In New York City, four restaurants stand alone. Why you ask? Well, these four restaurants, Per Se, Jean Georges, Daniel and Le Bernardin each have been given the highest rating of three Michelin Stars. Last night, I was fortunate enough to experience one of the restaurants on that list, Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin. My wife’s parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and rather than celebrating alone, we were lucky enough to join them, take part in the celebration and enjoy this spectacular meal.
Before stepping foot inside the restaurant, I had a picture of what it would be like in my head. Being a top restaurant in the city and country, I expected a dark (literally) room, slightly stuffy atmosphere and a wait staff that could be cold. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The interior was bright, the tables topped with candles floating in water, the walls covered with art, the ceiling high and covered in a light wood finish. The staff was warm and friendly and the wait staff was gracious, inviting and made the meal all the more pleasant.
Rather that go into detail about each course, as I have often have in past reviews, I will post some pictures (mediocre blackberry pics) of my favorite courses. For dinner we selected the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu, which was a 7 course meal, giving no choices on each course. The meal included 5 savory courses and two sweet. We also went with the wine pairings for each course, which really gave each dish new life and made them even more intriguing.
The very first picture on this review was the first course, a layer of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna topped with olive oil and chives. Below was a thin piece of toasted bread and foie gras. Among the three fish eaters at the meal, it may have been considered the best dish of the night. Even the Vegetarian tasted and liked the dish. Typically when I go out to eat and I wouldn’t even consider ordering Tuna. Now, after tasting the most delicious, elegant and simple piece of Tuna of my life, I don’t think I can ever order it, being that it will never live up to the standards of Eric Ripert.
Probably one the best courses that followed the tuna was course number three: warm lobster carpaccio; hearts of palm, and an orange vinaigrette. I normally hate hearts of palm, but I can honestly say this changed my mind. The lobster was magnificent and we debated as to whether it was totally raw or slightly cooked. The pairing of a buttery Chardonnay was perfect and made the lobster’s flavor even more pronounced.
The final savory course, which I would put on the top as my favorite, along with the tuna, was crispy black bass; lup cheong and beansprout “Risotto” along side a mini steamed bun and topped with a hoisin-plum jus. This was the only Asian flavored dish of the night and I have a huge soft spot for Asian foods. The bass was expertly cooked with a crispy skin and the bun was so soft and moist that it soaked up the jus for the perfect bite.
Each dish was cooked to absolute perfection. One thing that makes this meal stand above so many others is the seasoning of the proteins on each dish. The use of salt and pepper, and other seasonings for that matter, were used with great restraint. This allowed the fish to stand out on each plate, rather than be muddled and lost on the plate. Do not get me wrong, the other accompaniments, sauces and sides were seasoned perfectly, and had enormous flavor, but the fish was allowed to shine.
This meal was perfect all the way through. Some dishes were greater than others, which I suppose is always the case. The wine pairings were exceptional, giving tastes of wines that I probably would never enjoy ordinarily. The service here was of the best I have ever experienced. The staff flooded the dining area with precision and moved around like clockwork. No detail was overlooked, no water glass sat empty, plates were cleared together as the table was finished, wine poured carefully and everyone had a smile on their face, especially the four of us walking out the door.