Amidst the rock'n'roll bars and sausage stands we mustn't forget that the Upper East Side is still a playground of the super rich, for whom dropping $44 per person for a shared duck entree is NBD. That's the clientele chef Michael White appears to be courting for his latest entry into the NYC restaurant scene, a fancy schmancy new spot called Vaucluse where the ceiling casts a golden glow, six oysters cost $21 and there's a private townhouse entrance for VIPs and private affairs. In short, White knows his audience.
It's a stark contrast to White's other recent endeavor, a retro cocktail bar serving spinach dip for $8 in Tribeca (it's currently on hiatus for the summer). The new restaurant, which opens tonight on 63rd Street at Park Avenue (of course), features French brasserie dishes with flourish to match those price tags. A Veal Tenderloin dish with foie gras and black truffle tops out the menu at $44, with a Lobster Fricassee ($41) and Roasted Rack of Lamb ($38) not far behind.
Pastas are definitely the more frugal option here, where golden orbs of salmon roe are tucked into a nest of Papillons (farfalle or bow tie pastas) and bathed in a lemon-creme fraiche for $22. The restaurant's White Label Burger—a nod (or troll?) to Minetta Tavern's Black Label offering—is also "inexpensive" considering its compatriots, ringing up at $24 with its aged beef patty and fontina cheese, tomato jam and shallot confit toppings.
None of this is a knock to White, whose Ai Fiori and Marea are still some of the city's most popular. In fact, the chef seems to do better in the fine dining arena, as his pizzeria concept and casual osteria didn't endear themselves to critics. If anything, it's another opportunity for one of the city's most prolific restaurateurs do to what he does best: serve decadent food to the audience who've been devoted to him from the start.
100 East 63rd Street, 646-869-2300; website