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Le Bernardin


rockefeller666
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I'm coming down to NYC in March, and I'm trying to decide what my first 4-star dining experience should be.  Since I'm living on the somewhat meager budget of a graduate student, I think ADNY and Per Se fall outside of my price range, so it's between Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, and Daniel.  I'm also an aspiring seafood chef, so part of me feels like I ought to try Le Bernardin, but from what I've read on the forums, there seems to be a general consensus that this would be the least fulifilling of the three in terms of overall experience.  I would feel especially bad if I went to Le Bernardin and this was the case, since I'm bringing friends that want to try 4-star dining, but aren't necessarily so partial to seafood.  Any suggestions for me?

Well, I wasn't impressed at all when I went to Le Bernardin, although the fodd was good (years ago; it may have changed). Creativity I couldn't find, which doesn't imply that it was that simple. But what I see here, not much semmes to have changed there.

For the prices, I do remember Le Bernardin was not at all cheap!

And then, one of my most interesting experiences in seafood was at Nobu, years ago. But I am not sure whether that is still that interesting.

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  • 1 month later...

Something perhaps a little interesting about the review:

"For a while our mantra at Le Bernardin was that the fish is the star," Mr. Ripert said in a telephone conversation after my visits to the restaurant, where he repeatedly recognized me. "Today we are a little less fanatic about that." A little but not a lot, and therein lies both the secret to Le Bernardin's continued success and the reason I regularly field complaints from friends who found their experiences there disappointing.

Bruni casually tosses off the fact that he was recognized, as if it's not a big deal. This is in line with a few things I've seen Fat Guy say about the mystique of the unrecognizable NYT reviewer. I'm sure he has more interesting things to say about it than I do.

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...you can pause, ponder and realize that you are eating something with an exquisite balance of colors, shapes and flavors.  The amorphous clumps of sweet white lobster meat sit atop coin-shape bits of mango, which are orange and slightly acidic, and below rectangles of avocado, which are green and vaguely unctuous. The full Epicurean appeal of the dish reveals itself only upon close scrutiny. Le Bernardin is a restaurant for people who really focus on the food.

This is pretty painful to read. Am I wrong?

Mango is orange and avocado is green. No kidding.

The avocado is not only unctuous (i.e., oily or fatty), but "vaguely" so. What does that mean? Does it mean anything?

The mango is cut in circular shapes. The avocado is cut in rectangles. The lobster is clumped into non-geometric blobs. Along with the colors and the flavors (sweet vs. acidic vs. unctuous(!)), these different elements combine to form an "exquisite balance." And you wouldn't notice unless you really paid attention, as Bruni does.

I haven't eaten at Le Bernardin, and I'm sure the food is exquisite, but I'm not persuaded it is by this purple prose.

Edit: sorry, probably should have posted on the Bruni thread. I forgot about it because I hate all the griping about him, but somethimes I just can't stand it.

Edited by SethG (log)

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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I don't know that he casually tossed off being recognized. He noted it in all honesty for those who care. I'd have hated to see him get sidetracked by explaining why he thought it was, or wasn't, important, and glad to see him stick to the subject at hand. Being recognized got exactly the notice it deserved.

Out of context, in Seth's post, that description of the lobster, mango and avocado dish does seem empty, but in context with the rest of the review, I didn't find it offensive. I'm not at all convinced Bruni is a great food critic and I don't think he's bringing back credibility to the star system. In fact Michelin seems to be arriving just at the time there is not universally respected ranking system in NY. Nevertheless, I found his defense of four star cuisine that doesn't offer "a riot of flourishes, an explosion of fireworks" as some diners expect, rewarding. I'm not sure he's the critic to sell the concept of restrained cuisine lacking in ostentation to today's foodies who look for pizazz more than finesse.

