Le Bernardin (NY) – A Michelin One Star Meal
Eating out at the haute level, and then reading/writing about it, can sometimes invoke a Schopenhauer-ian perspective on the hobby – life is suffering because our desires can never be fulfilled. Le Bernardin has its critics who argue that a restaurant focused on fish should not be awarded three Michelin stars; others argue the food is just plain ordinary. Based on my one and only visit, the ingredients were sashimi-quality, the execution flawless, and the conception perfect. It still ranks as one of my favorite meals. But this was the “re-visitation” New York trip, where Jean Georges got knocked out of my Top 5 US earlier in the day. Would Le Bernardin suffer the same fate?
This was more of a social meal so I didn’t take notes. The pictures, while not as good as the last few posts, did turn out ok once I got done with Photoshop.
1. Progressive Tasting of Marinated Fluke
This dish has garnered a fair amount of hype but it’s lost on me. The tasting starts with a simpler citrus-based marinade and progressively gets more “complicated” – more ingredients and stronger flavors. All of the marinades have a bit of heat but I found the last two too strong for the fish. Good.
2. Yellowfin Tuna w/ Foie Gras, Shaved Chives, & Olive Oil
A paper thin slice of tuna covering foie gras. This dish just seemed to be a mis-mash of ingredients without unifying properties. The tuna/foie combination did not come close to comparing to similar combinations from Pierre Gagnaire (Paris). The whole dish just seemed confused. Ok.
3. Kanpachi Tartar w/ Wasabi Tobiko & Ginger-Coriander Emulsion
One of the better dishes of the night – the ginger-coriander emulsion spiced up the dish and gave it a complementary dimension missing from the previous two dishes. Good.
4. Grilled Salt Cod Salad
I don’t remember much aside from it was a neither here nor there dish. Ok.
5. Warm Peeky-Toe-Maryland Lump “Crab Cake” w/ Dijon Mustard Emulsion
This tasted fine but the mustard emulsion was one dimensional. Good.
6. Spicy Langostine Sambal, Chayote, & Pear Julienne
This was a send-it-back dish. I ate one half of the langostine but then I told the waiter it was not that fresh – very mushy. Not Good.
7. Pan-Roasted Red Snapper w/ Ginger-Lemon-Scallion Broth
The fish was overcooked – a cardinal sin at Le Bernardin. Not Good.
8. Baked Lobster, Wilted Romaine, Port & Tamarind Reduction
I don’t remember this dish.
9. Milk Chocolate Pot de Creme, Caramel Foam, Maple Syrup, & Maldon Sea Salt
Thank goodness the egg is still magical – one of my favorite all-time desserts. The sea salt is the masterful stroke. Excellent.
10. Chocolate Ganache & Sweet Corn in 3 Textures
Desserts with savory elements score higher marks with me. The corn sorbet is something I will have to try once corn starts popping up in this area. Very Good.
I’m not dying to go back unless Eric Ripert himself promised me a return to greatness (which I would absolutely heed.) This meal lacked the precision and subtlety of my last visit, not to mention ingredient quality. It was a Saturday night; perhaps a weekday dinner or lunch would allow the kitchen to focus better. Nonetheless, for $180 food cost, there shouldn’t be egregious errors. My last meal was French Michelin three star quality; this meal deserved one.
Providence (LA) has displaced it as the better (and cheaper… and closer) fish-only restaurant in the US. If I were to bastardize these experiences, and enter both meals into an Iron Chef competition, the Providence meal would win hands down.