Le Bernardin – New York City

A gastronomic trip to New York would not be complete without a stop at Le Bernardin (for me at least). I’ve always found Eric Ripert very endearing; whether it is as a guest judge on Top Chef; in his own show Avec Eric or in guest appearances in Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I don’t think it is the accent, maybe his modesty? He just comes off in a very positive way (for me). :)

Le Bernardin has a whole S***load of accolades, including 3 michelin stars, 4 stars from NY Times and #15 on the San Pellegrino’s World’s Best 50 Restaurants; as well as recognition from all kinds of food critics, review books and etc. Also known for being one of the top seafood restaurants in NYC~

I could go on & on but I rather just get to the food.

All these pictures are taken by Cat Lee (my dining partner in crime),  who is also a professional photographer for Rouge Designs. She takes amazing pictures (not just because she is my girl but she has a very creative eye). You will see what I mean ^_^

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The moment I walked in the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised. It is an intimidating place to walk into, but once you are in – the decor and the service staff is actually quite casual. I don’t mean that their attire or the aesthetics of the place is casual (they certainly weren’t), but just the feel of the place.

It has very simplistic decor, with a lot of wood. The tables and chairs feel very “old school” and I love it. The restaurant was quite packed for a Tuesday night!

We settled for both tasting menus offered that evening, and the chef was accommodating in allowing us to have them both (considering one has 7 courses & the other has 8). On the menu it mentions that tasting menus have to be ordered by all parties at the table.

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Once we ordered, we were served one of the best amuse bouches I have ever tasted:

Lobster bisque with a cauliflower (?) puree

The amuse was breathtaking. It had so much body that it tasted like a whole lobster went into this tiny bowl. It was creamy, umami-licious and had nice chunks of lobster. It definitely got me excited for the rest of the meal.

I can’t remember if the white puree was cauliflower or parsnip but it gives the savoury chowder w little sweetness.

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Let’s start off with the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu $138

Tuna

Tuna with Foie Gras, Toasted Baguette, Chives & Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A classic LB dish, which is featured in Avec Eric. I found it a bit boring but it was very very well prepared. The thin slivers to tuna was nice with the foie gras and little crunchy baguette. The chives were surprisingly subtle and overall the fish was seasoned well.

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Octopus

Charred Octopus w Fermented Black Bean -Pear Sauce Vinaigrette & Purple Basil

Who knew octopus could taste this good. It was unexpectedly tender with a nice smoky flavour from the grill, with very mild flavour on its own but great the the salty black bean. It was very interesting to have black bean in such a context because I am so used to the greasy, saucy black bean sauces in Chinese restaurants.

The pear sauce added a nice chunk w little cubes of fresh pear. It was a nice contrast to the salty black bean.

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Lobster

Warm Lobster Carpaccio w Hearts of Palm & Orange Vinaigrette

Loved loved the lobster. Cat was not crazy about this dish, she felt the heart of palm was strange.

I quite enjoyed it. The lobster tasted lightly poached and were quite generous cuts. I thought the lobster was perfectly cooked, it was tender, juicy and with a hint of sweetness. And the heart of palm gave the dish a  nice crunch, eventhough it did not add much flavour wise. The vinaigrette was light and delicious complementing the lobster nicely.

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King Fish

Seared Yellowtail King Fish w Truffle Risotto, Baby Vegetables & Black Truffle Emulsion

I was quite intrigue by this when I saw in on the menu. The only time I have Yellowtail are as sashimi and have always loved the lemony aftertaste. The fish was seared lightly, and the inside was nice, fatty and rare.

I m quite indifferent to the risotto, and can’t remember much about it. The sauce was creamy, rich and savoury with hints black truffle. It was perfect with the fish. I did find it got a little too rich for me after a few mouthful but Cath loved it!

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Black Bass

Crispy Black Bass w Lup Cheong & Beansprout “Risotto”, Mini Steamed Buns w Hoisin Plum Jus

This is one of my favourite fish dish of the night and has to be the best piece of bass I have had to date. The fish was seared so well that the skin was ultra crispy and the flesh flaked off effortlessly with a nice glistening layers.

The bun was a nice little soft (but a little chewy) bun sitting in hoisin plum sauce. The sauce was sweet & savoury. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the risotto. I just concentrated on the fish. The sauce went really well with the fish and was seasoned well but the risotto, I don’t recall.

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Parsnip

Parsnip Creme Brulee w Roasted Hazelnut, Browned Milk Solids & Vanilla Salt

One of the least favourites of the night. The creme brulee had a weird texture; it grainy n strange… We didn’t really eat much of this little piece at all…

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Milk Chocolate

Maralumi Milk Chocolate Parfait w Liquid Pear & Gingersnap

Pretty solid dessert. The milk chocolate parfait was nice and creamy and not overly decadent like most chocolate desserts. Ginger snap gave it a nice edge.

We were totally intrigued by the liquid pear and Cath popped it, resulting in an unhappy server who proceeded to tell us “we should not have popped it”. Made me laugh coz she almost sounded like she gasped and was disappointed in what we did.

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Now on to the Chef’s Tasting Menu $185

Tuna

Smoked Yellowfin Tuna “Prosciutto” w Pickled Vegetables & Crispy Kombu

An interesting way to start the tasting menu. This dish was so pretty to the eyes~ The smoked tuna was a little heavily salted but was that intentional because it was meant to be a “prosciutto”? Pickled vegetables did balance out a salt a little bit. But can’t say I was crazy about this dish.

