A handsome Upper East Side brasserie
Though it’s named for a region of Provence, Vaucluse is all New York. The 186-seat, Uptown eatery lives up to the blueprint that chef Michael White set to serve impeccably cooked food in a lovely, stylish dining room. The look is modern brasserie, with cream-colored banquettes and gray-wash wood parquet floors.
Entering the well-appointed restaurant, you will no doubt find a packed house of well-dressed Upper East Siders and destination diners partaking in cocktails, wine and multiple courses of Provencal fare. (Thankfully, the accommodating staff will set even the visiting tourist at ease.) And while Vaucluse recently opened in the fall of 2015, it is staged to become a mainstay among the fray of French eateries in Manhattan.
White teamed with chef Jared Gadbaw to create Vaucluse’s menu. Though French cuisine can be too formal and rich for some, the pair’s interpretation is more approachable, yet still refined. As expected, the pastas are standouts. The épaulettes, rabbit-and-reblochon-cheese-filled ravioli that are lightly dusted with black truffle, are a perfect example of the unique, elevated pasta dishes.
The menu has a sampling of quintessential French fare, too — escargots, canard á l'orange (duck) and veal served with foie gras. In addition to the raw bar, there’s also a strong variety of fresh fish, including wild Dover sole and a perfectly cooked, crispy-skinned pan-sautéed trout with brown butter, capers and mini croutons for a hint of crunch.
For meat lovers, there is the reasonably priced White Label Burger served with tomato jam and fontina cheese, and you also have your pick of four sauces to accompany the aged prime center-cut ribeye. (There are also daily specials to indulge.)
Don’t skip dessert. Pastry chef Alina Martell wows with beautifully plated soufflés, a decadent Meyer lemon tart, and a dark chocolate mousse that surprises with a layer of chocolate ice cream and small pops of cocoa meringue.
Award-winning chef Michael White has already proved he can perform in New York’s cut-throat dining scene with his popular Four-Star Central Park South seafood restaurant, Marea. (It also won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2010.) In addition, he heads up Italian powerhouses Four-Star Ai Fiori and Osteria Morini.
The Wisconsin-born White has taken a stab at Italian in different forms — both casual and upscale. He’s even taken his culinary empire across the world to Hong Kong, Istanbul and London. Vaucluse marks his first foray into a different cuisine and he does so confidently.
Here’s something that’s unusual for a posh Upper East Side restaurant: More than half the 300 wine selections are under $100. Wine director Richard Anderson has curated a list that is accessible and heavy with a mix of French wines from all over the European country.
Head bartender Michael Longshore created a cocktail menu steeped in French tradition; a highlight is the creamy and refreshing Poire Fizz, a pear-laden knockout that features Grey Goose Poire vodka, Crème de Violette, vanilla, and egg white for a layer of creaminess.