I remember when I first moved to NYC some years ago all the "upscale" restaurants were French. In fact the first really nice restaurant I ever went to was Le Cirque when it was still in the New York Palace Hotel. It was like a whole new world that I felt I was intruding upon. The experience was enlightening, both food and service. Since then I have slowly seen the decline of the "upscale" French restaurants with more and more "approachable" restaurants becoming the norm. I think it's great that there are these restaurants but sometimes you want to go to a special, upscale restaurant.
The recently opened Vaucluse is a very nice mix of of both to me. The service and the food were definitely of the "upscale" camp and yet everything felt approachable as soon as I walked in the door. Located in the former Park Avenue Cafe space, Vaucluse is Chef Michael White's first French restaurant in NYC. Chef White has made a name for himself at Italian mainstays like Marea, Ai Fiori, Ristorante Morini and the former Costata. The space has two beautiful dining rooms and one bar area. The bar area is great if you do not want to do a blow out meal, there is even a "White Label" burger on the menu. The dining rooms have clean lines and are well lit, but really, let's get to the food.
Two large stalks of tender white asparagus came with bits of smoked salmon in an inspiring dish. The ravioli with two pockets one for the rabbit and one for the reblochon cheese were like perfect pillows of ambrosial decadance. But the Pièce De Résistance has to be the Canard á l'Orange, roasted duck for two. They do a special aging on site and it is served with charred supremes of orange. The meat is so tender and is covered with a perfect layer of flavor (fat) and topped with a perfectly crisped skin. This might be a perfect dish both flavor and texture-wise. Enjoyed with a Pinot from Oregon I was in heaven.