Le Bernardin

By grace.g.yang · December 9, 2008
Under: Dinner,Grace's Picks,Midtown West,Prix-fixe

During Thanksgiving, Chris and I discussed having a special holiday dinner since we were both going to be traveling for Christmas (Chris will be in California and I will be in Paris/Prague). We wanted to go somewhere nice but not *too* fancy – a place where we could celebrate the holidays and enjoy good food. We thought of a couple of places, but I was the most excited about going to Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert’s restaurant, so I made reservations for last Friday and we were both really excited. We’ve had Le Bernardin on our wish list for a while and were waiting for a special occasion to make the reservation – what better way to celebrate the holidays than to be pampered at a three star Michelin restaurant, right? Le Bernardin is tucked in between the various banks and offices in midtown west:


We arrived for our 8PM reservation and were greeted by the hosts that led us to our table. I asked if the chef (Eric Ripert) was still cooking, but apparently we had JUST missed him; he cooked in the kitchen earlier in the evening but was cooking for Meals on Wheels that night. Some of you may know that I have a gigantic crush on Chef Ripert, so I was a little disappointed, but it’s good to hear that he was giving back to the community on a Friday night.

Almost immediately after we were seated, someone came over with complimentary champagne:


And an amuse bouche of lobster bisque with a foam on top:


The lobster bisque was so perfectly creamy and light and there was so much lobster in the little cup! It was very hearty and a great way to start the meal.

The menu leaves the diner with many different options – you can order the prix-fixe menu (four courses for $109), Le Bernardin’s tasting menu (seven courses for $135), or the Chef’s tasting menu (eight courses for $185). Since we wanted to get the full experience, we decided that I would get the Chef’s tasting menu and Chris would get Le Bernardin’s tasting menu (although we always switch plates halfway through so we were really getting 15 courses!)

My first tasting was Salmon-Caviar: – thinly Pounded Smoked Salmon Carpaccio; Toasted Brioche and Caviar:


The smoked salmon was very delicious, especially with the different texture of the toasted brioche and the caviar. Chris ended up liking the salmon more than his dish, but it worked out because I liked his more than mine!

Chris’ first course was Fluke – White Soy – Yuzu Marinated Fluke; Seaweed and Spiced “Rice Crispies”:


Doesn’t it look SPECIAL?! There are actual gold flakes! Here’s another picture (because I know you love nothing more than my closeup pictures):


The fluke is brushed with a white soy and topped with seaweed (two different types) as well as spiced rice crispies. This course (as well as many other ones) had a very Asian influence, especially with the brushing of white soy and having two types of seaweed.

My next course was supposed to be Kindai Maguro (First sustainably raised Japanese Blue Fin Tuna in the world), but they ran out of Kindai Maguro (I was SERIOUSLY disappointed, especially because my friend Coco had it at per se and said it was absolutely amazing). Instead, they substituted with another fish (which I cannot remember at the moment) and prepared it with Parmesan Crisps, Sun – Dried Tomatoes and Black Olive Oil:


Even though I was seriously disappointed because I didn’t try the kindai maguro, the fish that they used was prepared really well and the black olive oil was absolutely amazing. The fish was so delicate and smooth.

Chris’ second course was the ultra Rare Scallop – Sake Nage; Lily Bulb and Shiso:


The scallops were probably my favorite dish of the night (although it’s tough to choose a favorite because every single course was so amazing). The problem with scallops, even at nice restaurants, is that a lot of the time, there’s still grit in the scallop, which leaves you with this sandy taste in your mouth (I HATE biting down on sand). The scallop at Le Bernardin was completely cleaned and tasted very delicate – it was barely touched by the flame, making the scallop tender and paired with a broth that was slightly gingery – the perfect combination.

I should also mention that Le Bernardin had absolutely AMAZING bread. Like, I had 5 pieces of the bread and wanted more. The bread at Le Bernardin was similar to the bread at Le Cirque – my favorite was the rosemary and olive baguette:


I ate so much of it I’m surprised I had room for the rest of the meal! Each piece of bread was served perfectly toasted – how do they manage to bring you bread when it’s the perfect temperature EVERY SINGLE TIME?!

