Monday, February 21, 2011

Le Bernardin - All Hail Chef Eric Ripert (New York City)

Le Bernardin
Le Bernardin

When you visit New York and have to pick one fine dining establishment to visit, it's hard to bypass Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin. Being this the last night of my NYC vacation, I decided to end it with a bang and dine at Le Bernardin. Me and four of my fellow dining companions were set to embark on an absolutely magical meal.

Le Bernardin
Bar Snacks
Bar Snacks

While waiting for the rest of my party to arrive, I was served some breadsticks at the bar, but I only munched on one, as the last thing I wanted to do was to ruin my appetite.


After deciding to partner up with Aaron of Destination Eats, we decided to split the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu ($138) and the Chef's Tasting Menu ($185). After that part was settled, I ended up ordering my cocktail of choice, the mojito. Minty, "citrusy," and a touch of alcohol (though I probably preferred more). It was my kind of cocktail.

Amuse Bouche
Amuse Bouche
Amuse Bouche - Crab and lobster salad with cauliflower soup

At first, I thought we were being served a cold crab and lobster salad, but soon after the plates were placed onto the table, servers poured the sweet cauliflower soup. The hot soup with the cold seafood created a nice temperature contrast and the sweet flavors of the crab and lobster were actually enhanced by the soup. Fantastic!

Bread Service
Top: Breadstick Bottom: Butter

A simple bread service was soon presented. The warm breadstick went perfectly with the butter. It wasn't anything fancy, but it definitely worked.

1a. TUNA - Smoked yellowfin tuna "proscuitto"; Japanese pickled vegetables and crispy kombu

I'll denote the Chef's Tasting Menu ($185) as (a). The smoked salmon had a sashimi-like texture. The flavors of the smoked salmon were complemented by the crunchy Japanese pickled vegetables. The crispy kombu (seaweed) added a nice crunch to the dish. A very Japanese influenced dish.

1b. TUNA - Layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna; foie gras and toasted baguette; shaved chives and extra virgin olive oil

The Le Bernardin Tasting Menu ($138) also started off with tuna, though it's a totally different preparation. Instead of the Asian influence used in the previous dish, here we have my friend foie gras and toasted baguette underneath a thinly flattened piece of fresh tuna. The richness of the foie gras was a surprisingly good match to the tuna. Of the two tuna dishes, I preferred the latter.

2a. EGG - CAVIAR - Poached pasteurized egg; ostera caviar; Marinere broth and English muffin

Since there was only one order of the Chef's Tasting Menu, most of the table watched as Aaron and I went through this course. Honestly, can something with soft poached egg and caviar in a merinere (white wine shellfish sauce) broth be bad? No, of course not. Thanks! The best part of the dish was dipping the English muffin toast stick into the yellow yolk and the broth.

3a. LANGOUSTINE - seared langoustine; mâche; wild mushroom salad; shaved foie gras' white balsamic vinaigrette

The perfectly cooked langoustine was complemented with a wild mushroom salad and a heavenly foie gras white balsamic vinaigrette. Again, the seafood went beautifully with the rich taste of the foie gras. I loved it!

3b. OCTOPUS - Charred octopus; fermented black bean-pear sauce vierge; ink-miso vinaigrette; purple basil

The two ingredients that stood out were the octopus of course, and the black bean. I was pretty surprised with the use of the black beans, as it's an ingredient even my mom usually stay away from due to its intense flavors. The black bean here was actually fairly mellow, though it might be the sweet pear that tamed the intense flavors. The octopus was so good, and so tender. Tender enough to be cut with a fork. It was probably the best preparation of cooked octopus I've ever had.

4a. MONKFISH - Pan-roasted monkfish; hon shimeji mushrooms; turnip-ginger emulsion; sake broth

Monkfish is something I've rarely had, unless you count the Monkfish Liver (ankimo) served in Japanese restaurants. The monkfish had a nice crispy skin and the turnip-ginger sake broth added a nice flavor to the monkfish.

4b. SKATE - Nori crusted skate; poached oysters; braised winter lettuce; ponzu vinaigrette

The skate was perfectly cooked, and the crispy nori skin was quite nice. The poached oysters added a nice element to the dish and the final touches of the ponzu vinaigrette provided the acidity to the dish. Another Asian influenced touch, but I liked it.

5a. BLACK BASS - Crispy black bass; braised celery and parsnip custard; iberico ham-green peppercorn sauce

This is one of Le Bernardin's signature dishes (Or at least I've seen it a lot, like on Top Chef). The ingredients are fairly minimal, but it's not an easy dish to replicate. The black bass was cooked well, and I gotta love the crispy skin. The peppercorn sauce was quite flavorful and delicious. The only component of the dish I thought was unnecessary was the parsnip custard. It lacked flavor so I'm not sure if it enhanced the dish.

5b. STRIPED BASS - Baked wild striped bass; corn "cannelloni"; light Perigord sauce

Although this baked striped bass was delicious, I felt like the black bass was better cooked. The best part of this dish was the corn "cannelloni," which reminded me of a corn tamale.

