It has been a while since I reviewed a New York restaurant. I did a special fly in to try two new places. I was a little nervous to try Vaucluse at 100 E 63rd Street because Pete Wells slammed it in his review in the New York Times. But, I am a Michael White fan. I appreciate his Michelin star artistry. I think Marea and Ai Fiori are solid restaurant winners, as well as his Osteria Morini. These are all part of the Altamarea Group. This is his first French venture and so I went with a little trepidation. Pete Wells described the restaurant as having earth-toned decor. I thought the large expansive dining room on multi-levels was gorgeous. I always enjoyed going to the previous owners when it was Park Avenue, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, where they changed the decor each season. But they did a complete makeover including the floor, ceiling, lighting, furniture, restrooms etc. The tones are in neutral greys and beiges, and the fabrics are plush. I think it looks very tasteful and is perfect for the fashionable Upper East Side crowd. It is the exception nowadays to see white tablecloths and a quiet refined setting. You can actually hear your dinner companions conversation, instead of loud blaring music. The location is also perfect when shopping in the area.
Now for the food. I have to say it wasn’t exceptional. Pete Wells said they don’t push the envelope. It is more of an upscale Brasserie, so why push the envelope. I just want them to make delicious food. Unfortunately, they need to work on this.
I thought the breads they served were all outstanding. The mussel dish was thinking outside the box, as it was not a typical rubbery mussel in a garlic butter sauce. This one came with feta cheese, red rice in a burgundy sauce with parsley butter. I would just cut down on the salt, otherwise, it was a great dish. The grilled leek appetizer is something I normally wouldn’t order but I was told it was a signature dish so I had to have it. They were grilled leeks topped with toasted almonds in a mustard seed vinaigrette. It was quite good. One dish that I really did not like was the mushroom salad, that was way too acidic and overdressed. It also said it came with black truffles. I was digging around but I couldn’t find even one. I also do not enjoy the pickled mushrooms. The lobster salad was extremely small. The lobster was tender, but again a bit too overdressed, and I am not a huge fan of frisée. It really was underwhelming. We tried three desserts and the lemon tart was not lemony enough, the chocolate mousse cake, although it looked beautiful was also just okay. For me the standout dessert was the Vaucluse tart. It had a great combination of chocolate and hazelnut, with crunch and creaminess. It was garnished with gold leaf and was as tasty as it was attractive.
I hear the signature white burger is also a great dish.
The menu was a mix of traditional and contemporary takes on French cuisine. There were dishes like chilled seafood, pates, beef tartare, foie gras, chicken, duck, pork and lobster dishes. He also has daily specials and things like quiche on his lunch menu. I think I would try a pasta dish next time as this is something that Michael White excels at.
Vaucluse is a solid French restaurant with room for improvement. The presentations were lovely.
The service was spotty and did not match the elegance of the room. They forgot some things, our server was not very friendly.
I will still go back. The place is brand new and still ironing out some kinks. The location is so convenient for locals and tourists alike. So I would say the restaurant was not memorable or phenomenal, but it was more than satisfactory.