New York City’s subway system is very much like the vascular system of the human body. Multicolored subway lines intersect each other branching out in various directions in ways veins and arteries would. If you were to pinpoint the heart of New York City it would be Union Square. In 2009 an estimated 34,245,245 million passengers entered this station. Even though Union Square is a wonderful meeting spot the options for fine dining have been pretty dismal. That’s why Tocqueville’s reopening in 2006 off of 15th st and 5th Ave is a real culinary treat.
To call Tocqueville French American cuisine would be an enormous understatement. Chef Marco Moreira’s creations have crossed the Atlantic Ocean, but they have also climbed the summit of Mt Fuji and seen the ruins of the Roman Coliseum. Using local ingredients mainly from the Union Square farmers market Chef Moreira has created a playful menu that will awake your senses and challenge your taste buds.
Sitting down at our table a server immediately comes and presents us with delightful servings of house made focaccia, sourdough and cornbread. To compliment this we are given an amuse bouche of summer potato croquettes in a black truffle butter sauce and fried beets in the form of spring rolls that are filled with fresh goat cheese. We order the Japanese Yellowtail Crudo and Tartare as an appetizer. The Crudo comes lightly dusted with pepper and spices and is accompanied by a piece of lychee to balance each flavor delicately. Along with the yellowtail the sommelier brings us a bottle ofnarutotai ginjo sake to taste. The sake is well rounded, slightly sweet, with a hint of fresh roses.
Being a huge fan of southern food and breakfast for dinner I am elated to find truffled Parmesan grits with cured veal bacon on the menu. As the dish arrives I see the sunny side up egg floating on top of my creamy grits and I can’t resist the urge to burst its yellow yolk and indulge in this million-calorie wonder. As if this wasn’t enough of a guilty pleasure, I am presented with an appetizer of angel hair pasta carbonara with sea urchin that only a gluttonous roman emperor that invaded Japan could think of. The sea urchin or uni acts as a wonderful substitute for gobs of butter that you would normally find in an Italian carbonara. Certain cultures believe uni to be an afrodisiac, but after eating this the only intention I have is to lay my head down on my pillow and fall asleep. Who would have thought something as miniscule and light as uni could taste so intensely decadent.
Finishing a delicious glass of 2003 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon the server brings us a seared diver scallop that sits on a bed of braised artichokes, chantrelle mushrooms, fuji apples and a cider vinegar reduction. A solid block of nicely seared foie gras is placed on top of the scallop bringing this recipe to a higher culinary plateau. You must order this.
Tocquville’s Pekin duck rendition does not share many similarities to the Peking Duck, a technique used in Chinese cooking. This variety of Duck, raised locally is a favorite of many and frequently mistaken for the “Peking” duck due to the slight spelling difference. This dish comes with a delightful rhubarb reduction. The rare duck breast is quite delicious and cooked to perfection. The highlight is the medallion of duck leg terrine between turnips which looks as if it was trying to jump off the plate and have its own space on the menu.
At the end of our meal deserts arrive with Greenmarket fresh strawberries in a pink champagne jelly with lemon pound cake and marscarpone ice cream. Very exceptional and reminds me of the fresh fruit tarts my grandmother Charlotte would buy from the local patisserie each year for my birthday.
The chocolate tasting menu consists of chocolate cherry ganache, bittersweet chocolate tart, mandarin cake and a bittersweet chocolate torte. It is a feast for any chocolate fiend. Finishing off the night I decompress with a glass of 2006 Kracher Beerenauslese cuvee that has delightful notes of honey and fruit.
1 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003