My third course was Calamari – Sautéed Calamari filled with Sweet Prawns and Shiitake Mushroom; Calamari Consommé:


Chris’ tasting menu only had seven courses to my eight, so this is the one course that he sat out (although our waiter brought a plate so I could share the calamari with Chris). Chris really dislikes the texture and chewiness of calamari in general, maybe because it’s usually served fried (and a lot of times, you just get the tentacles instead of the rings). Le Bernardin’s preparation of the calamari was interesting – they stuffed the squid with sweet prawns and shiitake mushrooms and didn’t batter and fry them, but instead, delicately sauteed them. They weren’t too chewy and were really meaty because they also had prawns inside. Chris actually liked the dish more than I did, which surprised me since he usually detests calamari.

My fourth course was absolutely amazing – Lobster – Baked Lobster; Asparagus; Sauce Gribiche:


First of all, look at how generous they are with their lobster portions – especially for a TASTING menu! The Sauce Gribiche, which the waiter explained was similar to a hollandaise sauce, was absolutely amazing with the sweet and tender lobster – Chris and I both LOVED this dish.

Chris’ next course was another favorite of ours – Organic Scottish Salmon – Barely Cooked Organic Scottish Salmon; Water Chestnuts and Pea Tendrils; Gingered Baby Bok Choy and Citrus Emulsion:


The majority of the dishes had some sort of sauce that was served tableside, which was a nice touch, and I finally snapped a photograph when our waiter was serving the sauce on the salmon. The waiter noticed that I was taking pictures of every dish and that the vegetables had fallen off the salmon, so he actually came back to our table and rearranged the vegetables so it would photograph better:


Now THAT is great service! Here’s our salmon (that has been expertly arranged):


The salmon was similar to Blue Hill’s (which I still haven’t had the time to write about) – wild salmon is so flavorful that is almost tastes like it’s smoked, not like the stuff you usually buy in grocery stores that’s been dyed and raised in a farm (if you see the label Atlantic salmon, it’s actually farm-raised, not wild). The salmon tasted very Asian-inspired and the citrus emulsion added the perfect amount of acidity to the fish.

My fifth course was another favorite of the night – Escolar – White Tuna Poached in Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Sea Beans and Potato Crisps; Light Red Wine Bearnaise:


The white tuna was SO tender and flavorful – it was almost like eating sashimi. The potato crisps were a fun and whimsical way to add texture to the fish – it almost reminded me of something like Thomas Keller’s oysters and pearls (taste and playfulness of the dish).

Chris’ next dish was the Skate – Skate “au Bambou”; Cellophane Noodle and Wood Ear Mushroom; Spiced Bamboo Broth:


The skate was another Asian-inspired dish. The wood ear mushroom, known to me as mu-er, is an ingredient my mom uses a lot (a really good way to prepare it is with white onions, soy sauce, garlic, and apple cider vinegar). The bamboo broth was very light and paired well with the flaky fish.

My sixth course was the Black Bass – Crispy Black Bass; Braised Celery and Parsnip Custard; Iberico Ham – Green Peppercorn Sauce:


And a picture of the black bass with the braised celery and parsnip custard:


The black bass had a crispy crust and the parsnip custard was slightly sweet and very creamy (the consistency was very similar to mashed potatoes). The black bass was probably the heartiest fish of the night and a nice way to end the evening.

Chris’ last savory dish was the Monkfish – Pan Roasted Monkfish; Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh; Black Garlic and Persian Lemon Sauce:


And a photograph with the Israeli Coucous Tabbouleh:


The monkfish was delicious, especially with the black garlic and lemon sauce. By the end of the monkfish, we were completely stuffed – with so many different types of fish!

Even though we were so stuffed, we still had two courses left (per person) – desserts! I wasn’t expecting too much for desserts, especially for a restaurant that specializes in fish, but I was seriously surprised at the caliber of the desserts. My first dessert course was Fig – Roasted Fig, Goat Cheese Parfait, Hazelnut, Red Wine Caramel, Bacon Ice Cream:


The goat cheese parfait was the most amazing dessert I’ve ever tasted made out of goat cheese. It wasn’t too tart or tangy, but very smooth and custard-like. The bacon ice cream was also tasty, although it was more like vanilla ice cream with bacon bits.

