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Le Bernadin

July 25, 2023


I have resisted writing about them for so long because as much as I love you all for reading, you flood the restaurants that I write about and I can never get a reservation OR a seat by the bar again! This is ultimately what I want in the end, that is, foot traffic for restaurants so I truly have no complaints. My writing is working and I am happy that you are reading and restaurants are happy. I am also happy that you are eating, having a great time and there is just an abundance of happiness flowing around. Speaking of happy, I am writing today about a restaurant that brings me so much joy. So much so that they are my favorite restaurant in the world. This restaurant is called Le Bernadin. You may have heard about them before, three Michelin stars, No. 44 on the World 50 Best list, 4 stars New York Times and the list of accolades goes on and on. People always exclaim when I say that they are my favorite in the world,“Sacre Bleu! You travel the world and Le Bernadin is your favorite???”. Yes it is. There is just that special something, a welcome home environment if you will that they create here. It is such a special feeling and place that there are no words to adequately describe it. You just have to be present to feel what this unique feeling is. In any case, for this umpteenth visit, I was in a supremely good mood for reasons that I will reveal in the near future so I went to my favorite place to celebrate and I got the tasting menu. The last time I had the tasting menu here was about five years ago, on my birthday, in the dining room before I became a regular at the bar. The starter snacks that you receive at the start of the meal are always different and my anticipation built as I waited for my trio of joyous heaven. Honestly, I completely forgot that I was writing and missed a photo or even listened as they were being introduced. However, from what I do remember, there was an asparagus soup which was divine. Generally, the soup of the trio of snacks is always my favorite as it is very often a unique pairing with ingredients that seamlessly integrate with one another. I had started my celebration by sipping a Blanc de Blanc and it was a decadent pairing achieved when it was had with the snacks.

So now we get into the main feast. Full disclosure, I am here every Thursday so a lot of the dishes and descriptions are palate “muscle” memory and yet still delicious every time.

The first dish was the Taragai with saffron gelee and olive oil. This is one of the newer dishes on the menu and maybe you are like me as the first time I saw this on the menu, I wondered, “just what is Taragai?”. These are essentially enormous clams. As usual, I taste individual components of dishes before having it all together. For me, when tasting individual components, having them standout and hold strong on their own and then feed into one balanced flavor when combined is my mark of a strong dish. The taragai has a firm and a bit chewy texture and on flavor it is incredibly fresh. As you would expect, the remnant flavors of the gelee and olive oil that I scraped off, so I could taste the fish alone, lingered. It truly made me excited to taste it all together so I proceeded to do so. I had one holistic bite with all the components including a flower and I loved how a floral aftertaste was presented and stayed for a little while. It really opened and refreshed my palate with curiosity for more. I know I am generally writing about the first time that I have had a dish and you would think that I have never had this dish before but… I have had it many many a time. I find this to be the true beauty of Le Bernadin. They do not reinvent their dishes to keep up with the times, they keep to what they know and have perfected and even still, it has a different degree of perfection every time. Eating here is almost as though you are discovering each dish for the first time every time you have it. Absolutely wonderful.

Next was the warm scallop tartare with ossetra caviar. This is undoubtedly my favorite thing on the menu and I was more than excited to see that it was on the tasting menu. You can never go wrong with a generous serving of caviar and this was no different. It was silky and buttery and did not come with too much brine on flavor. The broth tasted like it was chicken based with a large dollop of full fat butter with green herbs to balance out the richness. The scallop was barely cooked and just soaked up all of the flavors of the bowl accentuating a different aspect of the dish with every bite. I love this plate with all my might. I do not waste caviar so yes I ripped a nice big chunk of French baguette that I was provided and sopped up all the remaining sauce and caviar. Lovely.

Up next, we have the poached lobster. I have actually never had this before which is a first given that I am here every week. The sauce is rich but there is a sharp flavor that cuts through it. It just might be lemon and the acidity that that brings to a dish but I am not sure. It is balanced and an amazing flavor on the palate so I am not too worried. There is fennel on the plate which is one of my favorite vegetables. There is also what I think is a green grape but it is not tart so joy. It is just “waking up” to its sweetness. All together, you have the classic juicy lobster exploding flavor enmeshed with the light sweetness of the grape and the refreshing component of the fennel. This is magical.

