Tocqueville was always one of those classic places that sounded attractive menu-wise, but seemed so elegant that I never made it a top priority. Though many could look upon this restaurant as a stuffy, highbrow destination, I would tend to disagree. The service was first-rate, for sure, but the classy, home-style decor made us feel like we were welcomed guests at a glamorous 5th Avenue apartment. The driving force behind our visit to the exclusive eatery was the Zagat Presents showcase of Tocqueville's 10th anniversary menu. An email from the renowned rating company provided a sneak-peek at the decadent 4-course menu, which lured us in as if we had not eaten in days. My friends and I were sold on the idea of catching up over some first-rate cuisine.
I arrived at Tocqueville several minutes late for our reservation. I bustled through the front door and walked into what looked like the entrance way to a fancy home. I checked my coat with the gorgeous, statuesque hostess and proceed into the small, relaxed bar area. My friends settled their tab, and we were promptly escorted to a lovely table in the center of the dining room. Sure, we were some of the youngest patrons in the restaurant, but that did not affect our experience at all. While other top restaurants would be inclined to seat us in a cramped corner, there was no ageism at this classic spot.
While my friends enjoyed what was left of their wine, I chimed in by ordering a great glass of German Riesling for an affordable $11 (many other varietals were closer to $15). Despite my snobbery regarding other screw-cap wines, this blend was deliciously tender and sweet.
Our meal started with a generous basket of cheddar biscuits. The miniature buns were packed with a bold cheesy flavor. Luckily, our bread course continued when we were visited by the dough fairy, delivering our choice of baked goodness from his large basket. Our options included cranberry walnut, focaccia, or french rolls. The cranberry walnut mini baguettes were moist and full of sweet berries.
Our first round of menu items was presented as an artsy appetizer sampler plate. It included an Asian soup spoon of tender tuna tartare, a crisp rice cracker topped with a lump crab meat salad, a sliced toast round topped with a hazelnut and chickpea mousse, and lastly a delicious crispy fried potato croquette. The plate of global flavors resulted in the satisfied sigh heard around the dining room.
From then on, we all enjoyed separate menu items, so we were able to sample as much as possible. The second course of Mushroom & Parmesan Risotto was very creamy and packed with large hen of woods mushrooms. The fragrant broth and delicate grains were a hearty, yet artisanal delight.
For a main course, Diver Sea Scallops were seared and served with foie gras, artichokes, fuji apples, and a cider vinegar gastrique. The scallops were properly cooked, though rather tiny. The large slab of foie gras was succulent and perfectly done. It possessed a surprisingly lean and light flavor. In addition, the artichokes and apples remained firm and did not lose their texture from the rich sauce. This fruity apple reduction, however, was too sweet and slightly overcooked, making it rather syrupy.
The other entree option was a 21-Day Aged Sirloin and Pot Roast Of Beef. This hearty meat platter was served with the obligatory Tocqueville potatoes, an autumn mirepoix, and a rich bone marrow butter. The beef was cooked very rare, but was so well-seasoned that I forgot my fear of bloody meat. The tender, lean cut was like nothing I had ever tasted. A massive fried potato croquette tower was topped with a sunny-side up egg that oozed down the sides of the starchy mountain with each forkful.
As if the meal could not get extravagant enough, we were blessed with some decadent pastries. The Passion Fruit Torte was similar to a fruity, caramelized creme brulee custard that was presented in a mini-pie crust. The crispy shell was very hard, making it difficult to slice, but the inside was creamy, gooey, and fruity. An aromatic lemongrass and lime sorbet added a refreshing coolness to the plate. A candy topping of passion fruit jellies also lended an interesting chewy texture.
While the Torte was extraordinary, the Warm Chocolate Cake was more on the boring side. I sadly missed the gooey center that is usually found within molten cakes. The accompanying mint ice cream, however, was more sophisticated and less dairy-heavy than what you buy in the supermarket.
Our meal at Tocqueville was quite memorable. The food was fantastic, and the decor was classic sheik. The upscale, relaxed vibe welcomed me with open arms that I plan to revisit whenever I am in need of a culinary hug.
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