Tocqueville has been a quiet gem on East 15th Street for 7 or so years. Recently, they made an executive decision to take a larger space down the street while keeping their old place for something else (that is yet to be built). It is tough changing locations. It doesn't always work. The vibe changes, the flow changes, the tables can't be filled as easily, many factors. Tocqueville has executed their move without a blip - as far as the clientele can tell.
What an elegant restaurant. Very adult. The colors are warm. The service is impeccable. Seating is comfortable and relaxing. When you walk in there is a long bar entrance before you get to the main room. Long draped curtains that block off the entrance to the kitchen set the room. If it wasn't for the amount of tables, you could be at someones house. The bar is truly for the customers that are there early. I'd go and sit at the bar but there is a feeling when you walk in that you are the lucky one to find this gem That only the people there that evening should be using the facilities. No outsiders. Yet, Tocqueville is sophisticated without pretensions.
Read the entire menu. Sometimes when I go to fancy restaurants I have a hard time finding anything on the menu that appeals to me until I see it sitting in front of me on a plate. Not here. A few ingredients and you get it. A delicious assortment that made it hard to choose. Also, an extensive wine list where you can still get a good bottle of wine for $85. Remember, it isn't cheap here but I hate going to an upscale restaurant like this and finding the only think worth drinking starts at $150.
There were 8 of us. I truly only picked at Fred's plate because it was mostly business people although I knew them I didn't feel it was appropriate to lean over with my fork and take a bite. The meal began with a taste from the chef. Small bite of lobster encased in a clear ravioli. An experiment in the new fangled cooking. I only know this because I have been reading a lot about this lately. It wasn't that interesting. Sort of weird texture like jelly. But, I let it pass.
I began with the sardines. I have loved sardines since spending 2 weeks in Portugal and Spain many many years ago. 3 chilled completely boned sardines on a plate with shaved fennel and a tangy olive oil to accompany the dish. Excellent and light. Fred had pasta that had been made with sea urchin and then served with a soy lime sauce. What an incredible idea. Really interesting flavor and rich. That was a bit hit. My dinner partner to my left had the foie gras that he enjoyed thoroughly.
For dinner I had the scallops which were seared and served with seared foie gras on top and small mushrooms and artichokes with a light balsamic sauce. I could taste each ingredient separately yet together created a different taste. Really good. Fred had the cod which was served with sweet small onions and a dressing. As a whole, I find cod really bland. Fred seemed to love his dish. I tried it. Very light and simple. Didn't rock my world. The scallops were much better. The lamb and steak dishes looked beautiful and everyone finished theirs. I'd like to go back and try the meat dishes.
For dessert we ordered a bunch to share. A small plate of ice creams. You can't beat ice cream but the flavors were not that interesting. I couldn't tell if the cream colored ice creams were all vanilla. They each tasted different but I couldn't put my finger on it. Almost too delicate. Delicate is a good way to explain the restaurant. I think they could crank it up just a bit. The food is really good but subtle. There is an opportunity to just ratch it up one notch. Chiffon cake was a bit on the dry side. Cheese plate smelled delicious. The chocolate souffle was out of this world. It was a fight to the bottom.
While we waited for dessert, I enjoyed watching the waiters come out of the kitchen to make sure that each plate was put down on each individual table all at once. As each dish came out I could smell waifs from each dish.
Tocqueville is a great plate to go for something special. Dress up and enjoy. A real gem. I am looking forward to seeing that they do with the old place. There is obvious care to each detail from the room to the plates to the wine list to the service to the menu to everything. That alone is impressive. They care about their patrons. I'll be back.