The Big Apple on a Budget: Tocqueville, a New York Restaurant Review
by Leonor White
I discovered Tocqueville last New Year’s Eve, and it’s been my go-to place ever since when special people come to town. My latest visit to this understated yet elegant Union Square New American-French restaurant with a French flare and amiable, well-trained servers brought rave “reviews” from the entire table.
Seven days a week, the restaurant offers an excellent value prix fixe menu ($29). The menu consists of three courses — appetizer, main course and dessert — as well as an amuse-bouche and interesting housemade bread à go-go. In the evening, Tocqueville offers a pre-theatre menu at $44, as well as a full à la carte menu. We went for Saturday lunch, when the restaurant was unusually uncrowded, so we sat on the ground floor from where we could enjoy a view of the restaurant’s refined décor. The dining room was pleasantly quiet with tables set widely apart and well-designed acoustics, allowing us to concentrate on the marvelous food and have good conversation too.
As mentioned, the prix fixe offers three courses, with two choices per course. From the appetizers, everyone tried both offerings, the “creamless sunchoke soup” and the “salad with mushroom terrine”; both dishes were flawless, the flavors bold but balanced. Prior to our appetizer arriving, we were served an excellent “roasted asparagus and beets” amuse-bouche, a great start to our culinary adventure. Throughout the lunch we were also able to enjoy an assortment of homemade bread, namely, brioche, focaccia filled with olive chunks, and crusty, white sourdough with homemade butter (you heard me right, homemade).
For the main course we all opted to for the “pan roasted hake” served with Brussels sprouts and other baby root vegetables, although the other main course option did sound quite flavorsome though not quite as original: “housemade gnocchi” with rainbow Swiss chard, toasted garlic, roasted mushrooms and Parmigiano. We all chose the hake because it’s not common to find extra-fresh, perfectly-cooked hake in NYC, and we were pretty sure that Tocqueville would not disappoint us in this regard. Sure enough, the hake, grilled primarily on one side and cooked to perfection, conserved all its moistness and flavor, while the root vegetables provided a perfect, faintly bitter compliment to the slight sweetness of the fish.
For dessert, we tried both the “bittersweet chocolate bon bon” served with espresso ice cream and the trio of homemade sorbets, of which the dark chocolate was the most worthy of note. In addition, the chef graciously offered us a complimentary dessert of warm rhubarb pie with yoghurt and cheese ice cream.
The wine did not fall short of our expectations either, as the sommelier, Roger Dagorn, who besides being a master sommelier — one of the best in the world — is also a Sake Samurai for Tocqueville’s sister sushi restaurant, 15 East, just down the block, recommended a reasonably priced, dry German Riesling ($50), and we were lucky enough to catch the last bottle they had in stock. The wine was both earthy and fruity and matched up perfectly with all our courses.
Information1 E 15th Street (between S: Union Sq. and 5th Ave)
Manhattan, NY 10003
Neighborhood: Union Square, Flatiron
Nearest Transit Station:
14st-Union Square (N, Q, R, L, 4, 5, and 6)
Hours:Mon-Sat 12 pm – 2:30 pm
Mon-Sat 5 pm – 10:30 pm
Sun 5 pm – 9 pm