My husband and I were taken out to dinner last night by our dear friend Kevin and his lady love Allison, she was a joy to get to know, I would venture to say a kindred spirit, we hit it off immediately. The restaurant picked was Le Bernardin, my favorite restaurant in the entire world. Kevin and Allison had never been, so it was even more exciting as a dinner, it was our opportunity to share a special place with them, an opportunity to show them a cuisine that is, in my opinion, a revelation to the world of seafood in all of its artistic and culinary expressions.
As you can see from the picture above, the decor is elegance par excellence, and that excellence extends to the service, there is an art to restaurant service and at Le Bernardin you will see it at its pinnacle. The wait staff anticipates your every need, refilling your glass before it empties, removing your plate once it’s done, arriving with the bread tray once your bread is finished. As a former waiter, I appreciate the high standards that are met consistently by those who work at Le Bernardin, they make it look easy, the surest sign of professionalism and dedication to the craft. All of this is done under the eagle eye of the general manager Tommy, who introduced himself to our table, taking the time to make sure that we were happy and satisfied with our dining experience, he made us feel special and that our singular experience was of the utmost importance to the restaurant’s owner and himself. This personal attention is one of the reasons why I hold Le Bernardin in such high esteem, I feel valued as a patron and it makes me want to go back for more.
Now to talk about the food, the food!!! We decided as a table to have the Chef’s tasting menu, the reason we chose the Chef’s tasting menu was because it is the best vehicle to introduce Kevin and Allison to the unique culinary vision that the Chef, Eric Rupert, has regarding seafood. My feeling is that until you dine at Eric Rupert’s table, you don’t under the width and breadth of the possibilities that lie with treating fish as an ingredient. Under Eric Rupert’s cooking, the fish is the star of the plate and all of the accompanying ingredients and sauces are chosen to underscore the particular fish and lift it up to its full flavor potential. His creativity and imagination are also the reason why I adore this restaurant so much.
As we waited for our first course, our head waiter surprised us with an amuse-bouche trio, the presentation was simple and elegant, as were each of the following courses, a lobster/tarragon sphere served on a spoon, it looked like an egg yolk, but when it exploded in my mouth, there was no question that it was the essence of lobster and tarragon, it was exquisite. The second item was a tiny piece of fluke served with a yuzu emulsion, so light and flavorful, fish done right and the third piece was a watermelon cube macerated in some type of alcohol, I forget which, but I have forgotten how delicious it was, the trio was the perfect choice to open our palates for what was to come.
We started with King Fish-Osetra Caviar tartare served with a creme fraiche emulsion, a small bite of the clean, fresh taste of the King Fish, a fish in the mackerel family, combined with the briny taste of my favorite caviar, tempered with the smooth flavor of creme fraiche, an excellent start to any meal.
The next course was lacquered lobster tail with an herb spring roll, served with a lemongrass consommé, the oohs and ahhs over this dish were memorable, Kevin and Allison were in awe of the delicate yet complex marriage of flavors in such a small tasting, just enough to tickle and satisfy the taste buds at the same time. They got their first revelation and there was more to come. I can’t say which course was my favorite, they were unique and special, at every course we couldn’t imagine how it could be topped and yet the next one made us ooh and ahh yet again.
The third course was unbelievable in its decadence, a seared foie gras with a langoustine tail, surrounded with pickled Hon Shimeji and served with a Perigord sauce. Words to describe how it felt to eat this combination of flavors are just that words and they fall short to communicate how exquisite this bite was in my mouth. I wanted the experience to continue without end, the seared foie gras and the langoustine together bathed in the Perigord sauce, lingered on my taste buds, it was heavenly.
The next course was simple and straight forward, a barely cooked organic salmon served with a baby peas and fava bean, mint-tarragon emulsion. The flavors were clean and refreshing, a nice break from the complexity of the last course.
The fifth course blew my mind, poached halibut with Manila clams and a wild mushroom casserole, I would have never, in a million years, thought to put wild mushrooms with halibut, but it works! It was so delicious, if we hadn’t been in a high end restaurant, I would have used my bread to sop up the sauce and then licked the plate clean. Kevin and Allison were beyond words by this point, they had never eaten dishes this delicious before, they were feeling exactly how my husband and I feel every time we go to the restaurant.
The last course was the piece de resistance, I am ruined for steak forever, as are my husband, Kevin and Allison, we were served grilled Escobar and seared Wagyu beef with fresh kimchi and Asian pear surrounded with a soy-citrus emulsion. Oh my goodness, the Wagyu beef was seared to perfection, the inside was rare and while we were eating the steak, the beef felt like velvety silk deliciousness flowing down our throats, it was truly revelatory in how exquisite beef can be, I’ll never forget it. The Escobar remarkably didn’t fall short, it too was absolutely amazing, it was firm and tender and the sauce was to die for, the perfect compliment to the fish. It was a perfect ending to the savory part of our meal.
What followed all of this decadence was a light palate cleanser, a cucumber “pisco sour”, a sorbet to make way for a tiny bite of dessert, which was on the same plane as what had preceeded it, a coffee caramel cremeux served with a roasted almond mousse.
After all of this, we were beyond satisfied, we were satiated and happy. When we left, our wait staff bid us adieux and thank you, Tommy the general manager did so as well, we were equally lavish with our thank you’s and our promises to come back very, very soon.
This was one of the best dinners of my life, all of the other ones were of course at Le Bernardin, I can’t wait to have another best dinner of my life in the future.