My mother took me to Le Bernardin for my birthday a few weeks ago. I've been hesitant about posting, since I've been conflicted about the experience. The meal, in terms of freshness and quality, was very good. We had the Le Bernardin tasting menu with wine pairings. The wine pairings were excellent. However, the overall experience was very blasé. First of all, the decor was underwhelming, outdated, and felt oddly like you were dining on a cruise ship that needed an upgrade. The service felt very rushed. When we first sat down, the waiter came over and I informed him that we had a harried experience getting to the restaurant, and that we needed a few minutes to unwind (we had 5:30 reservations so I was rushing from my office downtown and my mother commuted in from Long Island). The waiter came back to the table 3 times in the following 10 minutes to see if we were ready to order. He didn't even notice that we hadn't opened the menus or looked at the wine list or thought about cocktails or finished catching up. People complain about neglectful service, but at the same time there's something to be said for waitstaff that breathes down your neck. Feeling the pressure, we both just decided to order the tasting and pairings just to get the meal underway, though we would have liked to peruse the menu and the wine list more closely. As we watched bottles of champagne being delivered to other tables, we were disappointed that we didn't have a chance to order a bottle instead of the pairings.
Again, I know this place is the darling for many in terms of seafood restaurants in New York. I went in believing I would be dazzled and thrilled. Perhaps I've become too accustomed to bolder and more creative dishes, overlooking the simplicity of what was put before me. But frankly, the meal was just ok. My mother agreed. The standouts were the pounded yellowfin tuna, peekytoe crab and the pork-belly calamari, although still not mind-blowing. The courses were rushed as well, and our wines started to gather on the table before we could finish each glass with its accompanying dish. For a six course meal; plus amuse, wine pairings and aperitifs, we were in and out in about 2 hours. Fastest $500+ meal I’ve ever had.