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Le Bernardin - am I the only one who thinks it is

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overrated? I've been several times over the last several years, including a recent visit. I'm wondering if I'm the only person underwhelmed by their consistently bland preparation of fish. On that recent visit, a Chinese friend asked me why this restaurant is so well-known if they don't properly season their fish dishes. It made me wonder...

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Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

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  1. You're probably not the only one, but you're certainly in the minority. Before returning again, pick up a copy of Ripert's "On the Line" and get a sense of the process he uses to prepare each dish. Underseasoned? I don't think so.

    1. I'm with you. So refined, it's vapor. Not to say there aren't some fine things on the menu, but never a place I'd chose to go unless dragged by friends. I liked it much better when La Coze was there, but that's a long time ago.

      1. I have not been there in many years for precisely this reason. Three tries and I gave up. Expect an army of posters along to basically call you an idiot, though..

        1. Last time I was there was between the Thansksgiving and X-mas Holidays a couple or so years ago.

          I vowed not to return.

          The place appears to have become a tourist and out of towners central, IMO. And these folks were loud, obnoxious and ill mannered in lacking consideration for the diners around them.

          Maybe because it was the festive season, but that loud environment killed it for me. Le Bernadin perhaps has become a victim of it's own success. And at one time while Gilbert La Coze <sp> was alive it was great.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Quimbombo

            Sorry, but your comment about this restaurant is because some people eating there were acting badly? What does this have to do with the food?

            1. re: Terrie H.

              When I go out to eat to a fine dining establishment I would like an **overall** pleasant experience.

              The food at Le Bernadin is good as is their service and place where we sat, however, when you have a boisterous crowd in the dining room with people acting badly and where at intervals you can't hear folks at your own table what they're saying that is not an **overall** pleasant experience, IMO.

              But that's just me.

              I offered my opinion at my last experience in this restaurant <which I've been to 5 or 6 x's prior including when it first opened> nothing more nothing less.

          2. Le Bernardin will always seem 'overrated' to me because I'm not a seafood man. My limitation also applies to the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare. That said, it does seem to be the NY 4-star/3-star restaurant that's maintained its reputation for the longest period amongst critics and civilians. Sometimes I wish I enjoyed seafood more (it's one of several reasons I don't count myself a 'foodie')...

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            Le Bernardin
            155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

            1. I had made up my mind to go to Le B before seeing Book of Mormon in December, but I read posts like this and am second-guessing myself. Would the Modern be a better pre-theater walking distance dinner experience? Cost not an issue. I guess I should just make this a new thread........thanks for any advice.

              11 Replies
              1. re: pizzajunkie

                I think you should make a new thread. I'll be able to better answer your question after tonight. I just had a fabulous lunch at The Modern Dining Room and I'm due to dine at Le Bernardin tonight. I will have eaten at both restaurants twice after tonight.

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                The Modern
                9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  Wow. Some people get around!

                  1. re: penthouse pup

                    I first ate at Le Bernadin during the first year they were in business. It was absolutely the most amazing fish I've ever had. On recent visits, I will say the food is not even close to what it once was. The service remains excellent.

                  2. re: Cheeryvisage

                    To follow up, the meal was pretty good, with a spectacular highlight and a disappointing lowlight. The Barely Cooked Wild Salmon was magnificent. Tender, buttery, flavorful, playful, brilliant... I run out of words to praise it. This might be the single best fish dish of the year for me and will be the standard I hold every single fish dish to from now on. On the other hand, the Crispy Black Bass was a flop and a bit overcooked. It tasted similar to the red-cooked fish dish you can find at practically any Chinese restaurant. And oh, the fish wasn't crispy at all.

                    My first meal at Le Bernardin was about a month ago. I won't go into details because you can find my report here: http://www.chow.com/topics/808115 . To bring it back to the OP's question, while there were certainly disappointments, I've never had any bland fish at Le Bernardin. Maybe I happened to order all the flavorful dishes?