Le Bernardin's dining room has never reminded me of an airport lounge as it does him, not has it truly reminded me of a corporate board room as it seems to have reminded so many others. Truthfully, it's Per Se's decor I find cold and lacking in sex appeal. I haven't been to le Bernardin in a long time. The review made me miss it and it's been high on my list since Laiskonas arrived.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Here is the thread on Mr. Bruni's reviewing. Let's take any discussion that centers on his reviewing there.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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I have never been to Le B, but after making several things from Chef Ripert's book, I would go willingly, review or no review. It is way easier to make flashy over the top, and incredibly more difficult to keep restraint and good taste in control. I have loved everything I have made. Now I have a reason to go to the city.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Something perhaps a little interesting about the review:
"For a while our mantra at Le Bernardin was that the fish is the star," Mr. Ripert said in a telephone conversation after my visits to the restaurant, where he repeatedly recognized me. "Today we are a little less fanatic about that." A little but not a lot, and therein lies both the secret to Le Bernardin's continued success and the reason I regularly field complaints from friends who found their experiences there disappointing.

Bruni casually tosses off the fact that he was recognized, as if it's not a big deal. This is in line with a few things I've seen Fat Guy say about the mystique of the unrecognizable NYT reviewer. I'm sure he has more interesting things to say about it than I do.

I think being recognized as an "important person" is a significant factor. I've never been to Le Bernardin due to previous experience with Brasserie Le Coze in Miami (Miami outpost of Le Bernardin - since closed). Despite being a steady customer there for a couple of years - I was treated very shabbily by the FOH on an occasion of great importance to me. Wrote the place off - despite the good food. Life is too short to spend money and get treated like garbage. Robyn

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  • 2 months later...

Just returned from FANTASTIC lunch at Le Bernardin. I've been dying to go for a while now and I was not disappointed. Had the hamachi tartare and my friend had the fluke tasting to start - both phenomenal. Entrees were Crispy Chinese Spiced Black Bass in a Peking Duck Bouillon Scented with Maitake and Enoki Mushrooms (very good), and White Tuna - Hawaiian Escolar Slowly Poached in Extra Virgin Olive Oil which was absolutely incredible. Great desserts; service was warm and attentive. It very well may go down as one of my favorite meals ever.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 1 month later...

While I haven't been to Le Bernardin for quite a few years, my wife and I decided about a month ago to give it a shot for our bday dinner(s) next week.

Given we have eaten at all the other 4 stars recently, we decided it was time to try it together. Boy I am happy we made the reservation when we did. Given the press recently about it in Zagat and more importantly Michelin I am sure they are going to be booked like crazy. I just hope they don't raise their prices before next week as a result. :-)

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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While I haven't been to Le Bernardin for quite a few years, my wife and I decided about a month ago to give it a shot for our bday dinner(s) next week. 

Given we have eaten at all the other 4 stars recently, we decided it was time to try it together.  Boy I am happy we made the reservation when we did.  Given the press recently about it in Zagat and more importantly Michelin I am sure they are going to be booked like crazy.  I just hope they don't raise their prices before next week as a result.  :-)

I think you'll enjoy it - I went for the first time a couple of months back. Haven't posted about it because, for the first time, I had a had time finding words to express how very much I enjoyed it. Let's just say this: from the time I entered the restaurant to the time I left, everything - food, wine, service, atmosphere, EVERYTHING - was absolutely as good as it possibly could have been, the top of the mountain, can't climb any higher. I left there thinking "now I understand the difference between three stars and four stars - that was definitely four stars."

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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Did you do one of the tasting menus or a la carte? The chefs menu looks awesome -- I am worried about our ability to walk straight afterwards if we did the wine pairing. It could be worse than when we leave Pegu.

John

While I haven't been to Le Bernardin for quite a few years, my wife and I decided about a month ago to give it a shot for our bday dinner(s) next week. 

Given we have eaten at all the other 4 stars recently, we decided it was time to try it together.  Boy I am happy we made the reservation when we did.  Given the press recently about it in Zagat and more importantly Michelin I am sure they are going to be booked like crazy.  I just hope they don't raise their prices before next week as a result.  :-)

I think you'll enjoy it - I went for the first time a couple of months back. Haven't posted about it because, for the first time, I had a had time finding words to express how very much I enjoyed it. Let's just say this: from the time I entered the restaurant to the time I left, everything - food, wine, service, atmosphere, EVERYTHING - was absolutely as good as it possibly could have been, the top of the mountain, can't climb any higher. I left there thinking "now I understand the difference between three stars and four stars - that was definitely four stars."

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Did you do one of the tasting menus or a la carte?  The chefs menu looks awesome -- I am worried about our ability to walk straight afterwards if we did the wine pairing.  It could be worse than when we leave Pegu.

