Friday, January 27, 2012

le bernardin - new york, ny
155 west 51st street
new york, ny 10019

for our final meal in new york city, carrie and i walked just two blocks from our hotel to chef eric ripert's world renowned le bernardin. the restaurant was actually originally operated in paris in the 1970's by gilbert and maguy le coze, but moved to new york in 1986. after the untimely death of gilbert le coze in 1994, the restaurant's current chef eric ripert took the helm and never looked back. le bernardin currently holds four stars from the times, three stars from michelin, a place on gayot's top 40 in the united states list, and the 18th spot on the s. pellegrino list of the world's 50 best. while chef ripert can typically be seen at the restaurant on a daily basis, he has become quite the celebrity, having made several television appearances over the years including his own series "avec eric" airing on pbs. the menu at le bernardin has always been comprised predominantly of seafood, and many consider ripert's prowess with fish beyond reproach.

having made a 12pm reservation a month prior via opentable, carrie and i walked through the restaurant's revolving door about ten minutes early. with carrie's coat checked and our reservation's confirmed, we were led through the then empty dining room where we were sat side by side at a banquet giving us a nice view of the recently remodeled restaurant. as this was obviously our first time at the restaurant, i can't comment first hand on the new interior design versus the old, but based on the pictures i've seen, it seems as though it was definitely a change for the better. the theme is definitely aquatic, with the enormous wave on the back wall and window coverings that almost give an underwater impression...gorgeous to be certain.

after just a brief wait, we were greeted by one of the many servers that handled our table, a dark haired man with a thick french accent. while i may be wrong, i did feel a bit of pretension in his demeanor throughout the meal and sort of thought he was wondering what the two of us were doing at le bernardin. considering the excellent treatment we were shown at corton, eleven madison park, and per se days before, this was a bit perturbing, but overall not a major issue.

lunch at le bernardin gives diners three options: an eight course tasting, three course prix fixe with an abundance of options, or a lower priced "city harvest" menu without any options that donates $5 to charity. considering expense of the meals we experienced the last few days, we bypassed the $190 tasting (way expensive for lunch!) and went with the three course prix fixe. narrowing down the options proved to be quite a challenge, but after a few minutes we put in our order along with a pair of cocktails.

speaking of cocktails, my choice was the french connection, made with pimm's, yuzu, 5-spice, and absinthe. spicy and subtlety tart, this was a decent drink but wasn't overly exciting. carrie went for the aperol noir, which was aperol, pinot noir, orange bitters, and lemon champagne.

before our first courses arrived, we were brought le bernardin's signature starter. this was a wonderful salmon creme spread served with pieces of crisp bread. i knew this was coming, and honestly wasn't particularly excited for it, but after one bite it was obvious why this creamy, savory, and completely delicious offering has opened every meal at le bernardin for years.

a nice selection of freshly baked bread along with a smooth salted butter came next. while eating our bread, we noticed chef ripert in the dining room greeting a few guests who seemed like regulars. even though the chef never came by our table, it was nice to see him in the dining room as it certainly shows his dedication to his restaurant.

for my first course, i went with a menu staple. listed on the menu as "tuna", this was layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna with a crispy foie gras bagutte, shaved chives, and extra virgin olive oil. the the salmon spread before it, this item is a mainstay at le bernardin for good reason. the tuna around the edge of the baguette was super tender yet incredibly flavorful, but the centerpiece of this dish was the bites of tuna combined with the crispy bread and decadent foie gras. amazing.

carrie got things rolling with peekytoe crab, which was a play on a crab cake featuring tequila guacamole, potato crisps, and an aji pepper-lime emulsion.

for my main entree, i went for the poached striped bass in a pekin duck broth with wild mushrooms and baby turnips. the perfectly cooked fish fell apart beautifully with minimal effort using just a fork, and the flavor was subtle but amazingly clean. while the duck broth and meaty mushrooms added some oomph to the dish, what really captivated me was the depth and purity of the bass's natural flavor.

carrie's main course was bread crusted red snapper with saffron noodles in a chorizo-smoked paprika sauce. this was also terrific, with the crunch of the lightly bread fish giving way to tender and perfectly prepared flesh while the sauce had a subtle spice that really worked well with both the snapper and the spiral of pasta.

for the desserts, i am disappointed to note that i am unable to recall all the details of these two beautiful creations. pictured first is a black sesame semifreddo with an exploding cherry sphere. the second one i believe had components of mango, pistachio and white chocolate.

following the desserts was a basket of madelines that were decent if not maybe a little dry.

after finishing our coffee and a few of the madelines, we were unfortunately left to sit for a minimum of twenty minutes before our server stopped by our table to ask if we wanted anything else or if he should prepare the check. after stating that a check would be all, it was another ten minutes or so before everything was settled up and we were back on the surprisingly not so cold new york city streets. although this treatment at the end left a bad taste in my mouth initially, i am now able to see past it and look back at our meal overall as a success. everything i had read about eric ripert's cooking i found to be accurate, and i would certainly plan to fit a full tasting at le bernardin into a future nyc vacation.

Le Bernardin on Urbanspoon

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