Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin

6:30 at Le Bernardin is like prime time at any other restaurant. Alone, waiting for GQ’s Alan Richman, I was told to wait on a couch in the front of the restaurant. Sitting there, feeling many eyes boring into the back of my head, I had the distinct feeling that I was out of place. The co-owner/chef here, Eric Ripert, had a sort of disrespect towards me and a disdain that I was out to challenge. As time wore on, pistachio cheese sticks were brought to me, with a kind of curiosity that troubled me. A pleasant atmosphere of rich conversation and stuffy people filled the king-like restaurant and gave it an air that almost shouted, “ stay away middle-class folk!” A vast number of waitresses and waiters wondered around topping already filled glasses and bringing food over to tables. Two giant vases of many colorful flowers stood in the center of the restaurant. As Alan swoops in through the door we were immediately shown to or escorted to the second best table in the restaurant. As soon as we sat down, waiters and sommeliers warmly welcomed Alan the food critic. (clearly he had been to this magnificent restaurant before).  Now we were both comfortably seated.

The amuse-bouche, or, “welcome” from Chef Eric Ripert was gently placed in front of us. My fork slipped through the plump, tender shrimp, and I had trouble picking it up. Poached in truffle foam it gave a sweet taste with that hint of a woody essence truffles let off. World famous sommelier, Aldo Sohm, argued endlessly with Alan about which wines were appropriate for the meal. Finally, it seemed that they had come to an agreement. They would do a white, then a red. Opening the menu, I scanned it, looking at our choices. There were two tasting menus and a regular menu with a four course meal for $109. There was an Almost Raw section, a Barely Cooked section and a Lightly Cooked section.

From the first section we chose Kumamoto Oyster, known as “ en gelee,” an assortment of six oysters each with a topping from light to complex, to be eaten from left to right. We ordered the tuna, a complex dish consisting of Yellowfin Tuna and Foie Gras resting on a toasted baguette with shaved chives and olive oil.

From the barely cooked section we ordered Octopus, described as, a warm octopus salad with a touch of paprika and olive oil. Also from that section we ordered the Crab, stuffed into a zucchini flower was Peekytoe crab drizzled with a black truffle sauce and shaved black truffle on top. Finally, the Langoustine Lobster resting on lemon seaweed butter.

From the last section, I ordered Surf and Turf. Not your regular lobster and steak, but Escolar fish and Seared Kobi Beef. Lamb was added to our growing meal from the Upon Request section. I heard a few laughs when I ordered the lamb, but I pursued my craving for meat in this fish dinner.

The Kumamoto, with it’s six plump oysters and condiments, was served on ice and a metal plate. The first oyster I ate was the Green Apple one. The taste of fish and ocean united with sour apples and earth, and battled in my mouth long after I had finished the oyster. Next was Usu Citrus, a similar taste, but altogether delicious. Then Shesu Mint. Thoughts of fresh mint leaves and cool oysters soared through my head. Feeling dizzy, I moved onto my favorite one, the Ponzu Soy oyster. Almost as if made for each other fresh bits of soy sank into the luxurious oyster.

Tuna looking like it had just been cut into thin filets, flew across the room and sat patiently on the table. One bite and this was a keeper. Thin delicate tuna as light as a flower and as delicious as a warm summer day itself. Foie Gras and oil helped to bring out the seductive flavor of yellowfin tuna. If you have ever tasted real high quality fish you would know that this was it.

Between dishes, more people streamed into this popular restaurant. Conversation grew louder and waiters were more frantic. A bread man came out to offer a wide selection of bread, from sour dough to Parker house rolls. The Parker house rolls were sweet and soft, tasting almost like challah.

Octopus knocked out all thoughts of rolls. Taking a bite of a small thin circle of octopus I had high expectations for the dish. Perhaps they were too high. A subtle taste of octopus and olive oil crept into my mouth. Hoping for a more zesty taste than this one I felt let down. Where was the flavor? It needed lemon and something else to take the flavor of the octopus and push it to the limit. Chef Ripert could have put a little more effort into this dish. Langoustine Lobster knocked out all the doubts I had about the rest of the meal. Like the shrimp, the lobster was so tender and plump my fork slid through and seemed confused about what to pick up. This time, sweet and spicy hit my taste buds. Wrapped in a lemon seaweed coma.

Kumamoto Oysters

Kumamoto Oysters

Down from heaven came the Crab. Contained in a Zucchini flower was the Peekytoe crab. Generously doused in black truffle sauce it was out of this world. Sour was the zucchini flower, sweet was the crab and woody was the truffle sauce. Each flavor was a puzzle piece and when they fit together they became a clear picture. Flowers deep within a forest of trees and sweet smells. Such complexity!

Lastly, the Lightly Cooked dishes. Surf and Turf is a legacy at Le Bernadin or so I was told by Alan. Smells of Kobi beef and Escolar were enough to drive me crazy. A bite of that rich silky beef, then the cool refreshing fish, was perfect. Escolar is an extremely delicate and delicious fish by itself. Adding anchovy sauce to something like this bullies the taste of the fish and overpowers it’s beautiful flavor.

As we relax and wait to order dessert, I discover a wonderful thing. The decor of Le Bernardin is unique. From a first glance it is modern, but that modern look is timeless. In addition to first class service this restaurant’s decor has stayed the same since it opened, or with no major changes. As Maguy Le Coze, also here from the restaurant’s beginnings, strolls over to talk with us I begin to understand why this restaurant is so popular and great. Maguy is a co-owner at Le Bernardin and there is no detail which escapes her. She struts around talking to guests and making sure everything is all right. As we talk, I order dessert.


As a welcome to the course called, “Dessert” we were given an egg shell with caramel, chocolate, cream and sea salt. All tastes battle fought a hopeless battle to overpower each other. I taste of oceans of chocolate, skies of cream and seas of salt. We ordered Chocolate-Sweet Potato and Sorbets with one ice cream. The Chocolate-Sweet Potato was a Dark chocolate ganache with Vanilla Salt and Sweet Potato Pearls as the menu puts it. From the sorbets we chose Pineapple Buttermilk, Coconut and Blood Orange. From the ice cream we picked Malted Rum Milk Chocolate.

The sorbets, all, plopped on one plate, were set between us. Moving from left to right, I started with Pineapple. Just close your eyes and you are in a warm, tropical place, messily eating fat juicy pineapples with a creamy edge to them. Then the coconut a rich creamy flavor that is hard to imagine has no cream. Finally, the Blood Orange sorbet strongly jerked me out of my creamy adventures and into bolder tangy tastes.  Truly a feast fit for a king!

More petits desserts followed, but deep chocolate ganache was all I could taste for the rest of the night, so smooth and rich.  As I pondered, deep in chocolate heaven, I realized with a sharp pang how much it hurt to be mesmerized by a chef who hates me.

Chef Eric Ripert

Chef Eric Ripert

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~ by David Fishman on June 18, 2009.

8 Responses to “Le Bernardin”

  1. Pretty nice post. I just came by your site and wanted to say
    that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Thank you. If you have any restaurant suggestions please let me know.

  3. Loved your latest post, by the way.

  4. […] Bernardin « Middle School Food Critic Syndicated from Le Bernardin « Middle School Food Critic.The amuse-bouche, or, “welcome” from Chef Eric Ripert was gently placed in front of us. My fork […]

  5. great writing good review

  6. Good day everyone, I just registered on this incredible discussion board and wished to say hello there! Have a good day!

  7. nice topic

  8. Greets dude!

    It is my first time here. I just wanted to say hi!

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