John

HEE. We did the $95 prix fixe. I had, as I recall, the Kumamoto oysters, then the poached lobster, then the monkfish - it was prepared differently when I had it than the way they are showing it on the website now - and I think the chocolate praline for dessert. I am unfortunately blanking on the wine - it was a French white that I'd had in France, just lovely. Went with everything, too.

One of our group had the skate, which I also remember as being just amazing.

K

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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Oh man I am getting hungry! I can't wait.

Did you do one of the tasting menus or a la carte?  The chefs menu looks awesome -- I am worried about our ability to walk straight afterwards if we did the wine pairing.  It could be worse than when we leave Pegu.

John

HEE. We did the $95 prix fixe. I had, as I recall, the Kumamoto oysters, then the poached lobster, then the monkfish - it was prepared differently when I had it than the way they are showing it on the website now - and I think the chocolate praline for dessert. I am unfortunately blanking on the wine - it was a French white that I'd had in France, just lovely. Went with everything, too.

One of our group had the skate, which I also remember as being just amazing.

K

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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  • 2 weeks later...

So we had our dinner there last Friday to mixed reviews. We showed up at 7:50 for our 8pm res and there were quite a few empty tables. Probably was about 40% empty when we showed up. We waited a few minutes in the bustling bar area and were showed our seats. They took us all the way to the back of the restaurant and gave us a table right next to the kitchen door. We didn't think about it too much initially and order some Kir Royals to start. My wife was sitting with her back to the door and I was facing her, and the door. Every 30 seconds the door would open and I would get blinded by the lights in the kitchen.

We asked to be moved to another table and after a minute of discussion amongst the captains we moved to the other side of the room. Not so much a strike against them, but not the best way to start, especially considering how many empty deuces there were at the time. Around 8:30 the place filled up to capacity and there were no empty tables.

We opted for the $125 tasting menu which consisted of.

FLUKE

Progressive Tasting of Marinated Fluke; Four Different Ceviches; from Simple to Complex Combination

Sake "Junmai Ginjo" Takatenjin

This was presented in 4 small saucer dishes and was plunked down in front of us with no description of the dish. We flagged someone down to explain at after we stared at it for a minute of two. While it was good it wasn't amazing. Each saucer held a piece of fluke in 4 sauces each building on the previous sauce. The first was just soy, lime and ginger I believe. The second added sake and chili, the 3rd added lemongrass I think, and the 4th added coconut milk. I am sure there were other ingredients but it was explained so fast I forgot.

The sake pairing was nice, considering the asian influence of the ingredients in the dish. Rating 3 out of 10.

ESCOLAR

Grilled Hawaiian Escolar "Vitello Tonnato" Style; Warm Potato and Celery Salad

Savennières "Clos du Papillon" Domaine des Beaumard 2001

I think the waiter realized his mistake and from this point on went into excruciating detail about each dish, so that is a plus for them. I have never been a fan of Tonnato sauces, so this was the dish that didn't excite me very much. But much to my surprise it was very tasty. The sauce was very mild and went extremely well with the potato salad, but I feel it was still too overpowering for the mild fish.

Rating 3/10

LOBSTER-LANGOUSTINE-SHRIMP

Celeriac Open Ravioli Filled with a Medley of Lobster, Langoustine and Shrimp; Foie Gras Truffle Sauce

Mas de Daumas Gassac 2004

This was a winner It was amazing. The sauce was super intense and rich. I just wish I could have found the bread man to get more bread to sop up the sauce. :hmmm: The open ravioli were great and matched well with the sauce, although I question why you would add shrimp to the mix, as that was the taste that was most prominent in the ravioli, washing out the milder lobser and langoustine.

Rating 7/10

HALIBUT

Poached Halibut "Salsa Verde": Clam Juice, Roasted Garlic, Herb Purée and Lemon Juice; Warm Crab and Raw Matsutake Mushroom Salad

Naiades "Verdejo" 2003

This was also a good dish. The Salsa verde was intensely flavorful and complemented the fish nicely. The crab in the dish was lost between the mushrooms and the sauce. It was a visually appealing dish with the color / texture contrast and was probably the 3rd best dish of the evening.

