NYC: Le Bernardin (Oct. 2012)
Restaurant: Le Bernardin
Exec Chef: Eric Ripert
Date: October 11, 2012
Dinner (Chef’s Tasting Menu)
1. Le Bernardin is Chef Eric Ripert’s flagship restaurant, and it’s known as the best seafood restaurant in North America (a temple of seafood, yadayadayada).
2. They gave us a free 2012 Zagat Guide to go with the menu at the end, so that was nice. Too bad the 2013 one’s already out :(.
1. They replaced the arctic char dish with a black bass dish.
Left: Black-truffle and lobster salad
Middle: Uni with wasabi
Right: Warm cauliflower soup with parmesan tuile
The uni with wasabi was my favorite. The black-truffle and lobster salad was great, but I felt like the black-truffle flavor was a little weak; then again, that might just be because I LOVE truffles… The warm cauliflower soup was good, but it didn’t effect in me a desire to want more of it. The uni, though, did—it was creamy, soft, and delicious!
Caviar – Tartare
Leaping Waters Farm’s Beef, Langoustine, and Osetra Caviar Tartare
Black Pepper-Vodka, Crème Fraîche, Pomme Gaufrette (“waffle fries”)
This is one of my favorite dishes at Le Bernardin, and I feel like it’s always on the Chef’s Tasting Menu (though I really haven’t gone often, so I’m probably wrong!).The tartare is great, and the textures of the beef, langoustine, and caviar really balance well with the waffle fries. (Those are also some of the best waffle fries I’ve ever tried!)
Warm Lobster “Carpaccio”; Ruby Red Grapefruit and Heart of Palm Verjus Sabayon
Before they added the verjus sabayon:
After they added the verjus sabayon:
The lobster was great! It was soft and juicy, and the Verjus sabayon added a slight sourness to the dish that balanced very well with the lobster. Personally, though, I still like Keller’s butter-poached lobster more!
Charred Octopus “a la plancha”; Green-Olive-and-Black-Garlic Emulsion and Baby Fennel
Sundried-Tomato Sauce Vierge
The octopus was sourced from Spain. The emulsion had green-olive mousseline on the outside and a purée of black garlic and squid ink on the inside.
The octopus was REALLY good; it was tender and full of flavor. However, I thought the sundried-tomato sauce vierge was a little too overpowering, and I also couldn’t really taste the green olive in the emulsion all that much. Overall, though, the octopus was so good that this might be my second-favorite octopus dish ever (My favorite is the one I had at Jungsik.).
Shellfish Medley; Yuzu-Scented Custard, Smoked Bonito Broth
Before they added the bonito broth:
After they added the bonito broth:
This one looked very simple, but it probably took a loooooooooong time to prepare. There were lots of different ingredients and different cooking methods involved. The custard balanced very well with the shellfish, counteracting all the flavors of the different types of seafood.
Crispy Black Bass; Acorn Squash “Ceviche”
Peruvian Chicha Sauce
The server said that they didn’t have any arctic char available and that they decided to replace it with the black bass course. Unfortunately, the shishitos that were supposed to be in the course weren’t up to the restaurant’s standards, so they just decided to serve the bass without the shishitos. I think the restaurant have replaced the shishitos with something…
The bass was very crispy, and that texture definitely made the course more enjoyable. However, it was slightly overcooked. Also, I wonder if they breaded the side of the fish at all to make it crispier…
Sautéed Sole; “Almond-Pistachio-Barberry” Golden Basmati
Brown-Butter Tamarind Vinaigrette
The Dover sole was tender and juicy, and the brown butter worked VERY WELL with the sole. I liked how the top was a bit crispy while the bottom was normal; both pieces were good, but it was just nice to be able to eat both. The basmati rice was solid and paired well with the Dover sole, but… I don’t know why the gold is there. I mean, I know why—people love luxury, and eating gold is really luxurious, right?!?!?!?
But still—WHYYYY? The gold adds no flavor, so you’re wasting… solid gold. My friend Ken worded it somewhat hilariously by saying, “You’re using something that’s worth something and making it into nothing. You’re DESTROYING value here. People have spent centuries trying to figure out how to turn things into gold. This is the complete opposite—we’re turning gold into shit! We’re basically doing reverse alchemy!”
Of course, it could have been fake gold, rendering Ken’s and my point moot for the purposes of this dish. Still, having fake gold seems silly. If there’s no added taste, adding fake gold seems to the point of the “luxury” aspect of eating gold—it should be real!
Lychee Gelée, Rose Emulsion, Raspberry Sherbet, Freeze-Dried Raspberry, Raspberry Cake, and Rose-Petal Chiffonnade
I liked the interaction of all the different textures in this dish. The rose emulsion and raspberry sherbet were really soft and light, the lychee gelée and rose emulsion were still soft yet also a bit harder, and the freeze-dried raspberry pieces and raspberry cake added crispier, hardier textures that were still refreshing. No one ingredient overpowered the other.
Madagascan Chocolate Ganache, Candied Peanuts, Popcorn Ice Cream
This dessert reminded me of a Kit Kat–like dessert I had at Per Se once. The Madagascan chocolate was very strong (in a good way), but the popcorn ice cream helped balance out the chocolate (though it was sweet in its own right). The popcorn pieces were crisp and sweet, though they didn’t ruin the chocolate or ice cream; they just added a new layer of complexity and texture.
1st: Passion-fruit chocolate
2nd: Lemon-poppy jelly
3rd: Hibiscus- and cherry-flavored macaron
4th: Pear financier
Free 2012 Zagat Guide:
They gave us a free Zagat Guide to go with the menu! This was a “Le Bernardin” edition, so that was kind of cool. Too bad the 2013 one’s already out :(.
Some extra thoughts:
There were a few service-related issues that bugged us a little:
1. The two servers for our table didn’t seem to be coordinating very well.
–They would each ask us if we wanted more bread every course (so way too often).
–One friend asked for sparkling water, while the rest of us asked for tap water. When the other server came to give us water, he poured tap water into the glass of the friend asking for sparkling water. It really wasn’t a big deal, but it shouldn’t happen in a restaurant that’s supposed to be one of the best, if not the best, restaurant in NYC.
–Both servers gave us the check, so we ended up getting the check twice. That’s… never happened. Again, it wasn’t a big deal, but it really shouldn’t happen. Perfection should be the goal!
2. I think they were also understaffed; the server would set our food down, help another table by pouring sauce on their seafood courses, and then come back to explain dishes. That felt really disjointed, and it increased the time that we had to wait before we could eat our dishes. We shouldn’t have to wait an extra such-and-such number of seconds before eating the dish… especially for seafood!