I usually make a Rosh Hashana holiday dinner for us, Jen and Louis (aka, the P.G.). But this year, we decided to go to a restaurant, which we’ve never done before for this holiday. We went to Tocqueville, one of our favorites.
Before getting into the particulars, a little background….
When Tocqueville opened many years ago, it received rave reviews. A hit for the owners, Chef Marco Moreira and his wife, JoAnne Markovitch, who had been running a very successful catering business. At that time, the restaurant was located in a much smaller space further east on the same block (now occupied by 15 East, the sushi/seafood spot also owned by Marco and JoAnne). Truth be told, we had some problems during that first dinner. But there were enough good things about it for us to give Tocqueville a second chance, were then hooked, and have since dined there many times in both the original and present locations. Usually, it’s just the two of us. However, two years ago, we had lunch there with Jen, Louis, and our dear friend Bonjwing Lee (aka “ulterior epicure”). And this past June, we shared another lunch with our foodie pals “uhockey” and “steakrules85.”
These days, Tocqueville tends to travel under the usual culinary radar, which is a mystery to us since we think it’s such a wonderful place – at least as fine or even better than many of the restaurants that get a lot of buzz. The Modern French/American cuisine is superb, there’s an excellent wine list, service is very welcoming and professional, and the elegant dining room – comfortable and quiet – is one of the most beautiful in the city. Prices are upscale but not excessively expensive, and the 3-course lunch prix-fixe at $29 is a veritable steal for cuisine of such high caliber. So, if you’ve never been to Tocqueville, here’s my message: Go!
Now on to this meal….
We specifically chose Tocqueville for this occasion because there is a special Rosh Hashana menu, something Marco and JoAnn have been doing for several years. We reserved for the evening the holiday began, Sunday, September 16th. When I made the reservation, I asked – just out of curiosity — if this was the only menu being served and was told it was. However, after we were seated, our captain, T.J., told us that they’d decided to offer the regular menu as well and provided us with both. But the holiday menu was our reason for being there and among the four of us, we ended up ordering every dish listed with one exception, the main course beef. I think that’s because I always serve beef as the main course, so we were all looking to have something different.
The first things to arrive at our table were traditional apple slices and honey. Dipping apples in honey is a Rosh Hashana custom signifying the hope for a sweet new year.
Next came a challah. Unlike challahs served at Shabbat meals during the rest of the year, the challah for Rosh Hashana is round to symbolize the circle of life and the circle of a new year. This challah was gorgeous and quite unusual in that it was not only round but also braided. It was fantastic! Without a doubt, THE most delicious challah we have ever had!
Meals at Tocqueville always begin with an amuse, in this case, okra coated with cornmeal and fried. Hearing that it was okra gave me pause, but it turned out to be very tasty.
For the first course, I chose the Chicken Consommé with Truffle Ravioli and Vegetable Mirapoix. I’m not much of a chicken soup fan, but the truffle ravioli got my attention. The broth, poured tableside, was very light with nice chicken-y flavor, the vegetables had a bit of crunch to them, and the ravioli were delicious. There was no question that Michael would also have the consommé as he adores chicken soup. Jen liked the Cheddar Salad with Frisée, Shaved Fennel, Caramelized Pear and Hazelnut Dressing. I tasted a piece of the pear. Nice. Louis had only good things to say about the House Smoked Brook Trout with Confit Potatoes, Radish, Green Beans, Sweet Onion Purée, and Dill Vinaigrette.
Michael, Jen, and I had the same main course: Schmaltz Roasted Chicken with Local Corn, Butternut Squash, Fava Beans, and Green Garlic Jus. The very flavorful chicken was perfectly roasted so that the breast meat was tender and juicy. The corn retained its crunch, the fava beans were correctly cooked, and the puréed butternut squash was creamy. We all agreed that this dish was terrific.
Louis had the Lavender Skewered Arctic Char with Carrot Purée, Gold Nugget Potatoes, Pole Beans, and Pea Tendril Emulsion (the latter poured tableside) and was all smiles as he cleaned his plate.
When it came to dessert, the Apple Almond Galette listed on the on-line menu had been changed to an Apple Tart with a crumb topping but still served with the listed Acacia Honey Ice Cream. This was my choice. In a word: Yum! Jen and Michael chose the Warm Chocolate Soufflé with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, and both said it was excellent. Louis, who is gluten-intolerant, could not have either dessert. However, he adores sorbet, so he was in luck because I can tell you from my own past experiences with the sorbets at Tocqueville that they are always amazing. He had three: fig, blueberry, and chocolate.
There was, as usual, a small tray of mignardises to end what was a perfect meal.
Michael had wine pairings. He left it to the discretion of the sommelier and was very pleased with her choices. I commented to her that I thought it odd for there to be a wine pairing with chicken soup. She replied that, to the contrary, the white Burgundy she was pouring would be a very fine match.
Our captain T.J. and his team provided exemplary service. We also appreciated that Miguel, one of the other captains, stopped by our table to say hello. He has taken care of us many times during lunch service. That evening, he was working upstairs in the private dining room but noticed that we were in the dining room. A very thoughtful and sweet young man.
This was truly a delightful evening. Even more so for me because I didn’t have to shop, cook, serve, or clean up! We’re thinking of make this a new annual tradition. Hmmm… I do believe I could get used to that!
To see all the photos of this Rosh Hashana dinner, click here.