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May 28, 2006 02:39 AM

Le Bernardin, the New York restaurant scene.

  • f

Maybe the rest of you can be of some help w/this. Went to Le Bernardin tonight and now feel completely averse to ever spending money on "fine dining" again. We had the prix fixe, which at this restaurant is almost exclusively seafood. Why did the food seem like not all that? Am I doomed to forever buying expensive ingredients and cooking them in my zero-ambience apartment?

Another question...why is it standard to recommend restaurants in New York based mainly on characteristics other than food quality?(see above?) Not that there was any sort of party scene at Le Bernardin, so I'm not sure what makes it interesting other than the frequent change of silverware and the oddity of the young women's dress code (think black and ill fitting). My partner commented on how nice the older women looked, though.

Can someone recommend a great French restaurant, please??

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    Fred and Wilma

    There are many considerations other than the food when choosing a restaurant - everything from wheelchair access to the see & be seen quotient. (You mentioned ambience and looking at the room, I know some who adore its quiet accoustics and spacious table arrangements while others despise the space and find it sterile) I think that these factors should be a different discussion given that this board is about hyper deliciousness in any setting.

    If we look at the food, it has been argued that Le Bernardin should not qualify as a 4* house because of it's narrow focus on fish. That debate could be had here considering that you asked for a 'great' French restaurant. What are the specific dishes in your experience that left you cold?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fred and Wilma

      The meal I had there 3 years ago (perhaps there's been a decline--God, I hope not) was one of the best in my life. Not the pomp and circumstance of a Guy Savoy or Alain Ducasse, not the challenge of Jean Georges, but just one darn great peice of fish after another, with an absolutely definitive, ohmigod i'll never eat shrimp again because why bother shrimp dish to boot.

    2. I am not sure I understand your complaint. Le Bernardin does not make a secret of the fact that it is a fine dining seafood specialist - in fact that is their proffer.

      Le Bernardin is also not a scene at all. It is a rather sedate room with a lot of room between the tables. All the focus is what is on the plate and the luxury of good service. Not a see and be seen or celeb spotting environment.

      You didn't say anything about the food other than it wasn't all that. What didn't you like?

      Perhaps you might enjoy Bouley for French food that offers a non-fish-focus. Although there isn't a
      party scene" there either, it is a little livlier than Le B.

      1. I see that my first post was unclear. Let me re-phrase why I did not particularly enjoy Le Bernardin.

        The food: no flavors were outstanding enough to take notice of. Perhaps more salt was needed, which is a matter of opinion, but still I thought I might be impressed by at least one dish. The texture of the fish was also just satisfactory. For our main course, my partner had the red snapper and I had the lobster. There was nothing succulent about either, both were dry, and the lobster was tough.

        The environment: we were seated in a position that made it necessary for the servers to bump my chair every time they served the two tables behind us.

        Re: NY restaurant scene complaint: I am not looking for "scene" restaurants. I was simply being sarcastic about why someone would recommend Le Bernardin. I am looking for excellent food. I wonder why Le Bernardin was recommended as such.
        Compare to very good places like Babbo and the excellent food quality in France and you see the Michelin guide had some sort of alternative agenda.

        3 Replies
        1. re: fara

          I'm a fan of LB. Have been for some time.
          Like most folk, I'm particulary partial to the flight of fluke ceviches. The whole red snapper baked in salt is wonderful. Surprisingly, they make a killer martini. Service has always been excellent.

          1. re: steve h.

            agreed, I've had the fluke ceviche at LB, and it was quite memorable.

          2. re: fara

            I think that might have been an off night for them. I was at LB's once in 2005. Fabulous food and service. That tuna with the extra virgin olive oil-sprinkled with Foie was heavenly. I will never forget it. Yes the dining room does does look cold. I would definitely go back again. (Just so many places to dine in this town)

          3. The one comment in your report that really surprised me was, "We had the prix fixe, which at this restaurant is almost exclusively seafood." Did you not know that fish and seafood are the raison d'etre of Le Bernardin? That said...

            Our one and only meal there dates back at least ten years, and we were celebrating an anniversary. The reason we've never been back is that I was completely underwhelmed by the cuisine. And I love fish! Nothing -- and I do mean nothing! -- I had stands out in my memory. When that happens to me, particularly when it comes to fine dining in well-known restaurants, it's a signal that the cuisine did absolutely nothing for me. However, there were also other reasons that I did not enjoy that dinner. Service, as well as the reception upon arrival, was so frosty, they could have turned off the air conditioner. (It was June.) And no matter how much they tried to disguise the fact, it felt as though we were dining in the lobby of an office building, which is where the restaurant is located.

            My recommendation would be that you go to Eleven Madison Park. While the menu under previous chef Kerry Heffernan was New American, that has now changed with the arrival of Chef Daniel Humm, who is serving exquisite French cuisine. I've had dinner and lunch there recently, and both meals were sensational. The welcome upon arrival from the reception staff is always pleasant, service is perfection personified (as it has always been), and the Art Deco space is gorgeous! When it comes to cost, the 3-course prix-fixe at $68 and the 4-course tasting menus at $85 (recently increased from the opening price of $78) are the bargains of the century (!!), especially when compared to Le Bernardin's 3-course menu at $105.


            4 Replies
            1. re: RGR

              I dined there a few years ago. I was underwhelmed. The food was just good, no better than that. The service was good but not welcoming. I've never gone back. I have liked Milos, Tropica, Oceana more. Especially Oceana

              1. re: rahadlakoum

                In my opinion, if you want the best meal in New York, a meal you will never go wrong with, Here it is


                Because all they have is the most low key chef who truly is a great chef not some flash in the pan that gets reviewed by the times, understands food and loves what he does at his restaurant. If you can't see fit on Veritas, then I would go with Bouley,Blue Hill or March. Remember High end restaurants are reinventing themselves as American-french

                1. re: caz

                  My husband and I went to Le Bernardin last year, and we thought the food was amazing. Definitely some of the best fish we've ever had. Service was a little spotty, but we really enjoyed the food.

                  We were also at Veritas and Bouley last year, and were not impressed at all with the food. But it could have been an off night for both.

              2. re: RGR

                Yes, of course I knew the menu is almost exclusively seafood,that was why I chose the restaurant -- thinking they might be able to do something interesting with it.

                Fresh seafood to me is synonymous with a delicious meal, which is why I was so shocked to have such a mediocre experience, with seafood no less!

              3. I've eaten @ Le Bernardin 3 times since 2000. And in only one of those times was Eric Ripert was for sure cooking and THAT was the only time I considered it a four star food and dining uber-experience. Otherwise, it was tres overrated.