Rating 6/10

WILD STRIPED BASS

Sautéed Striped Bass; Sweet Corn Purée, Grilled Shishito Peppers and Shaved Smoked Bonito; Mole Sauce

Beaune "Clos des Vignes Franches" Nicolas Potel 2003

This was my favorite of the evening. The Bass was served over a puddle of the corn puree and the mole sauce poured around it like a moat. Reading the description on the menu I feared the mole sauce would overpower the fish, but it was quite the contrary. The mole had just a hint of chocolate and red wine and was a nice balance of richness and acidity that complemented the fish as well as the creaminess of the corn. The shishito peppers added a nice kick to the dish as well.

Rating 8/10

CHOCOLATE-PRALINE

Thin Leaves of Ecuadorian Chocolate Layered Between Hazelnut Biscuit, Praline Feuilletine, Milk Chocolate Cream, with Sherry Soaked Prunes

Montilla-Moriles "Pedro Ximenez Solera" Alvear 1927

Now let me preface this by saying I love chocolate and sweet things. I have been know when I was a kid to purchase a tub of betty crocker chocolate icing and just eat scoops of it out of the can so I am used to very sweet things -- this did was too sweet. My jaw ached after eating this dish. I think the actual preperation differed slightly from what is above as the dish I had included two golf ball sized blobs of chocolate ganache. It was so sweet I could only eat a bite or two before I went into a sugar coma.

Really, really sweet.

Rating 0/10 -- sucked.

I didn't talk much about the wine pairing, which we got for an additional 65 bucks. It was a good deal considering the size of the pours, the number of glasses and they were interesting overall. Each wine was matched well with the dishes, which isn't an easy task considering the variety of the ingredients in each dish, so it was a great deal.

Overall I would say I am slightly dissapointed in the evening. With tax and tip we ended up walking out of their about 550 bucks lighter and I would have preferred to each twice a Gramercy for the same money, or 7/8th's of a meal at Per Se.

Aside from the inital service snafus (seating, no bread, no description of the first dish) service was good. The water was always filled, the napkins were always folded when we got up, chairs were always pulled out. This isn't too amazing given the sheer number of waitstaff we saw that evening. There must be 1 person for every 2 tables there, which is one of the reasons it was annoying to have to ask for bread after my plate was empty for 10 minutes. Another thing that was annoying was the pacing of the food. They really made it an effort to turn the table. We had a cocktail, amuse, 5 courses + cheese and were given the check a little more than 2 hours after we sat down. Towards the 4th course we were trying to slow down as much as possible, but as soon as we took our last bite 5 minutes later the next course was given. I may be spoiled by the pacing at Per Se, but this was too fast.

john

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Not really an encouraging report for a new annointed Michelin 3-star restaurant.

Pacing is an interesting thing since many diners have very different opinions on how long meals should take. Regardless, 2 hours for a restaurant of that caliber seems much too fast.

I'm considering going back to Le Bernardin over the holiday season but it seems as though it's not "wowing" people.

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My personal view of pacing is assuming I am having a 7 course meal is something along the lines (based upon a 8pm res)

Personally I think you need at least 10 minutes in between courses, especially if they are rich foods. They were obviously firing the dished before we finished our last bite, as immediately when we finished our food our plates were wisked away, new wine server and silverware placed. The food arrived within 3-4 minutes after the previous plate left.

Given we spent the first 15 minutes having our aperitif and reading the food and wine menu the actual time of consuming the food was done in about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Given we had amuse + 5 courses + cheese + desert + petit fours in that time, the average time of each course is (90 minutes / 9) = 10 minutes including eating time which is insanely fast.

Also another pet peeve I forgot to mention is they brought the petit-fours before the desert.

john

Pacing is an interesting thing since many diners have very different opinions on how long meals should take.  Regardless, 2 hours for a restaurant of that caliber seems much too fast.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Not really an encouraging report for a new annointed Michelin 3-star restaurant.

Pacing is an interesting thing since many diners have very different opinions on how long meals should take.  Regardless, 2 hours for a restaurant of that caliber seems much too fast.

I'm considering going back to Le Bernardin over the holiday season but it seems as though it's not "wowing" people.

Many diners may have very different opinions about pacing - but 2 hours for a meal like this isn't enough.

