• 100 East 63rd Street
• New York, NY 10065
• (646) 869-2300 • 

If being more or less single for well over a year does anything, it cuts dining out way, way down. This is especially the case for the fancy, white-shoe places typically frequented by the older, moneyed set that regularly gets profiled in the Times' Style section or the expense account people for whom the meal is basically free, only actually costing them time that could be spent with people they actually enjoy being with. As I fall into neither category, Emma's unexpected desire to eat out someplace swank was pounced on the way a hyena, having wandering the desert for days, would pounce on a succulent seared fois gras under a light but tart orange demi glace.

Vaucluse is not the most expensive of the chichi Upper East Side luxo-haunts of the wealthy, but that doesn't mean that you'll be doing your wallet any favors by choosing it over, say, a Denny's. There's no tasting menu, a trope that the shmancy spots love; the wine list averages between $100-200 per bottle and doesn't drop below $60, but it has almost nothing that I saw of the ridiculous $1000+ variety which, in real life, only exists so that certain living irritants out there can prove that they're able to multi-task by demonstrating how they can eat a meal while waving their dicks at the same time.

Vaucluse is big. There are two large dining rooms separated by a bar area complete with the kind of soft comfy chairs one would read a paper in while smoking a pipe and sipping a glass of port. Everyone on staff was friendly and smiling; there were no dirty looks when I started snapping pictures. If you don't count the hostess, Emma and I, both in our 30s, were the youngest people here. Maybe because it was a Friday night so the Millennials were debating craft IPAs in the Village and the GenXers were at a Vinegar Hill wine and cheese party. Here in the East 60s, it was us and the Me Generation, eating escargot.

Vaucluce is one of Michael White's restaurants, but unlike Marea and Ai Fiori, does not carry a Michelin star. Indeed, since its opening, the press has rather consistently called it inconsistent; the literary equivalent of pivoting your palm like a see-saw, thumb pinky, thumb pinky. I try not to read too much about a restaurant before I go to one and was unaware of this opinion at the time, but they weren't wrong. Allow me to explain. 

Below you will see the amuse bouche, which was a salmon pastry, and below that you will see the butter than came with our bread. The salmon was thoroughly pleasant and inoffensive and dull and I even forget if it even salmon. After the meal, another amuse bouche arrived, some kind of cube of tangerine gelatin that was also forgettable. Emma took a nibble and gave the rest to me with a somewhat upturned lip. The bread (I chose sourdough) was perfectly fine without being more than fine. But the butter was very cute.

Emma ordered the Tartare de Boeuf, beef tartar. Seasoned raw beef with capers, a little pickle, and some toast on the side. This was a different style that I was used to. Typically, the beef tartars I've ordered are sliced very thin, like wispy sheets of meat. This was more like a raw hamburger patty. I'm not lying when I write that the first thought that crossed my mind was "that thing needs a Weber". It even has the pickle. But humor aside, it was good. Not the best I've ever had, but don't tell that to the guy at the table next to us, who took it upon himself to let us know that he gets this dish all the time and it's the best he's ever had anywhere. Emma, to be fair, also swooned. I got to swoon with my appetizer, the Escargots a la Bourgulgnonne, snails in a veritable stew of red carmargue rice, feta cheese, and garlic parsley butter. It was far from the traditional escargot you might have in your head. The escargots, usually a conduit for garlic butter and pesto, were just one important part of an otherwise incredible whole. Creamy, tangy, and rich, this was unlike any other snail-based dish I've ever had, and was the standout winner of the evening. "Just close your eyes and think of England" I told Emma, holding a fork out. She who was wondering if she would like escargot wondered no more. 

Not wanting an entire entree, Emma was delighted to learn that Vaucluse offers its pasta dishes in appetizer or entree size. So for her entree, she ordered the appetizer version of the Epaulettes, a rabbit and cheese ravioli with a black truffle sauce. Amazing. We loved it. You should get this. I stuck with the rabbit theme and ordered the Lapin a la Moutarde, a roast rabbit leg with barley, bacon, and a dijon mustard sauce. This was all but impossible to eat. The rabbit leg was perfectly cooked. It was so tender and so juicy that it was almost like eating rabbit cream. But the dijon mustard sauce was so heavy, so present, so powerful, that it overwhelmed the entire dish. Here's how I can best describe it: imagine that you're at the supermarket and you see a bottle of Grey Poupon, the kind with the whole seeds. Now imagine eating a big spoonful straight out of the bottle. That's what this was like. But with rabbit and barley. I ate as much as I could, and finished the rabbit by and large, but the vast majority of the rest was left on the plate.

But then came dessert. You can't go to a fancy spot and not get at least one dessert. So we did. We ordered the Tarte au Citron, a lemon cream dessert in a brown sugar crust with a little bit of lemon sorbet on the side, random dollops of cream and meringue, and a candied slice of lemon. Everything about the dessert was fantastic. The candied lemon slice was perfect. The cream itself was neither too tart to too heavy. They crust was delicious. The sorbet was... well it was sorbet. We loved dessert.

So, can I recommend Vaucluse? Kinda. Some things were excellent. Bar none. Some things needed barring. For the price, this means that you could wind up walking away feeling like you just landed on the moon, or feeling like you got swindled. It's a crap shoot, but some people love to gamble. I personally have my doubts that I'd return, at least on my own dime. But if I do, I'm getting the escargot. Actually, I might return just for the escargot. I'll grab a seat in the bar with my pipe and my port and have them arrive in perpetuity.

Our meal consisted of three glasses of wine, two appetizers, one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert. Add tax and tip to that and we came in just shy of $200.

Vaucluse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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