The beet and goat cheese appetizer has become something of a new standard. And for good reason: it's a great combination of sweet and tart. This week Gothamist experienced one of the best new variations on this classic theme at Tocqueville, the elegant French-American restaurant off Union Square. This dish, called cannelloni on the menu, inspires wonder when it arrives. By some miracle of modern culinary engineering that probably involves a thousand-dollar gadget or two, slices of beets have been dried and pressed into crisp, tight little tubes. Then, extra-creamy Montrachet goat cheese is piped inside. The curious will conjecture on the playful construction, while the wise will gobble up the cannelloni before the beet cylinders turn soggy. At last, here are pre-dinner cigarettes that aren’t bad for you.

2006_3_GothamCroqutts.jpgAlso recommended from the bar menu are the croquettes, little balls of potato and celery root, crisp on the outside and pillowy soft within. They're served with a light mayonnaise flecked with black truffle. From the main menu, we sampled another standout first course--the California sea urchin and angel hair carbonara with soy, lime, and sea lettuce (aka seaweed). This strange combination works surprisingly well. The pasta is suffused with a great briny taste that’s nicely cut by the creaminess of the sauce.

Tocqueville recently moved to new quarters just down the block from its former location. Here the bar room is a cozy little space separate from the main dining room. Behind a beautiful pink marble bar, a real craftsman reigns, gracefully putting together intriguing cocktails. Gothamist particularly enjoyed the Ginger Mash, featuring Maker's Mark with mashed apricot and ginger.

1 East 15th Street
Tel: 212-647-1515