My third visit to le Bernadin only endorsed my view that if you are to do one high end restaurant in New York City, it should be this one. Yes, the food is over the top delicious. But moreso, what Chef Eric Ripert produces is so very unique. You won't find it anywhere else.
The recipe is simple. Fish (prepared simply and cooked and seasoned perfectly) paired with a sauce (which you will beg them to take home by the gallon). Dish after dish follows this pattern. And dish after dish makes you shake your head, trying to understand how these ingredients can be elevated to such a incredibly high level.
Add in amazing breads and top-notch wine pairings and this is always a meal that will blow you away.
The atmosphere is a relaxed French formal. Enough snoot to know you're at a 3 star restaurant, but not enough to feel pretentious or stuffy. As I have seen at other restaurants, service did suffer a bit. Our initial welcome to the table was so odd and stunted that we looked at each other like "Did that really just happen?" (That server did warm up as the night went on.)
The biggest breach was that we requested they slow things down just a bit, after the first two courses came out fairly quickly. Slow down they did. To the tune of 40 minutes between the next dishes. It was way too much. The wine pairing was poured 20 minutes before the dish arrived. We often had the sommelier or server look over at our table with a face that read "They STILL don't have the next dish??" Something definitely went off the rails.
This was unfortunate because we had a train to catch and therefore a hard stop. With about an hour remaining and 5 dishes to go, I told our servers our time window and that we needed to pick things up if we were to enjoy the full menu. While the rush of the next hour was not the most enjoyable way to experience the meal, I give them high praise for honoring our request and pushing hard to be sure that we were able to enjoy every dish before having to leave.
I'll take some of that blame for requesting a slow down. But no matter how much time we had, 40 minutes between courses is wrong.
The wine pairing was stupendous, with terrific wines and a few pairings that truly elevated the food. The pours were also quite generous. (Glad we took the train!)
Despite uneven service and VERY rushed finish, this is still a meal you will remember for a long time. And delivered two dishes (the tuna and the scallops) which land in my hall of fame. le Bernadin is quite an experience, and underpriced for what you receive, in my opinion. It's not an extremely difficult reservation to get. I would encourage anyone to go at least once to experience what the highest expression of fish is really like.
In case you were wondering, Eric Ripert still has "it". Revisiting le Bernadin almost exactly 1 year after my first visit, it somehow improved. Service was off the charts. From the minute you enter the door, the gracious, understated and classy staff is fully at your service. Sure, there's a but of a French arrogance, but it fits the place and it remains accessible.
I typically get wine pairings, but here - you must. Their head sommelier Aldo Sohm is world-renown for good reason. Our sommelier (not Aldo) had a few missteps - barely describing our first wine and, when I mentioned I learned about white burgundy from my last visit, replied with a snide "Burgundy is a very well known wine region." Upon explaining that I was aware, but had always associated it with red wine, she settled back into her friendly manner.
But the food! This is not a place where that blows you out of the water with powerful flavors. Quite the opposite. Each dish is understated and just perfect. You wouldn't want the fish cooked 1 second more or 1 second less. It's perfectly seasoned...not wanting an additional grain of salt nor a single grain removed. The insane level of consistency this restaurant produces is its magic. What a privilege to sit and enjoy the fruits of what is surely incredible amounts of highly skilled labor.
This is a true 3 star Michelin experience. If you love fish, this restaurant should be on your map. They have been at the apex of what they do for a very long time now. And continue today with world-class results.
Dining at le Bernadin puts the focus on incredible fish, cooked to perfection and paired with sauces that fully compliment without becoming the star. The dishes look fairly straightforward, I realize. But it's their simplicity combined with depth of flavor in each element that makes this a true 3 Michelin star experience.
Chef Eric Ripert's jaunt is definitely a place to target as a destination. The brilliance is subtle, not loud. But the expertise in every area can be felt and certainly tasted.
We were fortunate enough to have is reknown sommelier Aldo Sohm wait on us personally, and the wines were divine. One please Teresa (who is not a big wine drinker) so much that she requested I order some for a future celebration. (I did. And it was everything we remembered.)
Replying to Steven Smith