the gays, though.

  • han writes:
    April 22nd, 20117:50 amat

    i am going to stare extra hard at that that egg on crunchybutterybrioche so i can dream about it tonight – gorgeous!

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      April 22nd, 201111:58 amat

      Is that supposed to work? I swear I’ve tried it, too! I also once tried to will myself to stop having these weird dreams involving Bradley Cooper, but of course that meant I kept thinking about him and ruined the whole thing.

  • nat @book, line, and sinker writes:
    April 22nd, 20117:06 pmat

    i’m so EXCITED! i would have actually eaten the first TWO things on this menu without hesitation! :) still dying to go to the dessert place…sorry i went away last week without notice. i still have a few days off this week. maybe thursday night? xo

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      April 26th, 201111:19 amat

      No steak, egg, and brioche for you? Come on!

      Is Thursday night THIS Thursday night? If so, that’s fiiiine with me. Otherwise, you know, basically any time is good for me except Saturday nights, usually.

  • Jessica R. writes:
    April 22nd, 20117:33 pmat

    They let you tour the kitchen? Now that’s an awesome restaurant! Also, OMG yum!

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      April 26th, 201111:50 amat

      Yeah, and I actually feel kind of bad about it, because the sommelier was joking about going down to clean the place up for us, and then after the tour, he asked if I’d taken any pictures, and I realized he’d wanted me to! Oops. Failure. Never invited back again.

  • diana writes:
    April 26th, 201112:03 amat

    that beautiful beautiful egg. wow. just WOW.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      April 26th, 201111:51 amat

      And that’s not even a good picture of it! And I barely even care about eggs! But boy, was that delicious.

  • Jimmy writes:
    April 26th, 201110:33 amat

    I thought Ohio was part of the United States, didn’t realize they taughth British spelling there.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      April 26th, 201111:53 amat

      You thought WRONG! No, I have no idea why I thought spelling things Britishly would be cute, but I picked it up sometime in junior high or high school, and it still slips out accidentally from time to time and doesn’t look wrong to me since I’ve been doing it for so long. You’d think all those red marks on my English papers in high school would’ve corrected it out of me, but no.

  •» Blog Archive » Asiate Tasting Menu- American (New)/Japanese – Columbus Circle writes:
    July 11th, 201110:33 amat

    […] to the gougéres we’ve had at Per Se and Tocqueville, these were sadly lacking. While I appreciated the spiciness that followed much later than the nori […]

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    April 6th, 20125:51 pmat

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  • A Day in the Life — Unapologetically Mundane writes:
    March 25th, 201312:16 pmat

    […] Saturday night, Kam and I went for a tasting menu at Tocqueville in Union Square, which is one of our favourite restaurants, one of the best restaurants in NYC, and […]

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