Le Bernardin, New York

As the glorious summer days ticked on in New York, I was beginning to understand why and how the food scene here far exceeded that of London, and with good measure. One way to balance all the food was to walk about 4-6 miles a day – best way to see the city, and best way to get hungry and fit! Not being sure of where to meet Mrs. E for lunch, I randomly thought of giving Le Bernardin a shot, at the last minute, to which Mrs. E replied, “I didn’t have you pegged as a classic kind of guy” and that’s true! I’m really not one for classical French dining, if I can get something else, but on this occasion, one had to see what all the fuss surrounding Eric Ripert’s creations with fish was all about, and, more so, that there was hardly any meat on the menu, meant that at best, it would be a light and ‘healthy’ meal, so against all my food odds, I stuck to it. Well, from the moment we opened the menus, it was clearly obvious that there was nothing classical about the design and sound of the dishes here, and what ensued was a couple of hours of the finest, most exquisite fish preparations known to man, inspirational and just, simply, divine!

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One of the funniest things about Le Bernardin is the attire of the sommeliers – well, more so the ridiculous half-cup on a chain that they wear around their neck. Apparently it’s traditionally for tasting, but there’s a good reason why no one really wears it any more – it looks quite silly! Anyway, so the menu here is divide into three sections: Almost raw, Barely Touched, Lightly Cooked with a duck and a pasta dish on request, and between 10-12 fish preparations under each section. Neither of us needed persuasion to make our meal a 4 course affair with a dish from each section.

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Salmon rillette
Hamachi
Escolar

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Anyone that give you a bowl of salmon rillette and a few bits of toast to start the meal with is nothing short of a demi-god! I could have inhaled a huge bowl of this stuff, luckily, Mrs. E insisted I share some of it with her.

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First up was Hamachi-lettuce roll, mint, thai basil, carrot-lime sauce vierge which really is thin strips of hamachi rolled around a stuffing of lettuce, mint and basil – a heady crunch-athon to supplement the softness of the fish, while the zingy carrot vinaigrette zooms through the fish and mingles so decidedly perfectly with the herbs and lettuce that it’s hard to imagine anything more uplifting.

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Poached escolar, sea beans and aki nori, kaffir lime & lemongrass scented mariniere wasn’t much to look at, but a tiny spoonful of the clam and citrus mariniere had my head reeling, and then when one tastes the dish as a whole, you have to try very hard to not fall off your chair. It is a dish so perfect and intricately brimming with citrus, ginger, herb, mineral (from clams), that one can  identify each element distinctly and yet as a whole it is, truly, orgasmic.

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Bass
Mandarin
Chocolate

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Black bass, pickled cucumbers, black garlic, Persian lemon sauce brought a solid earthy element to the lunch, with the sauce being nothing like a rich, meaty jus one would expect, but a light and vibrant zesty number with hints of black garlic immersed throughout.

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Desserts were by way of  Pain d’Épice, Lemon Sponge and Mandarin Sorbet – lighter than anything I can remember – a perfect dessert for lunch, and refreshing, but we wished we’d chosen something with a bit more ooomph instead.

But the chocolate….oh, the Madagascan Chocolate Ganache, Peanut Mousse, Salted Caramel Ice Cream , oh the wild little thing… all I wanted to do after the first bite was scoop the entire thing up with my hands and eat it like a savage – how can you not want to do that with the magic ingredients of Chocolate – Peanut – Salted Caramel.

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Le Bernardin was probably the biggest surprise meal I’ve had – I went expecting classic French cooking with nothing exciting to come out of it, and left buzzing with inspiration, excitement and jubilation. No one cooks fish like Eric Ripert and this is definitely a place I will be returning to whenever I am in New York. Yippeee!

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Food: 10

Overall experience: 10

Recommend you go: 10

Website
Le Bernardin on Urbanspoon

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