Before stating that you definitely do not like fish, go to Le Bernardin, the three Michelin starred restaurant of Chef Eric Ripert and Maguy Coze, located in Midtown Manhattan. This place, opened in 1986 is the pinnacle of seafood in America and kept a solid reputation all these years. There is no doubt Chef Ripert is talented, crafting an elegant and tasteful menu that even the most skeptical will rave about, but, behind the scenes is one man, an incredible fish butcher by the name of Justo Thomas, who takes care of more than 1,000 pounds of fish per day, requiring three people to replace him when he is on vacation! Thanks to his craftsmanship, you will not find one bone or fish part that you cannot eat, filleting fishes to perfection and ensuring you have the best quality on your plate, making the whole experience there unforgettable (I just drooled by the way just thinking about it).
We went there for our wedding anniversary, for a first celebration (yes, we had two!). I do not really remember the decor, three years ago, when we went for dinner, right before their renovations, adding a lounge to the restaurant, where I believe you can just walk in and have a more casual experience than in the dining room (Gentlemen, jacket is required). The decor is classy, modern and warm, with a beautiful painting in the back from Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner representing the sea, dominating the entire dining room.
As we were still deciding what to pick from the menu, they brought us an amuse bouche.
It was composed of:
Goat cheese and beet in phyllo:
Oyster from Washington State with sea beans:
Carrot and ginger soup with a tuile:
That was a great way to start, my preference going to the soup because I thought that it had complex flavors. Even Jodi, who does not like carrot loved it.
Then, they brought us some bread and butter.
There was a large choice of bread for sure.
Jodi picked the pretzel bread
And me, the sundried tomatoe and fennel (pretty good).
We opted for the prix fixe dinner, the tasting menu looking good, but having plenty of dishes that Jodi would not like. For $135, you get three dishes and a dessert. Pricey, but totally worth it.
The first dishes were in the section
. For Jodi, it was the striped bass:
It was a wild striped bass tartare, Jicama salad with a champagne-mango emulsion. For most of the dishes, the sauce or emulsion was put at the end, poured slowly by the wait staff, like a ceremonial gesture.
It was served with some toasted sourdough bread.
I got the yellowfin tuna that was layered over foie gras and toasted baguette, with chives and extra virgin olive oil on top:
This was a nice take on surf and turf, and it worked! Similar to a carpaccio, I loved the combination of fish / foie gras, with the added crispiness from the baguette.
The second dishes were from the section
. For Jodi, it was the white tuna or escolar poached in olive oil and served with niçoise olives, grilled maitake mushrooms and a citron (lemon) vinaigrette.
For me, the king fish and caviar:
It was served with brioche bread.
Similar to Jodi's first dish, the light marinière broth was added at the table.
This was a fantastic dish: the king fish was sliced like a sashimi and not at all overpowered by either the broth or the caviar that gave a very slight saltiness to the dish.
Then was the last dish, from the section
. Jodi ordered the crispy black bass, served with wood ears mushrooms and water chestnuts, and bathed in a black truffle hot and sour pot au feu:
She was a bit disappointed, especially after she tasted my dish...I tried it and liked it, the fish skin being deliciously crispy and the fish being perfectly cooked, but I have to agree with her that we could barely taste the truffle.
So, on my side, my last dish was spectacular! It was a surf and turf made of white tuna (escolar) and kobe beef.
There were three elements to the dish:
The escolar with its soy-lemon emulsion:
The kimchi and Asian pear:
The kobe beef:
That was the best dish of the evening and, considering what we had so far, it is a pretty big statement! The escolar was so good, with its nice grilled taste, it was literally melting in my mouth. So was the beef that was tender and juicy (I drooled again!).
Last was dessert. Jodi ordered the S'mores (smoked Madagascan chocolate crémeux, Graham cracker sablé, Tahitian vanilla ice cream) that she inhaled:
And I ordered the banana, a dessert composed of a roasted banana mousse cake and ice cream, Piedmont hazelnuts:
I loved it: it was quite light and delicate, not too sweet, perfect if you love banana!
But it was not the end. They brought us a small plate with, from left to right, a cherry chocolate (that had peanut in it), a salted caramel (my favorite), a peach pate de fruit and black currant financier:
I should of course mention the wine. I went for a glass of Meursault "Les grands charrons", a Bourgogne from 2011.
With its medium-bodied flavor, it was perfect with the fish.
Dining at Le Bernardin was a sublime experience: the service was outstanding and the food beautifully presented and delicious. Yes it is pricey, but this is the kind of restaurant where you will not be disappointed. So I guess there is no need to ask me if I would go back: you know the answer!
Enjoy (I surely did)!
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!