Le Bernardin Friday night
Going for the first time.
Need advice on which menu option to choose.
Anything that shouldn't be missed (Fluke?)?
I'm actually not too excited about any of the mains they currently have listed on the website so I could really use some input here (I'd prefer something without Asian flavors but since there don't seem to be too many options in that vein I'm open minded).
Any recs for a reasonably priced wine (<$75)?
Also, I need some guidance on the dress code. I've read before that there are actually men dining without jackets. I probably will wear a jacket, but I'm assuming a jacket with jeans is not really acceptable. Correct?
Sorry if I am reposting but I wrote a long response that seems to have been lost. Let me offer my experience. Was last there solo in the summer when a potentially disastrous luncheon was transformed into a good story by a thoroughly professional staff. Table of porn actors and director (? just figuring by his attitude and looks. Maybe he was just their pimp) is seated adjacent, herself entering in a sheer dress with no undergarments (yes, heads swivelled) calling out loudly to her compatriots next to me. All order champagne and cocktails and hilarious discussion ensues concerning a recent bondage shoot in the desert.
I ask to be reseated and am given a lousy solo table, but staff are sympathetic and helpful (without ever appearing to insult their more exuberent guests).
The food was terrific (didn't I post on this before?) but it's the service that made the difference between good and great, as it usually does. Will try to post on Saturday at Annisa soon, as a case in point.
We had a very nice evening together, but the restaurant was a dissapointment.
I thought the space is nice. Nothing terribly special, but classy. The artwork is hideous. Upon arriving we were very warmly greeted and sat in the lounge for a few minutes until we were shown to our table. That was the first bump.
We were seated at what must be the single worst table in the place. It is in the very front corner nestled in between a serving station and the entrance way, with the reception desk directly ahead of us. I really don't think they should have a table there at all. I felt like we were more in the lounge or reception area than the dining room and there were dirty plates parked within arms length of me all night long. By the time we were shown to our table we were one of three groups waiting to be seated. Perhaps we were given that table because we were the first of the waiting parties to have arrived and it was the first available, but I can't escape the feeling that we were the youngest and perceived to be the least distinguishing (maybe even deserving). Perhaps that's just me being paranoid, but nevertheless I reiterate that I don't think anyone should be seated there. It's not as though this is a terrible fate, but when you're paying that much for dinner, obviously you want the best and clearly this wasn't it.
We are not very knowledgeable white wine drinkers but eager to experience. After placing our orders I spoke with the sommelier about what we were eating, told him about some of what we've liked in the past, and put ourselves in his hands. He returned with a very nice Spanish white that was right in our price range. Well done.
The food began with a lobster bisque amuse. Silky smooth with lobster flavor hitting all the right notes. If only everything else we ate lived up to this standard.
The bread is totally unremarkable. Oceana really kills Le Bernardin when it comes to bread.
For our first course I had the Fluke ceviche progression and my girlfriend had the Tuna/Foie. The Tuna/Foie was the best course we had all night. Just a great pairing of flavors, the foie really accentuated the tuna. Sadly, that was pretty much the only instance where I can say the supporting elements of a dish accentuated the seafood. Reading the menu in advance of our meal I was afraid that the aggressive flavors would overwhelm the seafood. The fluke plate was the first confirmation that my instinct was correct. Only one of the marinades - ponzu and yuzu (i.e. ponzu plus extra yuzu) - worked well with the delicate fluke. The first combination was a total dissaster of citrus and onion. It was far too acidic and "oniony". The second combination was like the first but mellowed out with a little olive oil so a little better. The final combination (ponzu was #3) was a coconut milk curry sauce that was overbearingly rich. Almost every crudo I've ever had at Esca kills these offerings.
Next up was the octopus for me and the langostine for her. The octopus dish was beating the same drum. Truffles are great, but I don't see it with octopus. What really ruined this dish, however, was the overpowering red wine sauce. A failure. The langostine was the second best course we ordered. The langostine was in between raw and cooked. The result was a creamy texture that was a triumph. The sambal sauce was more tame than I figured it to be and worked very well.
For our mains I went with the salmon and she had the halibut. The salmon was good, but not earth shattering. I do like salmon, but like I siad previsouly, it can only do so much for me. The best part of this dish was the perfect vegetables and mushrooms coated in the delicious Pot au Feu. Her halibut was the worst thing we were served. This thing was poached into a hard, dry brick of flesh and served atop unremarkable sweet and sour beets. The only thing the dish had going for it was the basil garnish. It turns out the basil and halibut are natural companions ... I'm going to have to explore this some more at home.
We ordered the chocolate-peanut and the chocolate-corn deserts. Both were nothing special at all. They also brought us the passion fruit dessert which was easily the class of the sweets. Very good.
