This is the first post in the Quick Spring Weekend to New York series.
This is the 31st (and final!) post in the 31 Posts in 31 Days Series. I will most certainly write a re-cap of the experience tomorrow!!
I typically try not to repeat a restaurant when I travel.
Even though it's tempting to visit my favorite places over and over again, I know that for the sake of the blog, I need to continue exploring, researching, and finding those new spots on which I can report.
However, sometimes I give in.
Just about a week before we were to leave for New York, Bryan found an open reservation for Le Bernardin, one of my favorite restaurants in New York, for lunch. I hesitated, wondering whether I wanted to eat such a heavy meal right before I had to squeeze into my fancy dress for our black tie event that evening.
I finally gave in, knowing that Bryan really wanted to go, and that any meal there would be pretty incredible.
Jen with Chef-owner Eric Ripert! I was floored he happened to be in the restaurant the last time I visited! That's us in the immaculate kitchen at Le Bernardin.
Furthermore, I knew that the lunch portions at Le Bernardin are actually reasonably sized. You can do a three-course lunch for $76 per person. This also includes other free little add-ons, such as the complimentary salmon spread that comes with the bread at the beginning (pictured at right above), and the mignardises at the end.
Contrast this with the dinner menu, which starts with the four course for $135 per person.
Of course, Bryan saw this as his only "splurge" meal the entire weekend (I mean, how often does one eat at a three Michelin starred restaurant?), so he really wanted to do a larger tasting. Again, I finally relented and we ordered the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu ($155 per person; $246 with wine pairing), which is available at both lunch and dinner.
The Le Bernardin Tasting consists of smaller portions of dishes you also find on the a la carte menu. There is also a Chef's Tasting Menu ($198 per person, $336 with wine pairing), which has even more dishes and may include courses that are not on the regular menu.
Our first course was simply called Tuna, and included layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna on top of a thin, toasted baguette, foie gras, chives, and extra virgin olive oil. This was served with a Amigne de Vétroz, Romain Papilloud-Cave Vieux Moulin, Vallais, Switzerland 2011.
I absolutely loved this dish. The tuna was oh-so-soft. You really didn't need a knife at all. There was not a hint of stringiness. The small amount of fresh olive oil was delicious, and I loved the thin layer of crunchy baguette underneath. Each bite was a perfect mix of bright lemon, grassy chives, fragrant olive oil, creamy foie gras, crunchy baguette, and melt-in-your-mouth soft, thinly pounded tuna.
The next course was the Barely Cooked Scallop, which was served with a brown butter dashi. The dashi broth, which they served tableside with a teapot, was super rich and unctuous, full of deep, rich seafood accented umami. We later learned that the scallop was poached in the dashi, thus contributing some of the rich flavors. The scallop was incredible - super soft, sweet, and extremely fresh. This course was served with Grüner Veltliner, Hasel, Birgit Eichinger, Kamptal, Austria 2012.
The next course, called Lobster, was actually a "lasagna" made with layers of celeriac, truffle butter, and whole slices of black truffle.
Bryan's first words out of his mouth upon taking a bite was, "it's very truffly, buttery, and lobstery."
The pasta was softer than a typical al dente, though I think that was intentional because it made cuting the lasagna much easier. The lasagna was covered with a rich, black truffle cream which made the whole dish extremely rich and decadent. It was good, though I can only take such rich bites in small quantities.
Bryan loved it.
This was served with Godme Pere et Fils, Brut Reserve, Champagne, NV.
The next course was a Barely Cooked Wild Salmon which was cooked just briefly on one side. You can see how it's still rare on the other side. The fish was topped with sweet and sour pickled hon shimeji mushrooms and served with a flavorful maitake (hen-of-the-woods) consommé filled with sliced lotus root.
The salmon was insanely soft and perfectly scoopable with a spoon. I loved the briny pickled mushrooms and the broth, which was so flavorful and full of earthy, mushroomy umami. I slowly savored this one, one bite at a time.
This came with a Gevrey Chambertin "Champ", Domaine Duroche, Burgundy, France 2010.
Our last course was the Wild Striped Bass served with Bhutanese red rice, green papaya salad and a ginger-red wine sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly (not a surprise) and was quite delicate. This was nicely complemented by the rich ginger-red wine sauce and the tart and crisp green papaya salad. Overall, the dish was nicely balanced and quite tasty.
This course was served with a Pago de los Capellanes, Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2009.
We had two different desserts. The first was the Confit Buddha Hands,which came with blood orange sorbet, mint meringue, confit pieces of Buddha Hands (a citrus fruit), and olive oil oil. I was astonished at how wonderful of a pairing citrus and olive oil make. It was really, really good! It makes me want to try to make olive oil ice cream (or maybe powdered olive oil) and pair it with some citrus dessert.
This was served with Moscato d'Asti, "Vigna Senza Nome," Braida Giacomo Bolgna, Piedmont, Italy 2012.
Our second dessert was equally fantastic. The Dark Chocolate Parfait was a ball of chocolate covered in cocoa nibs and served with candied marcona almonds, milk sorbet, chocolate sponge, and a rich pool of dulce de leche.
I loved the knobby, crunchy exterior, which also included very high quality chocolate chunks. This dessert was paired with Beernauslese Alois Kracher, Burgenland, Austria 2010.
Finally, we ended with two simple cortados (one of my favorite coffee drinks). It was so good we asked where they sourced the beans.
"Illy" said the server.
Fancy that. A French restaurant serving Italian coffee.
We ended with some simple brown sugar citrus financiers.
I wasn't surprised at all, but the meal was virtually flawless. There's a reason why Le Bernardin consistently garners three Michelin stars and four New York Times stars. It is also the only restaurant in all of New York to score a 29 on Zagat, one point shy of the perfect score. Even Per Se and Eleven Madison Park only get a 28. Perhaps that's why all dining guests get a free copy of the Zagat guide to New York upon getting their check (which is handy to have, by the way!).
If you love seafood, especially near-raw seafood, you will not be disappointed here, I promise.
Eric Ripert is a master when it comes to seafood and pairing it with various sauces and consommé. The food is top notch here, and the service is very good as well. I love how every course is seafood, considering I'm usually not a big of a fan of the latter meat-focused courses in a typical multi-course tasting menu.
If the price seems kind of steep, come during lunch for the three course. I've done it several times and it's just as good. You're essentially ordering from the same menu as the dinner menu, but just with one less course.
This is one of those restaurants that's worth revisiting, over and over again.
Le Bernardin 3-course lunch
New York Michelin Stars - 2013
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