Chef Eric Ripert – I’ve heard of his name, I’ve watched shows that he has hosted (Avec Eric, anyone?), I’ve seen him on Top Chef, and I’ve read his cook books. I’m glad to say that I’ve met him and dined at his restaurant, Le Bernardin, in New York. I made my reservations for lunch on OpenTable.com some weeks ahead of my planned visit, yet some of my initial date choices were already full for both sittings.
The moment that I stepped into Le Bernardin, I thought, “Wow, this is some restaurant, eh?” High ceilings, fairly large tables and many wait staff, all of whom serve with a smile. I checked in my coat and was seated at a table. I perused the menu and made a mental note of what to choose. Nonetheless, I asked my server for his recommendations. I was rather glad that with the exception of dessert, his recommendations checked with mine. It was like telepathy, I kid you not.
I’ve heard so much of Le Bernardin prior to my visit (even my Uncle who’s a chef and lives in New York has praises for it) and so, with built up anticipation and eagerness to try the food here, it was time to get my adventure started..
Like clock work, the complimentary bread tray was served. Besides the ordinary butter, the bread came along with a serving of salmon rillette.
I usually like my bread with plain ole’ butter, but the salmon rillette was really good. And perhaps the winter cold got to my stomach for I actually asked for more bread to go along with the rillette.
The items in lunch menu at Le Bernardin are split into three categories. They are pretty much self explanatory and come with 6-8 choices each, and trust me, every single one of them sounds delicious.
- Simply Raw
- Barely Touched
- (Main Course) Lightly Cooked
Layers of Thinly Pounded yellowfin Tuna; Foie Gras, Toasted Baguette, Shaved Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Lunch started off on a fantastic note. The Tuna Carpaccio was really flavourful. There was neither the over seasoning of the tuna nor the use of flavoured/infused olive oil – it was about letting the fresh catch speak for itself. Brilliant.
Oh, you saw the Foie Gras and Toasted Baguette in the description, didn’t you? Tucked right in the the centre of the dish under the layers of tuna was a small piece of foie gras served atop a equally small slice of toasted baguette.
Charred Octopus; Fermented Black Bean – Pear Sauce Vierge, Ink – Miso vinaigrette; Purple Basil
I’ve read much about this dish on food review sites and food blogs alike, and was so sure that if I saw it on the menu, that I would select it as my second course. And chose it, I did.
Frankly, on paper – Fermented Black Beans? I thought, “This sounds like Chinese cuisine.” But Chinese, it definitely was not. Asian influenced, maybe.
The octopus was outstanding. I was expecting it to be slightly chewy, perhaps almost squid like but no, it was really tender; One need not put much effort into slicing it. According to the wait staff, the octopus was first braised and then charred, which gave the octopus its texture.
I could have easily had two orders of the octopus – it was that good.
In some restaurants, Asian-influenced/inspired is a bad thing, but in Chef Ripert’s house, it can only be a good thing.
Note: Recipe can be found here.
Seared Yellowtail king fish; Truffle Risotto, Spring Vegetables, Black Truffle Emulsion
The King fish came highly recommended by from the wait staff. With the first bite of the fish and the first scoop of the risotto, I knew that it was a perfect choice. The fish was, as aptly listed in the menu, lightly cooked – resulting in a tender piece of fish that was neither over nor under-seasoned. I’ve heard Chef Ripert say this on TV many a time that the quality of the ingredients is of utmost priority and here, the freshness of the fish definitely showed through.
The truffle risotto was really good; the black truffle emulsion, even better!
Milk Chocolate Creme. Malden sea salt. Caramel Custard Foam.
An interlude from the main course and dessert is a complimentary palate cleanser of sorts.
One of Chef Michael Laiskonis’s more famous desserts, “Egg” is served in a egg shell, you get a combination of milk chocolate creme served with caramel custard foam topped off with a little dash of Fleur de Sel. The sea salt helps to somewhat cut through the sweetness with that savoury touch.
Trust me – this was much better than dessert!
Panna Cotta, Sorbet on side.
With the dessert, I was really on-the-fence with it. It was definitely not forgettable but it was not sensational either.
The usual sweetness (of the panna cotta) and citrus (from the sorbet) combination worked here but that was where the greatness came to a halt.
On another note, the coffee that was served at the end of the meal was really good – strong and robust yet fragrant at the same time.
(P.s. Food aside, I must add that the immaculate service rendered by the wait staff at Le Bernadin was definitely worthy of mention - It was just too good to be ignored.)
155 west 51st Street New York City (6th and 7th Avenue)
Book Online: http://www.opentable.com/le-bernardin
Monday – Friday 12:00pm – 2:30pm
Monday – Thursday 5:15pm – 10:30pm
Friday & Saturday: 5:15pm – 11:00pm