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

Friday, February 18, 2011

Peter Luger - Best Steakhouse In America? (Brooklyn, New York)

Peter Luger
Peter Luger

When I was told the burger at Peter Luger was something worth going to for lunch, I figured it's a good excuse to try their steak as well. Since the burger was only served at lunch, thus I added Peter Luger to my lunch list.


Peter Luger Steak Sauce
Peter Luger Steaksauce

Instead of butter, I dip my bread in Peter Luger's famous steak sauce. Fantastic, just wonderful. I think I want to get a bottle of that sauce next time!

Luger's Sizzling Bacon, Extra Thick by the Slice
Luger's Sizzling Bacon

Besides the steak, you order the bacon when you eat at Peter Luger, no ifs or buts. The thick cut of bacon was purely divine. I'd go to Peter Luger just to order this!

Luger Burger
Luger Burger

I want to say I loved the burger, but I didn't. It's a damn good burger, especially for something under $10. However, I liked my burgers at Minetta Tavern and Shack Shake a lot more. The fries are pretty unforgettable, but was heightened by the Luger Steaksauce.

Steak for One
Steak for One
Steak for One

This is why I came to Peter Luger in the first place, for the steak. A perfectly cooked medium rare, does it get better than this?? Now, was it the best steak I've ever had? I didn't think so, but for the price (under $40 a person), you could do a lot worse than a steak at Peter Luger. I enjoyed my experience here and will definitely come back for its sizzling bacon, the steak, and of course, that damn good steaksauce!

Peter Luger Steakhouse
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 387-7400

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Per Se - Worthy Of Three Michelin Stars (New York City)

Per Se
Per Se

Thomas Keller has been a chef I've been intrigued about for a long while, and even though I've lived close to his famed French Laundry, I was in no shape financially to visit that place back in College. Fast forward to 2010 as I was picking restaurants to visit in NYC, Kevin told me I shouldn't miss on Per Se, thus I took Kevin's advice.

Per Se Dining Room
Per Se

When I made my reservation, I had a request with the menu. Since I had zero interest in the tasting of vegetables, and having two chef's tasting seemed quite redundant, I asked for a separate, and hopefully an offals only menu. While the offal tasting menu ended when the ex-chef de cuisine Jonathan Benno left for Lincoln, I hoped the new chef de cuisine Eli Kaimeh would have something up his sleeves.

Per Se
Per Se
Arriving before at the 5:30 reservation, the restaurant was fairly empty, but by the time dinner service ended, it was definitely a full house.

Gin Rickey
Gin Rickey

Since I wasn't too interested in wine pairing, I went ahead with an order of Gin Rickey, a gin and lime based cocktail. It was quite refreshing.

Butter: Left: Fleur de Sel Butter from Vermont. Right: Straus Family Creamery Butter from California

I forgot to take a picture of the bread, but above are the famous butters Keller serves with the bread service. Both are different, and delicious.

Gruyère Gougères
Canapé:Gruyère Gougères
The first canapé was the famous gruyère gougères, a wonderful bite of delicious creamy goodness. I wish there were more, but what a great start!

Salmon Coronets
Canapé: Salmon Coronets

Another famous course made famous by Chef Keller, the finely chopped salmon was served in black sesame cone with crème fraîche already inside. I truly enjoyed this one biter. The smoked salmon went wonderfully with the crème fraîche. The black sesame cone added a nicely needed texture.

"Oyster and Pearls"
1. "Oysters and Pearls" - "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar

As the first main course arrived, I was happy to see it was the dish I've been anticipating to eat, Chef Keller's "Oysters and Pearls." "Wow" was the only word I could describe this dish. This IS Keller's signature's dish and it fails to disappoint. The saltiness of the caviar, the creamy "sabayon" that I wanted to clean, and the silky oyster. It's truly a match made in heaven. This was my favorite dish of the night.

White Truffle Oil Infused Custard
White Truffle Oil Infused Custard
2. White Truffle Oil Infused Custard - "Ragout" of Black Winter Truffles

Black truffles on a white truffle oil custard? Say no more, I'll take one! The flavors of the truffle was intense, but not overpowering. The custard itself was smooth and delicate. Delicious!