The seared langoustine with aged balsamic vinaigrette is up next. Here, I found the mushroom to be the predominant flavor and yet still it did not overshadow the langoustine. I believe the preparation of the langoustine is poached, as opposed to seared, but this is done ever so lightly. The langoustine is perfectly abundant in moisture that the juices just explode in your mouth and yet still is counterbalanced by the petite macho salad and mushrooms. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I do not believe that I have had this dish before either. I guess I just go for my tried and true food orgasm dishes. This is the beauty of enjoying the tasting menu, that is, you always discover the hidden and dishes that the restaurant believes should be experienced. Fabulous.

Next was the fluke and this is yet another dish that I have not had. I have to be honest that this is not my favorite dish as fluke is really quite lean and firm in texture. Fluke naturally has a certain sweetness to it and I presume it is this sweetness that chef was trying to pair with the tomato base. The rescuing factors were the other components on the dish which are urchin and potatoes.

The last of the savory courses was the halibut with truffle sunchoke purée. I generally hate sunchoke and this is yet another mark of a strong dish for me. If a chef can present me with a dish whose ingredients, I generally hate but make me enjoy it, this is a truly qualified chef. The sauce is beef based, I believe as it is in fact bourguignonne, a classic French dish. Whenever, I hear, see or taste bourguignonne, I am immediately reminded of Julia Child and her interesting accent. In any case, this dish, as with the others, is insanely good. The halibut cuts like butter and is decadent to taste, even though halibut is generally a mild tasting fish. I cannot stress how spectacular the sauce is and I honestly could enjoy this over scrambled eggs with a side of buttered toast. The root vegetables on the plate, even though small in size, were mighty in flavor. They were noticeable on the palate for their grounded flavor which brought all components of the dish together. A perfect way to end the savory courses.

To be honest, I was really sad that this was the end of the savory courses. So sad that I actually exclaimed to Carey, the head bartender, “Already?”. We are friends so he is used to my comical outbursts. I guess this is why I come every week because no matter how many times I visit, and order the same things, I cannot get enough. Remember this is coming from someone who barely repeats restaurants. So returning every week definitely says something. In any case, time for desserts!

For pre-dessert, we have watermelon. So simply it is called and so artful on the plate it is. I took a moment to take it in and appreciate it visually, almost not wanting to eat it as it was just so stunning. Obviously, I could not start at it for too long as I did not want it to melt into soup before I had to chance to taste each individual component. So I went ahead and started the tasting process and the flavor profile was unbelievable. I am not one for sweets but what we have here is seasonally fresh watermelon with a frozen yogurt sorbet that has a grassy flavor. Since the only thing I did not know on the dish name was the pandan, I presumed that to be what I was tasting. You would think my saying grass in a dessert is a bad thing, I mean that is generally reserved for smoothies, but not in this case. It is a vibrant addition to the plate. Amazing.

And finally we come to the end of the tasting menu with the dessert, which is the pistachio praline. In all honesty, I do not remember the last time I had pistachio even though they are my favorite nut. I took a mental note to buy a bag of pistachios. This like the watermelon was a work of art with what looked like crumbled golden wrappers laying atop. I was full at this point so I just wanted to get a quick taste. Of note is the interior surprise of hidden golden leaves and rich chocolate. Absolutely perfect final taste.

So this was my visit to Le Bernadin for the umpteenth time. I would say make a reservation but it is impossible to get one. Still try though as everyone should experience the dining room at least once in a lifetime. You can always just walk-in and ask for a seat in the lounge which is equally as upscale with a wonderful experience to be had. As for me, you will find me there on Thursdays, sitting by the bar and laughing with Carey and Brandon while being poured wine by Brendan. I should note that the bar is also an experience to be had as these people are so dear to my heart. They are also a huge reason I return every week as they are my sanity check of sorts. In any case, come on out.

Now I bid you farewell and adieu!

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