I have been to Le Bernardin on saturday evening for the late serving (10 pm).
Well, all in all, I was far from being impressed, be it the food, the service
or the setting.
The first shock was how packed the place is. You could not squeeze any
additional table. Our table (we were 3 people) was surrounded by 3 other
tables that were so close, we had the impression of dining with the other
guests at our table. Most annoying.
Of course, the place being packed, it was also incredibly LOUD. I could barely
hear the waiter... !! And there were so many waiters RUNNING around.
Constantly hitting my wife's chair. It gave us a feeling of "train station
restaurant". I thought that was a real joke.
Anyway, I was given the wine list (well before the menus) and then I was
asked by the waiter to choose the wine ... without having seen the menu !!!!
When I told him I'd decide what to drink once I know what I'd be eating,
he told me that "we serve fish here, you could choose any white wine".
I could not believe what I had heard
At that point, I should have just left the place. Immediately.
Though, I wanted to eat there for a while and was in NY just for 2 days
so we decided to stay and get the food that I remembered to be fantastic.
The waiter was simply horrible. When given the menu, I did not even have
time to read it that he was already waiting to take the order.
Stop pressuring me !!! I'm here to relax, have good food and good wine.
And take my time to eat. Or I would have gone to McDonalds !
Alright, then came the food.
I first had "Geoduck, thinly sliced marinated in lime-wasabi".
This was good, well balanced flavors, just a touch of coriander. A very refreshing
dish. It was good but I was not blown away. I tought it was good without
being brilliant. Of course, the problem being that everything around us
causing stress, we were not in the best mood for appreciating the food.
Then I had "Bouillabaisse". Well, not something I will remember.
It was .. just a bouillabaisse. Shrimps were overcooked, the aioli crab cake
was just alright and the lobster saffron broth was just .. well... good.
I had better bouillabaisse in quite a number of cheap eateries in south of France.
Then we had "Steamed Maine Lobster with Corn and Chanterelle Stuffed Cabbage, Bacon Butter Sauce"
This was brilliant. Really good. Lobster cooked to absolute perfection, the sauce
was divine. And the Corn and chanterelle stuffed cabbage just nicely complemented
the dish. We all really enjoyed this dish. I tought "at last !!!" I understand why
it is expensive to dine here.
The desserts were fabulous.
"Warm Chocolate Tart with Melting Whipped Cream and Dark Chocolate Sauce"
was exactly as I remembered it when I first ate it about 3 years ago. Grand !!
Perfect temperature so the chocolate was just melting, the taste was incredible.
Just the perfect sweetness, the crust was great and .. well .. it was just great.
The sommelier offered us "Yuzu Lemon Tart and Ginger Parfait topped with a Thin Caramel Tuile".
That was truly nice from him and this dessert was amazing.
The lemon tart was of perfect consistency, the lemon flavour not too
acidic, the thin caramel tuile was great. Beautifully presented. A masterpiece.
In between, people had started leaving the place so it was much quieter
and much more enjoyable. The sommelier spent quite some time talking
about .... wine of course
with us and I really enjoyed the quick chats.
Eventually, we almost left with a positive feeling but the whole experience
was spoiled from what happened in the first part of our dinner.
The impression of "hurry up, we need to serve more people to make more
money", "choose a white wine, we serve fish here" ... completely unacceptable
in a place like that.
I do not intend to return there at my next stop in NY because I've left
far too much money for what I got. There is surely other places were diners are
treated better (food, service and setting). Alain Ducasse, for instance ?!
Of course, it might just have been a night off. But at that price, there is no excuse...