                    My recent lunch at The Modern, in comparison, was more consistent and very nearly perfect. Every single course (Trumpet Royale Mushroom, Organic Poussin, and Caramel Parfait) was just wonderful. Photos can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cheeryvi...

                    I enjoyed my first meal at The Modern too (a dinner). The main courses had some technical errors. One dish was oversalted, the other one was overcooked. Everything else was great though.

                    Since this is a Le Bernardin thread, I don't want to detail my The Modern experiences too much, but if ranking all four of the meals, I'd rank them thus:

                    1. Recent lunch at The Modern
                    2. Dinner at Le Bernardin a month ago
                    3. Dinner at The Modern and last night's dinner at Le Bernardin

                    TL;DR:

                    Neither restaurant is always consistent in execution. When they do get a dish right though, they REALLY blow you away. Service at both places are excellent. I think it really comes down to whether you want all of your savory dishes to be seafood (Le Bernardin), or have more variety (The Modern). If you go to Le Bernardin, stay away from that Crispy Black Bass dish unless you've never had Chinese-style red-cooked fish before.

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                    Le Bernardin
                    155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                    1. re: Cheeryvisage

                      Did you consider sending the crispy black bass back?

                      1. re: famdoc

                        No, I thought that the dish was conceptually problematic. Even though it did have some execution issues, my main problem was with the flavor profile, ie. too similar to fish at Chinese restaurants. To be fair, I imagine this flavor profile could have worked for someone who's never had Chinese-style red-cooked fish before.

                        My disappointment also stemed from the fact I held Le Bernardin to a much higher standard. Had this been a cheap-eats Chinese joint, I'd have just shrugged and not thought much of it.

                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                          You didn't like it. Had you told your server, they would have been delighted to serve you another main. "Conceptually problematic"? Not sure what you mean.

                          1. re: famdoc

                            Basically, it meant I wish I hadn't eaten a dish that I could have gotten at a Chinese restaurant and that my own mom can make a better version of. Sorry if my word choice wasn't precise.

                            I dined with my boyfriend and we each ate half of our own dish then switched. He got the Black Bass first and had already eaten half of it. By the time I took a few bites, most of the dish was already eaten. I didn't feel it was right to send back a mostly eaten dish claiming I didn't like it. I imagine my boyfriend was fine with it since he definitely hasn't had red-cooked fish much.

                      2. re: Cheeryvisage

                        Thanks so much for the comparison! This really does help. Le B is just one of those places I've always wanted to go in Nyc (already been to JG, Per se, EMP etc) and haven't yet. But the Modern has always been on my short list too. thanks again!!!

                    2. re: pizzajunkie

                      There are very few restaurants that you will get a consensus opinion. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. I've been to Le Bernardin twice and was blown away both times, you will see many people with the same opinion. This doesn't make those on either side right or wrong.

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                      Le Bernardin
                      155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                      1. re: donovt

                        great point!

                    3. Just had dinner at LB and service was excellent. In terms of the food, my girlfriend and I enjoyed every dish and perhaps the only nitpick would be that she thought her tuna/foie gras starter dish was a tad salty - I was fine with the way it was presented myself so perhaps she is a bit more sensitive to salt than I am. Anyways, would go back next time I am in NYC for sure. In terms of experience, it just seems like the way the menu is presented/dishes are pulled together seems ... to not feel forced as at some other places. So you aren't going to have the experience like you would at Allinea but I don't think that is a negative. I enjoy both ends of the dining spectrum.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: acroyear

                        When I last ate at Le Bernardin a few years ago I also found the tuna/foie gras starter to be salty. Then again, salt (not seasoning) really is quite subjective. I was very surprised when I found salt shakers on the table at Robuchon at the Mansion in LV many years back.

                        Oh, and um... Alinea is on one end of your dining spectrum and Le Bernardin is on the other? Enviable if true.

                      2. I've enjoyed eating there but wasn't amazed and while all the food was prepared perfectly, an hour after my meal I could only remember about half of the dishes I had on the tasting menu. I think they do season and prepare their fish quite well though.