So I found myself in NYC on the Friday before Memorial Day and I have always wanted to eat at Le Bernardin, so I took myself for a solo lunch in the Lounge.
I was surprised how crowded it was on the Friday before the holiday weekend -- I guess I thought everyone would have left town for the long weekend. When I walked in around 12:45 p.m. all the lounge seats were taken, but they ushered me to the bar and a seat opened up soon enough.
On the positive side, I will say that even in the lounge, I received the best, most professional service that I have ever experienced in a restaurant anywhere. The waitstaff were so polished and seemed genuinely concerned that I enjoy my meal and that my every need was attended to.
Also, on the positive side, I ordered a glass of rosé wine from Long Island (unfortunately, I don't remember the vintner). I believe it was only $15 and it was delightful and a very generous pour, served in very nice stemware. I consider $15 to be a steal for a glass of wine in NYC and I have had plonk for that price, so I was quite pleased.
I ordered the $155 Le Bernardin Tasting Menu (this is the less expensive of the two tasting menus). Since I was by myself, I didn't have to worry about that you can only have the tasting menu if the whole table orders it.
I adore fish (I'm more likely to order fish than anything else in a nice restaurant), but I found the all fish tasting menu a little fatiguing. Also, perhaps because I am a sushi and sashimi person, I found the buttery and oily sauces on the fish fatiguing. My favorite of the dishes was the salmon with white asparagus, peas and fava beans, chervil emulsion and it wasn't for the salmon (although I love salmon). It was for the peas, which were so fresh and delicious.
In general, none of the dishes were bad, but they didn't really stand out for me either. Afterwards, it was hard for me to remember what I had eaten.
If I returned to Le Bernardin, I definitely would not do the tasting menu again.
Two desserts came with the tasting menu. One was the "EXOTIC FRUIT “PAVLOVA” -Roasted Pineapple, Guava Jam, Yuzu-Coconut Sorbet, which wasn't too memorable. The other dessert was a heavily coffee based dessert and since I don't like the taste of coffee, they let me pick off the menu. I chose "CITRUS Confit Buddha Hand, Mint Meringue, Olive Oil, Blood Orange Sorbet." This was very original and delicious and one of the best restaurant desserts I have had. With a cup of Keemun tea, it was a great way to end a meal. They also brought me some tea infused cakes.
The tea was perfect, which was nice because one of my pet peeves about expensive restaurants is that most of them serve the most mediocre tea possible (I guess assuming that most people will order coffee).
For anyone thinking of ordering the tasting menu (or really anything) in the lounge, I have to say that the tables are very close together. If you happen to get horrible neighbors (as I did), it can be excruciating, particularly for a long tasting menu meal. I was there for over two hours, as was the pair seated next to me, and listening to them for over too hours was not pleasant. They were some sort of business colleagues -- he in his late '60's and she in her early '30's and she had just arrived from the China office for a visit to the NYC office. In between discussing business, he spent the entire lunch lobbing her with compliments - her sweater was so pretty, in her wedding photo, which he had seen, all her bridesmaids were as attractive as her, ad nauseam. I also learned that she had not yet been able to get pregnant, but that she shouldn't worry because it took his wife and him a long time and then they had three children, that he still has a house in Chicago that his wife doesn't want to sell and that his wife was going away for the holiday weekend to her nephew's law school graduation. And that his daughter lives in Tribeca and that his son used to be a U.S. Attorney, but you can't make any money there, so now the son is in more lucrative private practice. If you don't relish these kinds of conversations (which were even more noxious by his evident infatuation with her and ceaseless over the top comments (no, her sweater was not particularly pretty), then I don't recommend the lounge.
By the way, the couple on my other side also consisted of a late 60 something guy with a young woman, although thankfully they weren't as loud and also weren't there for the entire 2 plus hour lunch. What is it with Le Bernardin -- is this where old geezers take young women to impress them?
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