“Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup” or as we say in English, ‘Eat well, laugh often, love abundantly’—and that’s precisely what you’ll do when you visit this delightfully delicious French restaurant on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. In a city where food reigns supreme, having a bad meal is borderline blasphemous but rejoice, Manhattanites, for Vaucluse is a welcome addition to the top-tier of worthy restaurants.
Upon arrival, we were promptly seated at a lovely booth in the corner of the main dining room. Spacious, gorgeous and inviting, the dining room sets the tone before the meal even begins. Our waitress was named Luisa, and I was impressed to learn that she had lived in Vaucluse, France, for over 10 years, making her a legitimate authority on all things French. I ordered the Roland Garros, a large, refreshing and delicious summer drink made with Ketel One vodka, avua cachaca amburana, apricot, and sprinkled with smoked sugar on the top. The apricot flavor is the number one takeaway so if you like a good fruity drink, this is the one for you. After cocktails were ordered, an amuse bouche arrived made of duck liver mousse with sour cherry and hazelnuts and I can honestly say I’ve never tasted anything quite like it in my life. It was at this exact moment that I was bubbling with excitement for what was to come and what followed was just as delicious as this tiny, tasty preview.
Luisa helped us pick out appetizers and we wisely took her advice, going with the grilled Spanish octopus and the steak tartare. Let me preface this by saying my husband HATES octopus so I think he was silently pouting when I ordered it but it arrived to the table, he tasted it, and it became abundantly clear to us both that he hadn’t had octopus prepared correctly. The octopus was tender with a very meaty, charbroiled flavor that had hubby repeatedly exclaiming ‘wow’ and wanting more than his fair share. I was shocked but yes, it truly was that good. The steak tartare didn’t disappoint either with it’s beautiful, clean taste highlighted by accents of horseradish and the buttery toast that accompanied it was perfection.
When we go out, we typically aren’t big eaters, we usually have an app and then split a meal and call it a day so we really gave it our all when Luisa convinced us to have a second course before the entrees. She talked us in to the Squid Ink Pasta, which when split, was actually a really reasonable size portion (I was worried it’d be huge and I’d be full before the entrees). Again, husband was emitting small noises of joy that I really can’t say I’ve ever heard him do before and I thought it was pretty delicious as well, though perhaps a tad bit over-salted. At this point I was in need of another beverage and decided to give the Frankly My Dear a shot, and again, it was a solid choice. Stoli vodka, raspberry shrub and egg white’s in a dainty glass had me feeling like Miss Scarlett O’Hara herself.
Moving on to the main event, we decided on the Noix de Saint-Jacques (sea scallops) and the Selle d’Agneau Grillée (lamb). The sea scallops were served with grilled peaches, bacon, and cauliflower in a sweet and savory sauce. I enjoyed the dish but I felt somehow that the sea scallops and peaches didn’t quite go together 100% but it was still very good and the bacon was big, thick generous pieces much like pork belly–yum! The grilled Colorado lamb was served with braised belly, marinated tomatoes, and summer squash and had a strong but complimentary taste of basil to it which brought out the richness of the meat. Again, another win for the husband.
With full bellies and a strong refusal to end what was certainly one of our better meals we’ve shared together, we made a final push for dessert. While we didn’t end up ordering the cheeses, we were impressed by the selection and presentation that was brought to the table and happily explained to us. We landed on the Millefeuille Caramélisé and the Soufflé Chaud Chocolat. I’m a huge sucker for sweets and both of these delighted me. The Millefeuille was a sight to see and a wonder to taste with it’s crispy, flaky pastry and gold flakes on the plate. I also squealed a little when the Soufflé arrived, the top was punctured table-side and the rich white coffee glace was poured inside. Both desserts were heavenly and the perfect cap on what will be remembered as a legendary meal in New York.
Never have I seen my husband, affectionately known to me as ‘bird man’ for how little he eats, put away as much food as he did at Vaucluse. I found it an incredible meal and experience but having him there to verify it put the proof in the pudding for me that Vaucluse is indeed a legendary French restaurant in the greatest culinary city in the world. I would highly recommend a visit to Vaucluse and can say with certainty that you will not be disappointed. Merci beaucoup, Vaucluse!
For more information, visit VaucluseNYC.com