I think at this point, I can comfortably call Tocqueville my favourite restaurant in New York. Sure, I really look forward to the over-the-top creativity at Momofuku Ko and wd-50, and I love the decadence of Daniel and Per Se, but Tocqueville is both serving up interesting food and dishing out the kind of lavish service that makes you feel like you’re dropping a whole paycheck on the meal, when it’s really just $55 for the food and $30 for the wine pairings.
My boyfriend and I have had Tocqueville’s tasting menu, hunter’s menu, Restaurant Week menu, and lunch prix-fixe, but up until last weekend, we’d never had their pride and joy, the Greenmarket Menu.
Being situated a mere block from the Union Square Greenmarket gives Tocqueville access to the freshest and finest in organic and all-natural ingredients, and while I have to admit that I’m usually a little more interested in crazy techniques that leave ingredients unrecognizable, the quality of everything that went into these dishes was evident.
amuse bouche: salmon-wrapped pickled papaya
A perfect little bite of tender salmon, crunchy acidic fruit, and herbs to add freshness and subtract fishiness. Grassy scallion puree not even necessary but appreciated.
salt-roasted beet salad, wild arugula, sherry walnut vinaigrette, lemon verbena, preserved lemon, yogurt
The predominant flavor in this dish was lemon. Under the beets, to the side of the beets, on top of the beets in little chunks. I was in heaven. “Salt-roasted” might make you think of parched throats and peanuts, but despite being cooked in probably pounds of the white stuff, the beets were perfectly moist, full of their natural flavor, and still with that youthful vegetable tooth. The bite of the arugula and walnuts paired well with the mineral aspects of the wine and also added a nice crunch to the dish.
2010 Moulin de Gassac Rose Languedoc-Rousillon France (B)
chilled spring pea soup, fromage blanc panna cotta, tarragon
This wasn’t actually on the Greenmarket Menu but was a little treat provided by the excellent server we’ve had the past three times at Tocqueville. And let me tell you, it was a genius move, because I would order this thing again and again. And I usually think soup is dumb! The peas made for such a sweet base, and then the tarragon puree on the bottom of the plate balanced that with its herby bite. The texture was like melted ice cream, and I mean that in the best way. The fresh, crunchy peas added a crispiness, and the creamy panna cotta was a texture somewhere in the middle that brought everything together. I know the panna cotta was made from cheese, but it tasted like the sweetest cream to us.
breast and leg of country chicken, succotash of local corn, fava beans, peas, lardon, lemon thyme jus
I feel like I shouldn’t review this at all and should just let you look at the picture. Can you imagine anything more perfect? You have the chicken breast, cut in the famous airline fashion. You have the thigh, battered and crispier than you’ve ever seen it. You have succotash with chunks of thick-cut bacon. And hidden in the back, you have a white foam that tastes like–wait for it–Marshmallow Fluff. This has the potential to be the best dish ever, am I right?
Well, okay, there were a couple of things I’d do differently. The meat of the chicken was perfectly–perfectly–tender and juicy and flavorful in ways chicken isn’t even supposed to be. But the skin should have been crispier. And unfortunately, the salt was basically nonexistent when not mixed with the sauce in the succotash. Next time, I’ll have the guts to ask for some seasoning, because otherwise, this dish was unforgettable.
The peas were so plump, the corn so crisp. And that Marshmallow Fluff foam! The new chef told us it’s actually corn milk with star anise, garlic, and thyme, but that’s pretty clearly a lie, as it was totally MARSHMALLOW FLUFF. And delicious. That may have been the best part for me, but a close runner up was the fried chicken thigh. It was like eating chicken surrounded by a biscuit. The crispiest, most flavorful biscuit. The fact that it had no bone was also a major plus. Overall, this was one of the most soul-satisfying dishes I’ve ever had.
2002 Nebbiolo Limpido ! Cascina Ebreo Piedmont Italy (B)
Cato Farms (Colchester, CT) Vivace cheese, rhubarb compote, honeycomb
I’m never disappointed by the way Tocqueville serves their cheese. This Vivace was stinky, rich, chewy, and spreadable, making it the perfect companion to the sweet rhubarb and honey (with comb!) and perfect for liberally covering the crusty raisin bread.
ricotta mousse, rhubarb compote, strawberry granita
This was just about the prettiest fruit you ever saw; the berries were so perfectly fresh and ripe. The icy strawberry granita was a refreshing contrast to the rich mousse, and even the little buds added a nice crunchy texture. Obviously, and as usual, I wanted more. A lot more.
2006 Gruner Veltliner Eiswein Anton Bauer Wagram Austria (S)
Luckily, my boyfriend is a wimp and was too full to eat any of the petit fours. I felt like whoever made this plate had read my mind (or at least my blog), because a) there were French macarons, and b) the macarons were vanilla and lemon. They couldn’t have been more perfect! Interestingly, the macarons were full not of the usual gel-like filling but with more of a creamy, frosting-like filling. Delightful!
At the end of the meal, when I asked for a copy of the Greenmarket Menu, our wonderful server presented two of them to us, wrapped in pretty gold ribbon. It wasn’t the sort of thing I expected, but I should have known to expect it from Tocqueville. I turned to my boyfriend and asked, “Why do we ever bother going anywhere else?”
1 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003 (map)