Few restaurants in New York have garnered the solid reputation that Le Bernardin has achieved, and even fewer have been able to maintain the consistency of quality that this revered establishment has sustained since its opening in 1986. In fact, Le Bernardin is the only Manhattan restaurant to have maintained its four star rating from the New York Times for such length of time.
To celebrate our recent milestone wedding anniversary, my husband and I visited Le Bernardin in hopes that we too would experience the exceptional food and service praised by critics and food lovers alike. Le Bernardin specializes in seafood that is minimally prepared, accomplishing spectacular and intriguing flavor combinations with some of the highest quality ingredients I've encountered. Le Bernardin's pre-fixe menu includes four courses, of which the three savory courses are are chosen from the categories of: (1) Almost Raw, (2) Barely Touched and (3) Lightly Cooked. The menu sounds intriguing, doesn't it?
As soon as we decided on our entrees an amuse bouche was whisked onto our table. Shrimp ravioli, a whole shrimp steamed in a thin sheet of pasta, crowned with a tomato based foam and garnished with thinly sliced parsley. The entire dish was exceptional, the shrimp was sweet, succulent, and meaty, cooked so well that the shrimp almost leaned toward crisp, and toothsome if you will. It was an excellent introduction to Le Bernardin.
My husband's first course from the 'Almost Raw' menu, was an exquisite thin sheet of yellowfin tuna that had been pounded and elegantly draped over a crispy piece of crostini that had a splendid layer of foie gras spread on it. The pounded tuna was finished with olive oil and sprinkled with thinly sliced chives. The crunch from the bread against the the savory fish flesh highlighted the beautiful delicate and silky texture of this fish, as the flesh quickly disintegrated with the first bite. Additionally, the contrast of the soft sweetness from the foie gras in concert with the green chives, brought out an interesting flavor dimension to the yellowfin tuna, a wonderful richness that, in my view, is may be too delicate to detect if standing alone.
Served with the pounded tuna was crisp, dry, almost effervescent white wine, Jorge Ordonez & Co. 2008 "Botani" Moscatel Secco from Malaga, Spain. The wine had a beautiful floral bouquet, tropical fruit notes, and pleasant light body to complement the tuna.
Also from the 'Almost Raw' menu, I had sea urchin that was sprinkled with seaweed salt, and accompanied by an ambrosial and fragrant citrus broth. It is a tantalizing combination of a savory citrus broth with a touch of sweetness that mingles and emulsifies with the luscious sea urchin roe yielding an experience similar to an airy mousse that disintegrates as soon it hits your tongue. It is not typical for me to request sea urchin, but I did so as a challenge, and I am glad I did because it has converted me to the sea urchin lover's camp. I would order this again, and I'm confident that most people would enjoy sea urchin if only they tasted the one at Le Bernardin.
Our second course, from the 'Barely Touched' menu, my husband had the seared langoustine, lightly stuffed with foie gras, over baby mache and wild mushrooms, drizzled with a white balsamic vinaigrette. The texture of the langoustine was an adroit balance of firm and succulent, and the sweet fresh flavors reflected the quality of ingredients and exceptional preparation. The sauce was at once rich, but harmonized by a beautiful touch of acidity that worked to enhance the sweetness of the foie gras, and unify the different components of the dish. It is without a doubt, one of the best things we've ever eaten.
Served with the langoustine was the Karthaueserhof 2008 "Eitelsbacher Karthaueserhofberg" Riesling Feinherb from the Mosel, Germany. This lightly sweet wine offered notes of apple, tropical fruit, hints of honey and a nice mineral finish.
Also from the 'Barely Touched' menu, was the warm lobster carpaccio with thin slices of heart of palm, drizzled with orange vinaigrette, sprinkled with very thinly sliced chives. This was an interesting play of flavors that showcases lobster at its best. The supple tender crunch of hearts of palm worked beautifully to emphasize the meaty and tender flesh of the lobster, while the warm vinaigrette accentuated the exceptional sweetness of the lobster meat. It's a combination deserves to be called intriguing, creative and ingenious.
For the third course from the lightly cooked menu, my husband had the Japanese kobe beef ($125 supplement to the $110 pre-fix menu). The kobe beef was seared lightly on each side, and was so tender that it came apart with the press of a fork. Potatoes tasted like they may have been cooked in duck fat, which concentrated the wonderful potato flavors. This plate could best be described as sinful, excessive and indulgent, my husband thoroughly enjoyed it.
Served with the kobe beef was the La Croix de Beaucaillou 2004 Saint-Julien from Bordeaux, France, which is an elegant full-bodied cuvee brimming with notes of black cherries and black raspberry. The integrated sweet tannins and fruit flavors of this Bordeaux paired beautifully with the succulent fillets of kobe beef.
Accompanying the kobe beef steak was the truffle herb salad, which included tarragon, a variety of greens, and painfully thinly shaved black truffles to accompany kobe beef.
From the 'Lightly Cooked' menu was baked lobster on a bed of truffled foie gras stuffing, with a sweet brandy red wine sauce. Much like the mastery of cooking technique accomplished on the aforementioned shell fish dishes, the baked lobster was just as tender and sweet. This dish is another example of high quality ingredients cooked simply, and beautifully supported by a luxurious sauce that punctuated the natural sweetness of the lobster.
The cheese plate included a sheep's milk cheese from France, goat cheese from Spain, cow's milk aged with white truffles covered in white truffle oil, Epoisses, a blue cheese that was potent and overpowering, served with a date pate and walnut dessert in the center. ($22)
Accompanying this cheese plate was the La Coume du Roy "Vieux Muscat" Muscat de Rivesaltes from the Roussillon, which is a cloyingly sweet dessert wine exhibiting a pinkish orange amber color, offering flavors of marmalade, other jammy fruits and spice.
For dessert, I had the hazelnut, with gianduja cream, oregon hazelnuts, honey, banana, and brown butter ice cream. Delicious.
Also for dessert was the chocolate peanut, dark chocolate, peanut and caramel tart, meyer lemon puree, peanut powder, praline citrus sorbet. This is one of the most popular items on the dessert menu.
Accompanying the chocolate peanut tart was a sherry from 1927, Bodegas Alvear "Solera 1927" Pedro Ximenez Sherry from Jerez, Spain. This is an extraordinary sherry with over 80 years of age to produce its dark amber color, and viscous body that offered notes of maple syrup, fruit jam and nutty flavor. It is an amazing experience to be able to taste this wine.
And after all of this, a surprise: a third dessert plate of passion fruit mousse cake topped with a citrus ice cream was delivered with a special wish written on the plate. This speaks to the superb ability of the Le Bernardin staff to make each one of the guests feel special by anticipating needs, accommodating requests, and delivering above expectations. A nice surprise and warm touch to end of an epic meal.
Eric Ripert knows flavors, textures, and refuses to compromise on quality. Every dish we had reflected ingredients that were expertly delineated but simultaneously complementing one other harmoniously like an orchestra where each instrument plays a significant role, but also works to help the others shine. Service is excellent, it is clear that the staff works hard to make everyone feel special and comfortable at the restaurant. This is my top recommendation for those seeking an amazing dining experience in New York.
155 W 51st St
The Equitable Building
(between 6th Ave & 7th Ave)
New York, NY 10019
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