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Langoustine

Seared Langoustine w Mache & Wild Mushroom Salad, Shaved Foie Gras & White Balsamic Vinaigrette

It blew my mind how good this the langoustine was. It definitely rivaled a langoustine dish I had at Alex in Vegas (which was the first dish to sweep me off my feet). I am almost tempted to say this is going to be the dish to beat…

The langoustine was so tender, sweet & buttery and the white balsamic vinaigrette with the shaved foie gras made this the perfect bite over and over. The salad added a nice fresh dimension to the lovely fatty foie gras and sauce. I honestly loved every component of the dish and would have 3 more and end my night happily.

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Caviar-Urchin

Osetra Caviar Nestled in Taglioni Warm Sea Urchin Sauce

I find it hard to be subjective in this dish. I think by the end of my NYC trip, I have come to realise that I am not a big fan of sea urchin or caviar (gasps!). Definitely a luxurious dish with an intense sea urchin sauce and a generous amount of caviar. The taglioni was a nice al dente and held its own quite well to the rich sauce.

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Bay Scallop

Warm Nantucket Bay Scallop w Baby Leeks & Kaffir Lime Mariniere

I enjoyed this dish a lot more than I expected. The scallops were only poached on the bottom half but appeared raw on the top, which gave it a very interesting texture. The lime mariniere was actually very very light, in fact the whole dish was so simple and light that it was quite refreshing. I appreciated this after the heavier, caviar-sea urchin course.

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Red Snapper

Breaded Crusted Red Snapper w Saffron “Fideos” & Smoke Sweet Paprika Sauce

This was very good as well, not my favourites of the night but everything on the place was delicious. The bread was surprisingly not greasy but very nice and crunchy making it very interesting because of the soft flaky fish it is attached to.

The fideos are a type of Spanish vermicelli, which I thought was a little too al dente but tasted great. I loved the paprika sauce; it was smoky and full bodied, giving the dish a lot more character and was superb with the fish.

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Turbot

Poached Turbot w a Wild Mushroom-Black Truffle Custard & Spiced Squad Jus

I never had turbot before this dinner and was quite surprised. It was such a delicate fish, and doesn’t have much of a distinct taste. It was again excellently cooked (notice a pattern of how well they prepare fish here?).

I was not crazy about the squab jus because it didn’t really give much flavour to the fish or the whole dish. In fact it was so subtle and forgettable that I can’t even remember the taste right now.

The custard, on the other hand, is  a different story. This is what you would define as life changing. It was spectacular! Creamy, savoury, mushroomy and just exciting to eat. It definitely went well with the fish, adding a little something.

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Panna Cotta

Greek Yoghurt , Candied Walnut & Red Hot Apple Gelee

This has got to be the best panna cotta I have had. It was insanely smooth yet creamy and delicious by itself, with the gelee or the walnut. My only complaint was that it should have been a bigger piece!

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Sweet Potato

Dominican Chocolate Cremeux w Vanilla Sweet Potato Sorbet & Bourbon Caramel

Sweet Potato sorbet got me a little worried but I realised how silly I was when I took my first bite. It definitely taste like sweet potato, yet it tasted amazing as a cold sorbet with the chocolate. Who knew chocolate & sweet potato could marry so well! The cremeux was the best (and I mean BEST) creamy chocolate bite I have had. It was not overly sweet, ultra smooth and chocolate-y.

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Extras:

Coffee $5 (delicious coffee!)

A glass of Riesling $20

A glass of warm sake (Katsumi) $12

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And of course, no visit is complete without a tour of the kitchen. I love watching the concentration of each person’s face and just how bustling a busy kitchen is without being the least bit chaotic (Back to my grainy pics)

Look at those dishes ready to be served… the prix fixe menu is looking pretty good at the point!

Dessert station


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Total Damage: $470(including tax & tip)

Personal Rating: 4.75 out of 5 (Excellent)

Only a couple dishes were a little of a let down but everything else was either really good or spectacular. Not everything suited my tastebuds but I can’t overlook how each plate was put together so delicately, every piece of fish/shell fish cooked very well and all accompanied by amazing sauces.

I was not as blown away by the menu as a whole as I expected. Although some dishes were distinctly interesting and exciting, others were not. That being said, it is not easy to have 15 amazing dishes but it is hard to not have high expectations from LB because of its reputation (and I did feel my mind blown a few times that night)

The service staff was a little of a let down (Gasps). I mean, service was just really choppy. I actually had to look for someone and flag him over to order my coffee (after my first dessert came). I mean, is it not normal for them to ask if I wanted coffee before the dessert started coming?

The lady who drops off our plates for the most part, was a little too abrasive; the way she describes the dishes or directs us on how to eat was a little off putting. Our main server was absent for most of the meal but the busboys were very efficient in clearly plates, clearing crumbs and everything else.

Endnote: After Le Bernardin, I finally noticed the actual discrepancy between a 3 star and a 2 star restaurant (at least in terms of food). Some of these dishes were at a calibre that not just ANY restaurant can achieve. All in all, I would come back in a heartbeat!

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Le Bernardin

The Equitable Building
Midtown West
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 554-1515

Le Bernardin on Urbanspoon

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