It was my first day in New York City and Sean had a surprise in store for lunch.
Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin had not only earned the coveted 3 Michelin stars, but was also ranked 24 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. It even garnered The New York Times’ highest rating of 4 stars, and is the only restaurant to keep it after five reviews.
It was hard not to come in excited with accolades like that under its belt. Thankfully, my buddy was thoughtful enough to make reservations a month in advance. And here we are!
We were greeted warmly and led through a spacious, elegant room. It was well-lit with high wood-panelled ceilings, and furnished with luxurious brown leather seats. There was a gorgeous centrepiece of a frosted white tree with ornaments that looked like pretty icicles, the perfect herald for winter.
Overall: ★★★★1/2 High-quality ingredients, outstanding service.
First off, the service was impeccable. Everything was a well-choreographed dance of dishes being presented with flourish, utensils and plates being swept away so deftly we barely noticed. Water and wine refilled with barely any hesitation. We were made to feel comfortable before an amuse bouche of a smoked salmon tartare was served with some crispy toasted bread.
The salmon had just the right amount of salty and smoky flavours, seasoned just right and when spread on a crispy toast was just delightful.
From its roots in Paris in 1972, Le Bernardin’s philosophy is that the seafood is the star of the plate. Fresh, simple and letting the main ingredient shine.
Which brings me to our first dish of Octopus — slightly-charred with daikon ginger relish and yuzu kosho broth.
As you can see, not much has been done to the octopus. It swims in a clear, refreshing pool of flavour which brings out the slight bitterness of the char and the sweetness of the flesh. The octopus, while flavourful, was a little on the tough side but overall, it was a clean, invigorating start to the meal.
The Seafood Truffle Pasta was definitely one of my favourites. With generous portions of scallop and lobster, the fresh tagliatelle was cooked al dente and had a wonderful bite.
The fragrant black truffle emulsion brought everything together with a smooth, aromatic finish.
And then, there was this beauty — the Lobster.
Lacquered lobster tail, herb spring roll, and lemongrass consommé. Again, the flavours are kept light and to a minimum. And the fresh, firm sweetness of the main ingredient took centre stage.
Probably one of their most popular dishes there has got to be the Snapper. Perfectly-crusted with pickled Persian cucumbers and a unique green curry-goat yogurt emulsion.
The curry was surprisingly light and did not overwhelm the fish. Which really showcases Chef Eric Ripert’s fine touch considering we tend to think of curry as overpowering. Instead, this had an intricate flavour and the snapper came off the fork in tender flakes. Juicy, soft and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
And then, it was time for desserts. We ordered the Banana S’more which showcased carefully-prepared layers of caramelised banana, warm chocolate cake, smoked meringue and Coquito sauce.
The flavours in this were really strong as a stark contrast to the meal we’d had and I actually really preferred our next pick which was the Apple.
This was a warm roasted apple in Armagnac Sabayon and topped with a smooth brown butter ice-cream. The gold flakes lent a touch of luxury to an otherwise simple but well-executed dish. The warm pastry, sweet apple and cold buttery cream took me to sugar heaven and put a huge smile on my face.
If you love your seafood like I do, you can not miss Le Bernardin.
Just for the exquisite quality of the ingredients and the skilful working of flavours to accentuate that unparalleled freshness. Also, this was quite possibly the most impressive service we’d ever encountered in any restaurant. All the servers were polished, attentive and really went the extra mile to make sure you had a memorable time. And this, my friends, is how the decorated Le Bernardin gets all its bling.