Le Bernardin has been on our list for the last couple of years and we finally made our reservations for this trip to NYC. We had been perusing the menu online before we came and were interested in different tasting menus and weren’t sure if that would be possible. Thanks to a comment from RGR, we decided to ask and they were willing to accommodate the request. I did add a course to my menu so that my husband and I would have the same number of courses, although I don’t think that they would have required me to do so. My husband had also requested a copy of the wine list in advance so I wouldn’t have to sit and watch him peruse the list for a half hour. He discussed a couple of items with our sommelier and we started with the 2005 Michele Bregeon Muscadet.
We had read that many people find Le Bernardin too corporate and not romantic and I can see how they might feel that way. The dining room is very simple and modern and understated. I found it to be quite nice and I probably focus a little more on the food and the service than the décor, so it worked for me as part of our anniversary dining weekend. And, I felt that our sommelier and our captain definitely had personality, which was another thing I had read that people thought Le Bernardin lacked.
My husband had the Chef’s Tasting Menu and I had the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu plus the langoustine dish to even out our dishes. I didn’t take detailed notes, so I’ll just go over some highlights here based on my memory from two weeks ago.
On an overall basis, I’d have to say that everything we had was really perfectly cooked (with one exception where my husband thought his sole was just a touch overcooked). The dishes may appear to just be simple fish dishes, but I can really appreciate the skill that it takes to make sure that the fish is cooked just right and that some of those “simple” broths or sauces can take hours to prepare. One of my dishes that comes to mind is the poached halibut with the bergamot-basil emulsion—it was really fabulous. I also love all the simple white plates of various shapes and sizes so that the food is the star. My husband noted that the octopus a la plancha was his favorite, followed by the lobster carpaccio. We were very much enjoying ourselves as we made our way through our savory courses. I also got a kick out of the purse footstool that a young lady at a neighboring table received for her purse.
For the first desert, they brought us both the same raspberry desert from the Chef’s Tasting even though mine was supposed to be a strawberry desert. Our captain did come out to acknowledge the error and for the next desert course, I got the strawberry desert and my husband got utensils to share. We then got back on course for the final desert course. During our meal, we had also had a bottle of 2005 William Fevre Chablis Valmur and a half bottle of NV Pierre Gimmonnet Blanc de Blanc Premier Cru. We had also discussed with our sommelier that we were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. So, while I did not expect for them to provide us anything complimentary (after all, I’m sure many diners at Le Bernardin are celebrating something), we were very disappointed that at this point in our meal no one even came to ask us if we wanted coffee or an after dinner drink. We have dined in France quite a bit and we know that you have to ask for your check, so that part was not an issue, but the fact that we seemed all of sudden to just drop off the radar and not be offered any final items was not how we expected the evening to end. Unfortunately, that did taint the overall experience since it was our final impression. We did talk to a manager who gave us his card and told us to call him the next time we are in, but we live in Chicago and it will not likely be at the top of the list the next time we are in town. Bottom line, it was a very enjoyable evening until we got to the end, so I’m glad that we dined there, but it may not be on my list of places to return to immediately since I can only fit in so many restaurants on my visits to NYC.