Salad Of Roasted Cauliflower
3a. Salad Of Roasted Cauliflower - Hadley Orchards' Medjool Dates, Shaved Greenmarket Carrots, Cilantro Shoots and Mareona Almonds with Madras Curry Yogurt

Roasted cauliflower assented by the curry yogurt. While the dish doesn't stand out, it was quite nice. The flavors of the curry went well with the vegetable melody.

Terrine Of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras
Terrine Of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras
Toasted Brioche
3b. Terrine Of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras - Honey Crisp Apple Marmalade, Candied Cashews, Watercress and Cherry Balsamic Vinegar with Toasted Brioche ($45 Supplement)

"Go Big or Go Home," we went with the foie gras supplement. The foie gras was probably the best preparation I've ever had. Silky smooth, yet rich and delicious, I don't think it could be done any better. All the flavors worked, but the star of the dish was definitely the foie gras. This is one supplement you must get! The service was on the money, the brioche was actually changed while I was taking pictures of the dish. Chef Keller I guess doesn't want patrons to eat cold brioche.

Grilled "Pave" Of Spanish Mackerel
4a. Grilled "Pave" of Spanish Mackerel - "Langue de Veau Grillee," Capers and Meyer Lemon "Gastrique" with Preserved Horseradish Jus

The mackerel was cooking beautifully. The meyer lemon added a much needed acidity to the dish.

Pan Seared "Pave" Of Yellowtail
4b. Pan Seared "Pave" of Yellowtail - Sunchokes, Meiwa Kumquats, Spigarello Broccoli, and Brown Butter Crumble with Sunchoke Emulsion

Between the two version, I definitely preferred the latter. The yellowtail was richer and the flavors of sunchokes and broccoli was more preferred on my point.

Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster
5a. Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster - "Boudin Noir" and Mustard Cress with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

Lobster and blood sausage? Wow, I never would thought of that combination. The lobster itself was remarkably sweet and tender. The boudin noir was flavorful and delicious. The mustard sauce added a nice kick to the dish.

Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster
5b. Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster - "Cassoulet" of Rancho Gordo Beans with Mustard Cress and Laurel "Nuage"

Part two of the duel of butter poached Nova Scotia lobsters, had the poached lobsters on a bed of Rancho Gordo beans. Now, some of you know, aside from fried dough, and beets, I don't really care for beans. The "cassoulet" was quite tasty, but overall, I preferred the Nova Scotia lobster with the boudin noir preparation.

"Pressee De Lapin"
6a. "Pressee De Lapin" - Loin Wrapped in Applewood Smoked Bacon, Global Artichokes and Black Winter Truffle Vinaigrette

This is the reason I didn't bother with the tasting of vegetables. Would you rather eat rabbit food? Or the rabbit itself? Here we have the loin of a rabbit wrapped in applewood bacon served witha black winter truffle vinaigrette. This was truly a fantastic dish. I'm a fan of rabbit and this preparation was lovely.

Liberty Farm's Pekin Duck Breast
6b. Liberty Farm's Pekin Duck Breast - Ruby Beets "Cuites Sous Vide," Northstar Sour Cherries, Compressed Red Endive and Field Mizuna with "Sauce Perigourdine"

I love duck, I especially love eating them. This one was quite lovely. Cooked a perfect medium rare, the duck was tender, juicy, and just plain delicious. The sides were okay, but the star was definitely the duck itself.

Elysian Fields Farm's "Selle d'Agneau Rôtie Entière"
7a. Elysian Fields Farms "Selle d'Agneau Rôtie Entière" - Globe Artichokes, French Breakfast Radishes, Persian Cucumbers, Young Lettuces and San Marzano Tomato Marmalade with Lamb Jus

Next, we were served the "Selle d'Agneau Rôtie Entière," or roasted lamb saddle. I personally love lamb, but sadly I didn't remember much about this particular dish. My bad.....

