New York City Review: Tocqueville (Poorest service in town)

1 East 15th Street

I was brought to Tocqueville by my boyfriend back then for my 24th birthday in October 2009 and I can honestly say that I have never experienced such offensive service in a fine dining restaurant.  I have different expectations for service depending on the type of establishment.  When I go to a dim sum place in Chinatown, it’s forgivable when the servers are rough around the edges, appear to be slightly rude and clear all the plates by piling them ALL on top of each other, because I’m there for the cheap, good food, not for the service.  This is not to say that there are no cheap restaurants with exceptional service because I have definitely been to plenty of places like that.

My point is, I walked into Tocqueville with the expectations I would have for any fine dining restaurant.  The Maitre de was very friendly as she walked us to our table in the elegant but stuffy dining room, but our server/captain (whatever he was) rubbed me the wrong way right from the start.  

Before I go on to explain the series of events that bothered me, I need to lay out the possible reasons for our poor treatment.  The clientele at this restaurant was much older (we in our mid 20s and the majority of people in their 40s, 50s) so it could have been agism.  Another possible ism: racism, because my ex was the only black person in there, and I was the only Asian (but lets be real, it wasn’t a racial discrimination against me…).

We were not even offered the wine list and the wine glasses were taken away.  It infuriated me so I made it a point to order expensive wine.  Our server presented us with the menu with no explanation but I noticed that to the other tables, he properly explained the Green Market and Tasting menus.  When the runner brought us bread, he showed me the “brioche, foccacia, baguette” and some other bread.  He then turned to my ex and simply said “sweet, cheese, plain…” I was so shocked I couldn’t hide my reaction.  I could be overreacting but I couldn’t help but think that we were being treated in this manner because my ex was black.  Other little things that happened: our flatware was not set up when the main course was brought to our table, they cleared my plate as I was still chewing on my food, and they just seemed to be rushing us out…

It’s a shame because the food was actually really good.  With the exception of my appetizer (braised veal tongue with farro- there were clumps of oversalted farro, did not like the celery leaves as garnish, and was expecting a warm salad), I enjoyed my meal.  The sea urchin angel hair was a little rich but delicious.  For our main courses, the scallop with foie gras, and lobster wrapped with pork belly were exceptionally good.  I was impressed with the freshness and quality of the ingredients but in the end the service just ruined the experience for me.

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