I think a high class restaurant that tries to turn over tables fast should warn potential diners. This may sound silly - but I ran across a restaurant that does this (Gordon Ramsay in London - 3* Michelin - has a warning on its web site that it reserves the right to kick you out after 2 hours on a busy night). Forewarned is forearmed. After reading this - I asked about lunch. They said "no problem" - lunch is basically a single seating - and you can take as much time as you want. So we ate lunch there instead of dinner (took a little over 2 1/2 hours for a 3 course lunch).

Anyway - this pacing thing is a pet peeve of mine. A dinner we had at a well known Chicago restaurant was almost ruined when it seemed to be trying to break the world's record for turning over tables. We asked them to slow down very near the start of the meal - and they did. But when we got to coffee - they told us our "meter had expired" - and requested that we have it served in the bar area (where people were waiting to be seated). A while later - there was an article in the WSJ about turning tables too quickly in high end restaurants - and this particular restaurant was listed as a prime offender.

Anyway - apart from eating lunch at places to try to avoid "table turnover syndrome" - I recommend eating at single seating restaurants - or eating on relatively slow nights of the week (like Monday and Tuesday) instead of weekends. Robyn

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  • 3 weeks later...

It Shouldn't Be New York City Entry #37

I last dined at Le Bernardin fifteen years ago. It was my last restaurant meal with my father, whose name, as it happens, was Bernard. I still recall that meal for many reasons, including the superb and sensuous fish (this was pre-Eric Ripert) and the somewhat dowdy space. This evening my dining companion was a friend who had known and worked with my dad in his days as a Freudian training analyst. So a certain nostalgia, mixed with a dollop of transference, hung in the air.

The space is now quite lovely: an expansive dining room with touches of Frank Lloyd Wright, a Japanese teahouse, glorious sculptural bouquets and a bit of Craft's downtown style thrown in for good measure. With the canonization of Le Bernardin as a temple of haute cuisine perfection, I imagined that my task would be to speculate on whether a restaurant devoted to the life aquatic could hold its own with restaurants drawing from sea, land, and air.

One of the finest meals I have experienced this year was the vegetable menu at Charlie Trotter's. Trotter, like Houdini, thrives by tying an arm and leg beyond his back. Of course, vegetable cuisine is the triumph of Eros over Thanatos. Produce is easy to cherish in the right hands. One can have subtle, pungent, or spicy preparations. Fish are not so forgiving. There are more ways to miscook fish than to perfect them. Accompaniments that are too bland and the dish disappears, a few seconds too long and one has pablum; too much spice and it is time for the trash. When fish are perfectly fresh, perfectly cooked, perfectly presented, and perfectly sauced, it is heaven on the plate. But if I don't trust the chef, serve me a stew anytime. Cooking fish is dancing on the highrope.

Le Bernardin should be the New York restaurant in which the diners realize that the finest fish dish can trump the finest game dish every time.

Tonight Le Bernardin revealed itself not to meet its own standards often enough. The last meal that I had at Brasserie Le Coze in Atlanta was a more satisfying dinner than at Maguy Le Coze's flagship. Perhaps the fact that Chef Ripert was not in the kitchen tonight, too busy at Barça 18, the downtown redoubt where he is a partner, explains matters. But restaurants at the level of Le Bernardin should be able to muddle through without serving that muddle. Someone hasn't been paying enough attention back on 51st Street.

Our first surprise was our choice of wine. We ordered a Gruner Veltliner Hiedler Loess 2003. When the bottle arrived, we discovered that it was the Hiedler Thal 2003. I don't know the vineyard sufficiently to distinguish. The wine was just fine, but we were disconcerted by the sommelier who cheerily announced that, despite the list, they didn't have the Loess, but only had the "regular" Hiedler. Puh-leeze. Still, this is a small enough error (It turns out that the Thal is a more expensive wine than the Loess: the listed price of the "Loess" was $68.00, although the wine is available for $11.00, a startling markup; the Thal is $22.00). A three star restaurant is permitted one such error each evening for the whole dining room.

