Classic Tables: Tocqueville

Where the civilized diner dines

The rumors of civilized dining's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

For on the western slopes of Union Square sits Tocqueville, one of those understated restaurants you always hear about but often forget to visit.

To continue doing so would be foolish.

A recent meal kindled our admiration for this nearly 13-year-old institution, the handiwork of its owners, Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky.

Tocqueville's dining room is stately, with starchy white tablecloths and a grand chandelier. Moreira's food harnesses a variety of global influences, yet rather than murmuring of muddled cooking, his style has always been prescient.

So that bastion of late 20th-century fine-dining, angel hair pasta ($21) is gilded with uni, soy sauce, butter, lime and seaweed. It is a startling dish, equally familiar and surprising. Likewise, seasonal soups are a restaurant fixture, so often a concession. During our meal, though, a cold turnip and fennel soup ($16) was garnished with candied walnuts and dill. Autumn's first inklings.

For mains, there was a bright, substantive plate of wild striped bass ($34) with braised artichokes and musky saffron purée, and a thoughtful pairing of scallops and foie gras ($39), both pan-seared to a crisp, their complementary union tempered by the jab of aged apple cider vinegar.

Enlightened dining, you never left us.

Tocqueville, 1 E. 15th St. (at Fifth Ave.); 212-647-1515 or tocquevillerestaurant.com