155 West 51st Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
about $300 for two, with matching drinks, without tip
♥ ♥ ♥
After dining at Le Bernardin for the Dr.’s birthday, I realized that it shouldn’t be categorized as French. The name may be French but the menu definitely screams New American. There were a lot of Asian ingredients like lemongrass, soy and wasabi. The South American influence was also present with ceviche waving the Peruvian–or Ecuadorian, if you prefer–flag. I was surprised to see spicy chorizo, too, but I got over it as soon as the Dr. picked his meals: Peking duck and green papaya salad with black bass, langoustine with chayote and pears, kampachi with ginger-coriander emulsion. (One of his wines was a “Naiades” Verdejo from Rueda, Spain, the same wine I had at Alinea. Funny that.)
A $100 prix fixe lets you pick one dish from the three sections of almost raw, barely touched and lightly cooked selections; the fourth course is dessert. I started with the four ways of fluke, from simple to complex combinations. Ceviche is easy to make but it’s even easier to mess up. With Le Bernardin’s take, I just wanted to slurp the sauce and soup from each bowl. A 2003 Slovakian Riesling from Chateau Bela was crisp and a good match. I couldn’t pass up the warm uni custard with julienned sisho leaves because I’ve just never had sea urchin prepared like it before. The two fresh unis on top reminded me of that ocean flavor I always crave. It was barely detectable from the custard–the right amount of uni-ness. For my main course, I went for the pan-roasted monkfish with confit peppers, patatas bravas and chorizo emulsion. I didn’t really understand why it was called a tribute to GaudÃ except for its Catalan ingredients. Perhaps it was the striped garnish, the simple lines. A glass of Pessac-lÃ©ognan from ChÃ¢teau Smith Haut Lafitte was, for lack of a less pretentious word, exquisite. My dessert consisted of warm peaches topped with strawberries and drizzled with honey.
We had a very early table and we dined with the demographic we’ve gotten used to seeing around us–we seem to travel to destinations and reserve restaurants “adults” frequent–so we were mostly treated by the staff as if we’ve been dining there for years. The service was neither short nor exceptional. What surprised me, however, was how old-fashioned Le Bernardin was. The entire room buzzed as it approached the more popular dinner time but it could use a little oomph in decor and lighting to match Chef Eric Ripert’s eclectic menu.