The amuse managed to set things right. The barely cooked scallop in a tomato, garlic and clam foam was Neptune's gift. This scallop was oh-so-slightly warm, and was given oceanic purity by the clam froth. The tomato and garlic added flavors that allowed the dish to marry the sea with the garden, underlining the scallop's otherwise petite flavor. It would have done well as an appetizer.

Before the appetizers bread appeared. New Yorkers expect that bread can matter as much as wine, and nowhere should this be more true than in a restaurant spitting distance from Carnegie Deli to the North and Amy's Bread to the South. It is my sad duty to report that Le Bernardin's bread should be given a decent burial at sea. After filling up on splendid rolls at River Café earlier this week, I realized that those starches were no accident. Bernardin's whole wheat slice could have been a Gristede's special. The sourdough roll had a slightly greasy taste, an impressive feat given how dry it was. The third set of slices (I didn't catch what they allegedly contained) was cold and stale. When we complained, we were brought more slices: warm and stale.

In the three course prix-fixe one chooses a dish that is almost raw, one that is barely touched, and one that is lightly cooked. My companion's starter was Alaskan Wild Salmon, Marinated with Olive Oil, Lemon, Herbs, and Grapefruit (and unadvertised onion). In ordering raw salmon the comparison is Russ and Daughters, served with a smear. It was a draw. The hidden onion proved too powerful for the dish. The salmon was sea-fresh with interesting, if somewhat unbalanced, flavors. Nothing special.

In contrast, the quartet of raw fluke salads were a dream. The four small rectangular plates held a set of philosophical compositions including mild, spicy, Asian, and tropical flavors. I particular admired the final presentation, raw fluke with a touch of coconut milk, although the mild starter with scallions and cilantro was first rate too. This was superb showmanship, and reminded me of Grant Achatz's symphony of five preparations of hearts of palm.

As with the almost raw course, the second course - barely touched seafood - had one stelllar dish and one good one. The latter was Celariac Open Ravioli Filled with a Medley of Lobster, Langoustine and Shrimp. Le Bernardin has been criticized for its portion size. I felt that these three micro-ravioli were not weighty enough. The thin pasta did not provide enough contrast with the small scoop of fresh and fine shellfish. Around these three bites, our server poured a foie gras truffle sauce (pouring sauce around a cooked piece of seafood seems a Le Bernardin trademark). I could not understand the culinary logic, unless it was to place every luxury food on the same plate (I should have searched harder for a few grains of caviar). The contrast was not a failure, but the sauce, both too rich and too thin, didn't add much.

My companion's dish was the high point of this - and many - meals. She ordered Poached Lobster in a Lemon Miso Broth, Shiso and Hon Shimemi Mushrooms (Hypsizygus marmoreus for those who still celebrate the Latin mass of the woods). Wow. I cannot decide at this late hour whether the broth was rapture or whether it was the lobster. The shiso added that slightly bitter edge to the consomme which I treasure. The lobster was warm, sweet, and giving. This is the work of a mature chef, unafraid to blend classical and experimental techniques. It was a profound dish that may inspire a death bed memory.

Perhaps someone should remove the stoves from Le Bernardin's kitchen. The more Le Bernardin heats their fish the more of a chowder do they become. We had three main courses, none impressive, and one a disaster.

At the suggestion of our long-suffering (and competent) server, I ordered the Pan Roasted Monkfish, Confit Peppers and Fiery Patatas Bravas with a Chorizo-Albariño Emulsion. (Albariño is a Spanish wine). The dish was listed as "A Tribute to Gaudi." Huh? I expected some architectural feat that Alfred Portale might be proud to construct on his plate, but the dish with four potato wedges and several small coins of monkfish paid the magical architect no honor. Although the monkfish was cooked suitably, the spicy chorizo sauce smothered the lobster-like flavor of the monkfish. In a recipe for patatas bravas, baking potatoes were listed, but these wedges had turned grainy, demonstrating why baked potatoes require butter, cheese, and ham to hide an uncomfortable texture. Two of the four wedges had a firmer texture than their mates.

This dish was positively rosy by comparison to the Halibut "Salsa Verde" with Clam Juice, Roasted Garlic, Herb Puree and Lemon Juice with Warm Crab and Raw Matsutake Mushroom Salad. All of these free associations are nifty enough, but they depend on an edible piece of halibut. I have often fantasied about returning a dish to the kitchen, finally we had the chance. (The bread gave us the courage). The fish was stringy, flavorless and overcooked. It wasn't "off," just awful. I will leave other intrepid diners to judge the clam, garlic, crab, and all the rest. This dish is bleech-worthy.