Chris was also impressed with his dessert – Panna Cotta – Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta, Pomegranate Pearl and Sorbet, Lemon Cream, Orange Peel, Mint:


The Greek Yogurt made the panna cotta a little thicker than other panna cotta’s I’ve had, but the texture was very pleasing. The little pearls kind of amazed us – they tasted like jelly pieces of pomegranate and if you planned it, you could get the perfect bite of panna cotta, sorbet, a little bite of orange peel, and a bubble or two of the pomegranate pearls.

My final dessert was absolutely amazing – Chocolate-Olive Oil – Dark Amedei Chocolate Ganache, Toasted Bread, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Maldon Sea Salt:


I’ve only had Amedei chocolate once before – my cousin, who lives in Taiwan, actually requested that we buy it for him. How does a kid that lives in Taiwan know about this specific type of chocolate?! The chocolate ganache was incredibly rich and decadent and the mixture of textures from the toasted bread with the taste from the sea salt was like a big black tie party in my mouth. Not to be outdone, Chris’s last dessert was just as amazing (if not better) – Warm Chocolate – Warm Amedei “Chuao” Chocolate, Malted Rum Milk Chocolate Ice Cream:


The “Chuao” chocolate was a flourless cake (like a souffle) that was absolutely TO DIE FOR. Like, Chris didn’t want to give me his plate after he finished half of it because he wanted it all to himself amazing. I was licking the spoon and the cup afterward trying to get all of the goodness from the chocolate. It was absolutely incredible and a perfect way to end the evening (although I practically had to be ROLLED out of the restaurant).

The night couldn’t end without some petite fours:


Doesn’t the one on the lower right hand corner look like a bowl of miso soup with green onion? It was Chris’ favorite! My favorite was the truffle, which had a hard shell. Here’s a photograph with my desserts:


The evening lasted about four and a half hours, which is quite long for a dinner on a Friday night, but it was an absolutely amazing meal. I’ve never had a meal so centered on seafood and the opportunity to sample so many different types of fish was quite amazing. What’s even more amazing is that the menus didn’t overlap at all; even though we had the Le Bernardin tasting and the chef’s tasting, I didn’t try any fish twice. The staff at Le Bernardin were extremely helpful and nice (especially after my fourth request for more bread) and it couldn’t have been a better holiday meal. My family’s coming to New York near the end of December, and Le Bernardin is on the top of my list of places I’m going to take them. Next time, I hope I can meet the amazing Eric Ripert!

Le Bernardin on Urbanspoon

Reader Comments

Awesome report and amazing pictures! We make a point to return there at least once every year. The funny part of the report is that you mention the bread, but not the butter. I’d have to say about 20% of the reason we return is for the butter! (just kind of kidding…)

BTW, the “someone” that poured your champagne is (if I’m not mistaken) none of than Aldo Sohm, aka “The Best Sommelier in the World”. Not overstating myself either, he won the 2008 world championships this year, that’s his actual current title 🙂

It’s amazing how much talent they recruit and retain into a single restaurant with Ripert, Laiskonis and Sohm.

Written By sickchangeup on December 9th, 2008 @ 11:56 am

Hello Grace, what an amazing dinner! And great pictures as well! I love all the stories you have posted here. oh and if you have time will you drop by at Foodista ? We are building an online food and cooking encyclopedia ala wikipedia and you can also check out our recipes on the site as well 🙂 Cheers!

Written By Foodista on December 13th, 2008 @ 12:41 am

What a fantastic post! So many beautiful dishes; it is fabulous to have fresh seafood so expertly prepared! Thanks for sharing!

Written By thepinkpeppercorn on December 26th, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

I’ve read some excellent stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot attempt you place to create such a fantastic informative website.

Written By Wremen Ferienwohnungen on September 12th, 2012 @ 5:49 am

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