I have been to Le Bernardin twice in my life and I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences. I first went with my mother and older sister last year and we had an enjoyable lunch. We were treated like princesses and even left with a fresh Zagat’s guide with the restaurant’s name embossed on the cover. This year, AK, my awesome mentor (and fellow foodie) asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday lunch. Last year I convinced her to accompany me to Hooter’s with my friends so we could enjoy their famous wings. After a couple of my suggestions, AK provided me a list of “nice” restaurants near our office. I was torn between Marea and of course Le Bernardin. I have never been to Marea and have heard great things about the food, but I ended up selecting Le Bernardin because now after watching Top Chef and No Reservations, I am a huge Eric Ripert fan. I thought maybe I’d be lucky enough to see Eric Ripert while dining on his delicious food. Yes, I realized this was pretty much impossible because what kind of celebrity chef actually goes in for lunch service? After AK made the reservation for Friday lunch, I started studying the menu.
If you don’t know already, Le Bernardin is really famous for their fresh seafood. In Anthony Bourdain’s latest book, “Medium Raw“, he spent an entire chapter describing how the fish butcher, Justo Thomas, prepares all the seafood by himself daily. It was really amazing how one man can fillet a day’s worth of fish (at Le Bernardin) in just seven hours! Anyhow, the week slowly crept by until it was finally Friday. I dressed up even though my company participates in Casual Fridays. This is because of the jacket required dress code at Le Bernardin.
AK and I arrived at the restaurant on time since it’s just a couple blocks from the office. The maitre’ d was extremely polite and recognized that AK was a previous guest. It’s amazing how these little touches of service makes the difference. As soon as we sat down and were studying the menus (same as the website’s menu), our waiter brought out the famous salmon salad with crispy bread. I ended up having about four pieces because AK was saving her appetite. I ended up ordering the Stuffed Zucchini Flower with Peekytoe Crab and King Crab, Crispy Black Bass and Peach-Green Tea dessert. AK ordered the Fluke sashimi, Hiramasa (Seared Yellowtail King Fish) and Fig-Bacon dessert (instead of bacon ice cream, she got the brown butter ice cream).
The zucchini flower appetizer was plated beautifully. I love how the waiter adds the “sauce” after placing the plate on the table. This way you can watch the magic happen in front of your very own eyes. I have never had a zucchini flower before, but I found it very tasty. There wasn’t a very strong flavor and both types of crab were extremely fresh. Usually at non-Asian restaurants, I stay away from the Asian-influenced dishes because I know they are a guaranteed miss. However, at Le Bernardin, I had so much fate in Eric Ripert, I decided to be risky and get the Crispy Black Bass despite all the other “French” entrees were on the menu. I even asked our waiter and he agreed that I should get it over the Striped Bass. I was not disappointed! My entree came with these three mini buns with a tiny amount of Chinese sausage. I was able to convince AK to try a mini bun because it was THAT good. The bass was fried perfectly. It did not taste greasy at all. The skin was so crispy you could barely taste it. Also, I really like bean sprouts so I was happy to find a bean sprouts “risotto” under my large portion of black bass. I had a small bite of AK’s Hiramasa and it was also very delicious. Usually, I am not a huge fan of truffles, but her dish tasted great even with that flavor.
While we were feasting on all this delightful food, I managed to see the master chef himself, Eric Ripert walking around the dining room. He was in his white apron and jeans. He first walked out while we were looking at the menu. I tried to tell AK without making it too obvious. I even whispered a “Hi” to Eric when he passed by our table, but I’m sure he couldn’t hear me. Later, he walked out to chat with some VIP customers. I kept wondering how to become a VIP customer. I guess I would need to be really rich and go to Le Bernardin every week in order to try to qualify. I had the urge to take a picture with my camera (I did have it out on the table) or even with my iPhone, but I resisted my innate Asian desire. No one else at the restaurant even blinked an eye when he came strolling. What is wrong with these people?! Given, we were probably the youngest customers at the restaurant (besides the kids participating in a family lunch), but really, does no one watch TV or read the food blogs?
Anyhow, I decided to use the restroom to see if I could see if Eric was hanging out at a side table. As I walked by, I did not see him sadly. I guess he was really working in the kitchen! As soon as I came back out, the employee who directed me to the restroom waved to another employee to signal that I was returning. Within a few seconds of sitting back at my seat, our desserts arrived. I was a bit worried that they would arrive while I was in the restroom, but no this is Le Bernardin and they are known for their service! After our desserts came out, our waiter came out with another dessert with a candle! Apparently, AK was sneaky and had informed the restaurant (perhaps while making the reservation) that it was for my birthday. After the waiter announced that it was a passion fruit dessert, I may have let out a squeal of delight. I absolutely love any dessert made of passion fruit. He also gave us a basket of fresh madelines.
The passion fruit dessert was perfect. It wasn’t overly sweet and the texture wasn’t too flan-like (I am not a fan of that texture). My own dessert was also very good. I am a big fan of green tea ice cream and peaches. The madelines were warm as if they came right out the oven. They were nice and buttery and almost melted in my mouth. I decided that I would expand my horizons and try a fig because the only other time I tried it, I did not enjoy it. I figured it’d be much better at Le Bernardin since Eric was in the kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised. The fig wasn’t too sweet, however I was told that there are other types of figs that are sweeter. The texture was not too soft either. I’m not sure if I’d ever order a fig dessert, but it definitely wasn’t bad.
All in all, AK and I had a wonderful meal. I warned her that I would be taking pictures of our meals, but with the flash off. I took them quickly so no one would notice. I definitely am looking forward to my next meal at Le Bernardin. I can’t wait! For more pictures, feel free to go to my Picasa album.
155 West 51st Street (between 7th and 6th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
Takes Credit Cards
Dress Code: Jacket required