Tartare Of Japanese Hime Wagyu
Tartare Of Japanese Hime Wagyu
7b. Tartare Of Japanese Hime Wagyu - Crispy Bone Marrow, Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm, Maitake Mushrooms and Hakurei Turnips with "Sauce Japonaise" ($45 Supplement)

A second supplement option, and really, who the heck would turn down a Japanese wagyu tartare? The wagyu tartare is exactly what you'd expect. Rich. Creamy. Fatty. And most importantly, delicious. The crispy bone marrow added a nice layer of fatty goodness with a wonderful texture. The hearts of palm, the maitake, and the turnips provided a much needed refreshing balance to this dish. This was the last savory course of the night.

8. "Garrotxa" - "Pain de Campagne" Melba, Royal Blenheim Apricot "Membrillo," Celery Branch "Filaments" and Pickled Holland Peppers with Pimenton "Ravigote"

I don't remember this course, but I know I didn't care for it. I don't particularly enjoy cheese. If anything, I prefer cooked cheese than eating it in this preparation. Next time when I do a tasting, I'm going to substitute the cheese course. Meh.

Mandarin Orange Sorbet
9. Mandarin Orange Sorbet - Wild Peppercorn "Sable" and Orange Lace with Nyons Extra Virgin Olive Oil Emulsion

When I was eating the sorbet, I didn't realize this dessert had peppercorn or olive oil. It was refreshing and a nice way to cleanse the palate.

Complimentary Coffee

Before the next round of dessert, we were asked and served a cup of some delicious coffee.

"Coffee And Doughnuts"
"Coffee And Doughnuts"
10. "Coffee and Doughnut" - Cinnamon-Sugared Doughnuts with Cappuccino "Semifreddo"

While I rarely order doughnuts, I wasn't about to miss Keller's famous Coffee and Doughnut dessert. The doughnut was actually quite light and airy, a good thing since I normally hate the idea of eating fried dough. The "coffee" was delicious. I could have gone through a few cups of that stuff.

"Mont Blanc"
11a. "Mont Blanc" - Chestnut "Genoise," Swiss Meringue, Chocolate-Juniper "Cremeux," Rum Parfait and "Marron Glace" with Chocolate Ice Cream

This one was nice, a true chocolate lovers dessert. I loved the texture of this dessert and the cool ice cream to finish everything off. It was just fantastic!

Pear And Caramel
Pear And Caramel
11b. Pear and Caramel - Madagascar Vanilla-Poached Bartlett Pear, Caramel Mousse and Pear "Pate de Fruit" with "Glace au Beurre Noisette"

I loved "Mont Blanc," but I loved Pears and Caramel even more. Here you have a dessert ofpear and caramel done four different ways. Each one was unique by itself, but I loved tasting each of the components, the flavors, the texture. It was just a great way to end the dessert portion of the meal. So I thought....

Crème brûlée
12. Crème brûlée

They must be mind readers here. Crème brûlée is truly my favorite dessert of all time. I savored each bite of this one.

Yogurt Pot de Crème with Guava Jam
13. Yogurt Pot de Crème with Guava Jam

Originally I thought this was a panna cotta, but it was a Yogurt Pot de Crème with Guava Jam. The Pot de Crème wasn't too heavy, and the sweet guava jam added a nice touch to it.


By this time, I could barely move. I wish I had a doggy bag so I could put these candies, truffles, chocolates, etc in it. As is, I was able to try each of the mignardise selection that was brought out to the table. I loved the caramel candy and the truffle, but was able to try two of each. This was the end to a truly remarkable meal.

Take Home Cake
Take Home Gift

Last, but certainly not least, a cake for the road home.

Time Warner Center

As I stepped out in the cold January New York evening, I had time to recollect the meal and debate if it was truly worth it. Food alone, it was probably the best meal I ate during my NYC trip. All the courses were at least solid to just fucking mind blowing. The atmosphere was quite stuffy, but that was expected going in. Now, would I pay another $400+ to eat here again? The fact Per Se is omitted from my upcoming New York trip is a pretty telling answer. While the meal was truly fantastic, I just didn't have any interest dining here anytime soon. If anything, I'd rather eat at French Laundry. While Per Se was still one of my top 5 meals of 2010, to me, one time is enough for me. Overall, I enjoyed my time at Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park just a little bit more, at half the price tag.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle
NY 10023
(212) 823-9335