6a. LOBSTER - Baked lobster on a bed of truffled foie gras stuffing; brandy-red wine sauce

Lobster? Truffled Foie Gras Stuffing? You don't have to twist my arm to eat this. Was it good? Although delicious, I wish I had more of a truffle flavor in this dish, though it may be the brandy-red wine sauce that masked some of the flavors. Regardless, it was one of my favorites of the night (though there were many).

6b. SURF AND TURF - Escolar and seared Kobe beef; sea bean salad and eggplant fries; Mr. Kaufman's pesto and anchovy sauce

The one lone meat dish of the night. Here Chef Ripert has a perfected seared kobe beef going up against a white fish like escolar. Sadly, I don't remember much about the fish, but the kobe beef was F U C K I N G amazing! You just can't go wrong with kobe beef unless you overcook that bad boy.

7a. CHEVRE - Creamy goat cheese spheres; concord grapes; candied walnut; black pepper

This was one cheese course I really liked. Though I do personally enjoy goat cheese, so that'll help. The grape "caviar" provided a nice sweetness, while the black pepper added a kick to the dish. Those goat cheese spheres reminded me of the olives at Jose Andres' Bazaar.

7b. MASCARPONE - Mascarpone cream in a crisp coffee shell; almond-cocoa pain de Gênes

The second cheese course was more of a dessert offering than a cheese course, which is fine by me. The mild taste of the mascarpone cheese was stuffed in a coffee sugar shell. That part was quite nice. The almond cocoa pain de Gênes added this creamy mocha component when everything was eaten together.

8a. CORN - PRALINE - Caramelized corn custard; hazelnut praline; brown butter ice cream; popcorn tuile

This dessert reminded me of a caramel butter popcorn in a dessert form. The corn custard was fantastic and I really enjoyed the brown butter ice cream that went along with the custard.

8b. PEAR - Cinnamon caramel parfait; liquid pear; smoked sea salt; fromage blanc sorbet

Of the two desserts, I preferred this one, though I'm also partial to a caramel based dessert. I liked the caramel parfair, but the liquid pear was quite unique. Somehow the flavors just worked. This was a nice way to end the meal.

Mignardises - From Left (Pistachio Cherry Cookie, Chocolate Hazelnut Cup, Lemon Beignet, Pomegrante Gelee on Coconut)

Finally, the end of our meal, we were presented with four simple, yet lovely bites of mignardises. I'm partial to pomegranate, so I really enjoyed that one the most, though all four were fantastic.

Group Picture with Chef Ripert
Group Shot with Chef Ripert

What can I say about Le Bernardin? I went in with a high expectation and it was met and then some. Meeting Chef Ripert was a honor, but eating his cooking left a lasting impression on how seafood should taste. While I enjoyed some of the seafood restaurants here in Los Angeles, there's not one that's even close to the standard I witnessed at Le Bernardin. I can't wait for my meal here next week. Although there will be some repeats, I'm looking forward to some of the new dishes to be presented that night. Let's hope Chef Ripert is in da house!

For Aaron's take on Le Bernardin, please go here

Le Bernardin
155 West 51st Street
NY 10020
(212) 554-1515


Anna A. said...

Wow Danny! You even met Chef Ripert! You are only the baller I aspire to be and eat such lavish dinners.

effingdericious said...

Danny! Thanks for making my Tuesday morning awesome! A real pleasure to eat vicariously through you, and a great break from excel at work haha.

Strangely enough, the most memorable bite of my Le Bernardin experience years ago was the veyr same amuse bouche of crab and lobster salad with cauliflower soup you had! It was incredible.

stuffycheaks said...

lovely pictures. I remembered being shocked when I saw the tuna when I saw it (reminded me of smoked salmon and didn't look like what I was expecting) but the baguette and foie underneath really was magical.

bagnatic said...

wow. so i basically need to make my way to new york and make ressies for le bernardin. my list of "must dos" just got longer.....

gourmetpigs said...

I had that tuna w/ foie on baguette when I went - 4 years ago now? It was amazing.

Gaetano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gaetano said...

Great post. The dishes seem amazing.

Gastronomer said...

Considering how much I adore seafood, I can't believe I've yet to dine here! What do you think? EMP OR LB? You can't say both!

Kung Food Panda said...

Anna: Thanks Anna. You'll pass me up soon. I'm a hermit now :)

Daniel: It's actually my Le Bernardin meal from last year. I thought the meal this year was even better. Thanks for your kind words!

Stuffycheaks: That was truly a fantastic dish. I had it again last month at Le Bernardin.

Amy: Yup, lots for you to eat in the Big Apple!

Kung Food Panda said...

GP: I agree with you 100%!

Gaetano: Thanks! :)

Cathy: Gah....I'll have to say EMP still, by a nose!

fel said...

I was about to comment about how your menu was identical to my chef's tasting from 2009, then saw your comment about this being your meal from last year. (Scared me for a second! "Do they not change their menu...?!?")

Kung Food Panda said...

Felicia: LOL, wait for my next post on Le Bernardin! :)