Our server reasonably offered to replace the dish, and my companion chose Masala Spiced Crispy Black Bass, Peking Duck-Green Papaya Salad in a Ginger-Cardamon Broth. I didn't inquire why we were served "Peking" Salad on a menu that offers Patatas Bravas, Sancocho, Vitello Tonnato, and Hon Shimeji Mushrooms. Once again the spicy broth was extreme, exotic, silky, and magnificent. (Perhaps Chef Ripert can step in for Al Yeganeh now that our Soup Nazi has gone national). The crispy skin was worthy of the broth. The fish itself was rather bland and flavorless, and slightly overcooked. We finished the bouillon, but left bites of fish for the cat.

This trio of dishes should have been the pinnacle, but they revealed missteps and poor choices. We had no complaints over the quality of the fish, only what was done to the fillets at the stove.

Desserts, under the direction of Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis, ranged from the excellent to the ordinary. To pacify us (although I could hardly be a sweeter and more accommodating diner), we were served an additional dessert. OK. It was the best of the trio: Passion Fruit Cream Enrobed in White Chocolate, Ginger Caramel, and Mandarin Sorbet. The "enrobed white chocolate" was a thin piece served on the side. Good, but not enrobed. However, linguistic defects aside (I'm still vexed about the Peking Salad), the passion fruit cream was delicious and the mandarin sorbet, if not as rich as some, made a suitable match.

The second dessert, Banana Crème Brulée with Citrus-Pistachio Biscuit, Beurre Noisette Ice Cream and Peanut Caramel, despite its many ingredients craved energy. The Crème Brulée sadly lacked its requisite crackly cover. I did enjoy the Brown Butter Ice Cream, but the biscuit was bland and dry.

The final offering was a Dark Chocolate, Cashew and Caramel Tart with Red Wine Reduction, Banana and Malted Rum Milk Chocolate Ice Cream. The tart was unexceptional - dark and rich, and about what one might find at a better bakery. The malted rum ice cream had a nice rum flavor, although the chocolate taste was muted.

Lovely dishes are to be had at Le Bernardin, but the inconsistency, particularly on the "lightly cooked" list suggest that the kitchen may be distracted. Has the Bush economy forced worthy cooks to work a second shift to place better bread on the table? What good is a night job when your admirers wonder at the gaffes that should never happen during the day. Chef Ripert and his Sous Chef Chris Miller are making too many Freudian slips.

Before we decide if a great fish restaurant can match an unbounded restaurant, we must rediscover that great fish restaurant.

Le Bernardin

155 W. 51st Street (Between 6th and 7th Avenues)

Manhattan (Midtown West)

212-554-1515

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

Edited by gaf (log)
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  • 2 months later...
I had lunch at Le Bernardin about two weeks ago.  Disappointing.  The room is nice enough but has no real style or character.  The menu was dull.  I found myself searching for something that sounded special rather than struggling to choose among several enticing offerings. 

It was just one meal, but my impression was that Le B has become a tired restaurant that is not really in the game anymore.

I'll have to agree - I was very disappointed as well. I come to NYC once a year, and having looked forward to coming here for months, I didn't find that the dinner I had was particularly impressive. It was all fine, I suppose, but not the caliber that I had expected.

This past week I went to Le Bernardin, WD-50, and Per Se. Went to Daniel last year.

Per Se was the most incredible meal I have had in my life - perfect in every way.

WD-50 was extremely inventive and creative, but sometimes to the point that the taste of the food came behind the attempt to be new.

Daniel was fantastic. Probably what Le Bernardin should be.

Le Bernardin was just OK. Not bad, but definitely not one of the top few restaurants in New York.

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  • 11 months later...

Is there much of a difference between lunch and dinner at Le Bernardin? I was given a 150 dollar gift certificate and am wondering for which of the two I should use it. Do I spend a few extra bucks out of pocket and take my girlfriend for a leisurely weekday lunch at the 57 prix fixe or spend more than a few extra bucks out of pocket and do the 105 prix fixe at dinner?

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