One of the most iconic fine dining restaurants in Manhattan is no other than Le Bernardin.
I’ve admired chef Éric Ripert and even had a celebrity chef crush on him for years (the French accent doesn’t hurt). I loved watching his cooking and food shows, Avec Eric and On the Table, for his culinary travels, elegant but approachable recipes, and his calm demeanor. Chef Éric has been the executive chef at Le Bernardin since 1994 and the restaurant has held three Michelin stars since 2006, an impressive feat. It’s earned numerous accolades including placing #36 on San Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019; has maintained a four-star review from The New York Times for more than three decades; and has received more James Beard Awards than any other NYC restaurant (outstanding restaurant, outstanding chef, outstanding wine service, best restaurant design, and outstanding restaurateur).
The philosophy at Le Bernardin is simple. The fish is the star of the plate. They offer several menus: chef’s tasting, le bernardin tasting, vegetarian tasting, and à la carte at various price points. We actually couldn’t get a reservation in the dining room but they offer all the same menu choices in the lounge where it’s walk-in only. We had no issues walking in around 5:30pm and getting a table (it did get busy within an hour or so). We were torn between the chef’s tasting and the le bernardin tasting as both sounded great but decided to opt for the grand chef’s tasting menu.
The serving vessel for the amuse bouche was definitely old school, not necessarily to my liking, but the various bites were really tasty.
The bread selection service is almost a dying trend. Nowadays, fine dining restaurants will have a bread course part of their tasting menu but not with all these tantalizing options. Of course, we got one of each and they asked us several times throughout the meal if we would like more (we certainly did).
Finely minced hamachi tartare was topped with Osetra caviar with a light dashi gelée encompassing it. Elegant and decadent.
The seared sweet langoustine was over small croutons flavored with foie gras. The balsamic vinaigrette was a little strong as I couldn’t taste the delicate truffle flavor.
Sea trout, barely cooked, had hints of smoke that paired nicely with the vibrant umami citrus miso sauce. Sharpness from the red onion and pops from the trout roe made for a solid dish.
Supple black bass was gently steamed and accompanied by tender pieces of shrimp, calamari, and scallops, in a light summery tomato broth.
Simply sautéed sole had a beautiful golden crust and was garnished with peas, fava beans, and crunchy almonds. The soy lime emulsion only complemented the delicate flavors of the fish.
Without a doubt, this was my least favorite dish of the night. The red wine rosemary sauce was entirely overpowering and masked the subtle flavors of the lobster and other components of the dish. Throughout the meal, all aspects of the dishes were there to enhance the seafood whereas, in this dish, the lobster was forgettable. The main course for the le bernardin tasting looked great (the people next to us got the other tasting menu) which was a take on surf and turf with walu and wagyu.
A fantastic refreshing palate cleanser. Persian cucumber and lime granité with juicy pieces of kiwi and silky smooth tart yogurt sorbet made for a heavenly combination.
Crunchy and airy hibiscus meringue was filled with silky sweet corn pudding. The bright crimson hibiscus sauce added tartness and the charred milk ice cream rounded out the entire dessert. The only thing I wasn’t keen on were the pieces of baby corn as they had a slightly strange taste.
Our server got the vibe that both of us worked in the industry and presented us with this “off the menu” dessert with creamy rich chocolate flavored pot de crème with a dollop of maple syrup and topped with an airy caramel foam. He had said if he knew earlier he could have “hooked us up” more but we were more than happy with the complimentary dessert.
While Le Bernardin doesn’t serve the most innovative or exciting dishes, they have remained consistent throughout the years with high quality cooking, ingredients, and service. They have remained true to their ideology that the seafood should shine and that it did so my rating is a 8/10.