The serviced all night was top notch. It was formal and precise but also refrshingly friendly.
So in sum. Great service, nice space, good wine, a very unfortunate table, and food that has some highlights but is typically unbalanced and uneaven.
How disappointing! I am being taken there for my bday next month and it'll be my first time there. Will try my best though to keep an open mind and positive attitude especially since my friend is treating. Two questions: what were the portions like and did you notice what the diners were wearing in general?
Portions are pretty much what you'd expect. Not too big but by the time we got through the petite fours I was pleasantly full.
People were pretty dressed up. There were a lot of diners over 45 who were in stuffy clothes. Most, but not all men were in suits, quite a few women were in dresses. I wore a suit with an untucked button down shit and that seemed "edgy".
Heres my recent review of Le Bernadin:
Past Glory..January 2007.
Usually when I write a review of a restaurant I try to do it within 24 hours of dining while things are still fresh in my mind. However with Le Bernadin, I really had to think this over. Giving an even a slightly negative review of Le Bernardin can result in you getting accussed of heresy in the gourmet world. But, I am not a food critic; however I do know the difference between good and great. There is no doubt Le Bernadin is one of the most beautiful restaurants in NYC. The service is flawless. But, we are in it for the food and here's where things get bumpy. Lunch started out with a plate of salmon salad from the chef...Sort of a scoop you would get at Russ and Daughters or Barney Greengrass. It was delicious on the melba toast points but i thought it odd such an upscale place couldnt make it a bit more presentable. I only wished i brought a bagel or bialy with me. But OK, I digress. My fiance[a salad eater], had the Mesclun Salad...small portion,but dressing was good. I had the TUNA Appetizer which is described as "Layers of Thinly Pounded Yellowfin Tuna, Foie Gras and Toasted Baguette, Shaved Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Nothing special; the foie gras was either MIA or too miniscule for me to detect it. For mains my fiancee had the SALMON described as "Organic Scottish Salmon; Chanterelle and Black Trumpet in a Wild Mushroom Pot au Feu" This was fabulous. Perfectly cooked it melted in yor mouth. Definitely the high point. I had the BLACK BASS "Masala Spiced Crispy Black Bass; Peking Duck-Green Papaya Salad in a Rich Ginger-Cardamom Broth" This was a disappointment. Fish was good but the accompanmients didnt work. Broth was bland. Bread, great but eat alot of it. No sides are offered which puzzles me. I really dislike when restaurants limit your options or dictate the chefs or owners eating styles. Would it be the end of the world if a starch or vegetable side was offered? My fiancee and I are not big eaters. We usually order 2 or 3 apps and split a main and are full. But, fish alone is not going to do it ! The PEAR desert tasted almost like pear baby food: was ok. My CHOCOLATE PEANUT desert also was good not great. Conclusions: Le Bernadin is a solid 3 star restaurant though not 4. Its a great place for well prepared though not very inventive or creative fish. You just may need those bagels or bialys afterwards.
Thanks for the advice, off in a little bit. Still not too excited about any of the mains but I'm cautiously optimistic that whatever I pick will end up surprising me in a good way (I might go with the Salmon which sounds like a great preparation even though generally I can be only so excited about Salmon).
For the first course the scallops, fluke, and tuna/foie are the leading contenders.
For the second course it'll be between the Foie, Octopus, and Urchin.
I'll report back.
I'm pretty sure you need a jacket. I've seen Le Bernardin lend some men jackets. And I wouldn't really try to do the casual sports coat with jeans look there.
I also enjoyed the fluke tasting. But my favorite dish there was the yellowfin tuna, foie gras, and baguette. It was silky and heavenly! The caviar pasta is also decadent (but there is an $85 suppement). I had it as part of the tasting menu. Unless you're really into sea urchin, I wouldn't order the sea urchin custard. While I love it, the briny quality may not be appealing to some. The escolar is very good as well.
Call them at least 24 hrs in advance ( if it is not too late ) and order the Snapper. It was amazing, but they need the advance notice.
Also do not miss the fluke, esp if you have never had it. Skip the lobster in favor of any of the fishes, even if you think it sounds ordinary.
...i did see rocco d' spirito eat there in jeans and (pinkish) jacket - before he was booted out of prime time tv. but, i wouldn't think you would want to stand-out like him. the fluke tasting is really good, any entree with bacon is highly recommended as well. some of their ingredients may sound very asian (more japanese actually) but,they will not come across as asian-fusion in any way. the waiters and the sommeliers there are very helpful. the maitre d - ben can help recommend good dishes as well. do not be afraid to order wines even < 50bucks there as they have a pretty good selection in the various price range and we were quite happy with a bottle of sancerre there in the 30-40 bucks range which paired well with the chef tasting menu...which for me is the way to go when you visit le bernardin.