Tocqueville had been a tricky one to confirm, but I’d been impressed by the menu and was looking forward to a good dinner to round out my trip. I had heard good things about the sea urchin angel hair carbonara, but was also tempted to give the chef free reign and create a tasting menu. I figured “don’t ask, don’t get” so I requested a tasting menu that featured sea urchin pasta! They were very accommodating. In fact the service here is wonderful. Apart from one guy trying to clear my plate too early for one of the dishes, it was not intrusive, and yet managed to be attentive so that I didn’t have to ask for anything at any point. Except the bathroom. They aren’t that good.
The menu I ended up with was excellent. It costs $15 more for the tasting menu, and of course the portions are smaller, but they gave me so many extras I was stuffed. It went something like this:
- An amuse bouche of goats cheese and roasted beets, with some light cheesy bread puffs.
- A tasting-sized array of appetisers, including creamless cauliflower soup with marcona almonds, sourdough and preserved black truffles. This was possibly the best thing on the menu, and the pot was plenty big enough to get a lot of tasting done! The plate also included a squash terrine with balsamic vinegar, and a smoky salmon and roe spoon. They were all beautiful, but nothing beat the soup.
- Local fluke sashimi, with pomelo, young ginger, avocado, hearts of palm and kalamansi vinaigrette. Refreshing and delicious.
- California sea urchin and angel hair carbonara. The star dish really. Apart from the soup! Soft umi, creamy sauce, and perfectly balanced with sea lettuce. I took my time over this one, it was so good.
- Seared scallops and foie gras with wild mushrooms, braised artichokes and cider vinegar gastrique. This is one of the dishes that Tocqueville is famous for, so I was quite pleased to be presented with it on the tasting menu even though I wouldn’t have chosen it on the prix-fixe three course menu. As you’d expect it was perfectly cooked, although I was less impressed with the balance as the lingering taste was vinegar.
- Oven roasted rack of Colorado lamb and braised lamb shank with cannellini beans, broccoli rabe and her gremolata. There was a $12 supplement for this in the 3-course dinner and plenty of wonderful-looking options without a supplement so I probably wouldn’t have chosen this either. It managed to be good without being great, perhaps a little heavy to have so late in the menu. It wasn’t a small plate either!
- Cheese plate with Invierno (Major Farms, Vermont) an aged sheep’s and cow’s milk cheese, and Blue di Bufala (Italian) a water buffalo milk cheese. Complete with honey, pear compote and kumquats. Plus sorbet and champagne.
- Chocolate soufflé and raspberry sorbet. This didn’t seem to be an option on the 3-course menu, so I’m not sure if they made it specially. It was good anyway. The combination is a classic, but after so many savoury courses it fit perfectly. The hot/cold and rich/sharp contrasts were fantastic.
- Sorbet selection. Huckleberry, chocolate, blood orange and pear. I was impressed with the orange and pear, but by this time was so stuffed I couldn’t finish the chocolate and wasn’t a huge fan of the huckleberry. Under different circumstances I can imagine I would have finished all of them though!
So somehow 5 became 9.
At about 11.40pm, when it became obvious that there would be people in the restaurant at midnight, they came round offering champagne. All of the other patrons got the same, but I somehow was given a wonderful rosé. They really did go the extra mile for me. Travelling alone has its advantages.