Happy New Years!
Au Revoir New York! Now how do I celebrate an end of an era? I’ve got the perfect answer…
By dining at one of New York’s most prestigious restaurants, Le Bernardin by Chef Eric Ripert. Often regarded as the world’s best seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin currently resides at #15 of the best restaurants in the world. Did I mention the 3 Michelin Stars and 4 star New York Times rating?A requirement to dine at Le Bernardin is that all men must wear a suit jacket and must have it on the duration of the meal. Stay Classy. If you’re ever lucky enough to arrive early before the rest of your party, you’re greeted with a plate of flaky parmesan breadsticks in the waiting room.
I mean seriously, how awesome is this? 99% of restaurants don’t even serve starter bread as delicious as these breadsticks. Yet, these appear while you’re still waiting in the foyer. Amazing.Let the free swag continue! As soon as we’re seated, the sommelier presents us with $75 worth of complimentary champagne.While sipping on the delicious crisp champagne, a gorgeous plate is placed in front of us. Served as an amuse bouche, is a Poached Oyster with Truffle Foam over a Sea Salt Bed. The oyster has a tremendous flavor while the foam provides a silk-like texture, add in a sprinkle of that sea salt and I guarantee you it’s the best little oyster you’ll ever have. Did I mention, all of this was served before we were even presented with menus? My friends and I elected to go with the tasting menu, be aware that it’s going to take a while. Our entire meal lasted an enduring 4 hours. This was the clearest picture I could get of the ultra quick man with the bread basket. In between every course, this mysterious man floats by, delivering a basket of fresh and warm baked goods of your choice. Now not knowing that he would continue to show up, I grabbed a beastly three pieces off his basket. A rosemary olive breadstick and raisin bread. Another thing to note is that well of softened butter at the top. The bread man had a best friend, and his name was butter man. That well of butter was always fill to the brim thanks to butter man. Sometimes it was like magic, I would scoop some butter for a bite, but when I reached back for more, the well would instantly be refilled.Our first course arrives, and it definitely resembles a pair of lips. Layers of Thinly Pounded Yellowfin Tuna; Foie Gras and Toasted Baguette with Shaved Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The actual tuna ends up texturally similar to a jelly. The foie gras adds a velvety texture as well as contributes a nice depth of flavor. Finally, the baguette adds the final dimension of texture with that needed crunch.How romantic, they add a floating candle to your table. You have to indulge in a bottle of wine to complete this perfect meal.Here’s some more bread, the raisin bread again with a warm and soft sourdough roll. Next up, we have a Charred Octopus with Fermented Black Beans in a Pear Sauce Vierge Ink with Miso Vinaigrette and Purple Basil. Personally, I thought this dish had a strong Asian taste influence with the fermented black beans. And to be honest, although it was still good, it wasn’t my absolute favorite. I would’ve loved to have substituted this for something else.Before I can complain about anything, a magnificent jewel is placed in front of me. A plate containing a Warm Lobster Carpaccio with Hearts of Palm and an Orange Vinaigrette. The server comes around and drizzles a stream of warm melted butter sauce to top the lobsters. This dish would make all the angels in heaven jealous. The soft buttery lobster, is just so decadent that word’s cannot explain how perfect this dish is. I remember closing my eyes so that I could enhance my sense of taste. But as with all great things, it came to an end. Before I could lament, the next course was placed in front of me. Baked Wild Striped Bass with Cashew and Jalapeno Purée, topped Pickled Cucumbers and served with a Chill Blue Crab Consommé. After the bass is doused with the blue crab consommé, the fragrance of the dish is so splendid it could calm a riot. The beautifully crafted consommé is perhaps the best pure broth that I’ve ever had. The flavor is absolutely ethereal and to be honest, I believe the bass played second fiddle to the broth. Keep in mind, that I’m not taking anything away from the wonderfully cooked bass, but just reiterating how tremendous the consommé truly is. Before I could wipe the gigantic smile off my face, I was served this little number, which made me smile even bigger (if that was even possible). Le Bernardin’s rendition of Surf and Turf – Escolar (aka White Tuna) and Seared Nebraska Wagyu Beef topped with a Sea Bean Salad and Eggplant Fries. I’m literally running out of synonyms for perfect and delicious. But that’s exactly what this was. The Wagyu without question was tremendous and the Escolar was flawless. The red wine sauce compliments both the steak and tuna, and those little eggplant fritters, well, let’s say I can eat a whole basket full of them. My goodness, are we done yet? Thanks to my friend Valerie knowing one of the sous-chefs, we were given another course (compliments of the chef). An immaculately cooked piece of Sea Bass with a deconstructed Chinese BBQ Pork Bun (imagine a steamed BBQ pork bun, but inside out). I don’t know if this fully counts as a dessert, but to me it’s just an intermezzo. Anyway, this “Panna Cotta” is Greek Yogurt served with a Candied Walnut and “Red Hot” Apple Gelée. A definite refreshing palate cleanser. Apparently, this was another complimentary dessert, actually it was a pre-dessert (a dessert before the dessert). An Egg Shell filled with Chocolate Mousse and topped with Sea Salted Caramel Foam.Finally our actual dessert arrives. A Dominican Chocolate Cremeux with Vanilla and Sweet Potato Sorbet with a Bourbon Caramel. This whole dessert not only works, but its abso-fucking-lutely amazing. All the flavors just work harmoniously together and nothing overpowers or is undermined. I now crave Sweet Potato Sorbet. Our last dish arrives, our Mignardises, a set of Petit Fours. A pistachio cookie, a chocolate wedge, a cream puff, and a fruit gelée a perfect way to end a perfect night.
With respects to all the other restaurants, this was by far the best meal of my life. Tons of unexpected dishes, outstanding flavors and unequaled company (thanks Valerie and Queenie) equate to one of my most sublime experiences ever.
Le Bernardin Scores:
Food: 10/10 – Eric Ripert, you are a culinary god. Not only did you give me a fascinating dish, you gave me 11.
Restaurant Environment: 10/10 – Even though it might feel pretentious with your suit jacket, you’ll find the entire restaurant is very welcoming regardless of your appearance.
Service: 10/10 – All the server’s knowing exactly what I want and need before I do, it’s a bit frightening (in an awesome way).
Value: 10/10 – Now this wasn’t cheapest meal in the entire world, but can you put a price on perfection?
Overall: 10/10 – I will be back, oh yes.. I will be back..