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May 25, 2014 09:46 PM

Le Bernardin Tasting Menu for Lunch in the Lounge

So I found myself in NYC on the Friday before Memorial Day and I have always wanted to eat at Le Bernardin, so I took myself for a solo lunch in the Lounge.

I was surprised how crowded it was on the Friday before the holiday weekend -- I guess I thought everyone would have left town for the long weekend. When I walked in around 12:45 p.m. all the lounge seats were taken, but they ushered me to the bar and a seat opened up soon enough.

On the positive side, I will say that even in the lounge, I received the best, most professional service that I have ever experienced in a restaurant anywhere. The waitstaff were so polished and seemed genuinely concerned that I enjoy my meal and that my every need was attended to.

Also, on the positive side, I ordered a glass of rosé wine from Long Island (unfortunately, I don't remember the vintner). I believe it was only $15 and it was delightful and a very generous pour, served in very nice stemware. I consider $15 to be a steal for a glass of wine in NYC and I have had plonk for that price, so I was quite pleased.

I ordered the $155 Le Bernardin Tasting Menu (this is the less expensive of the two tasting menus). Since I was by myself, I didn't have to worry about that you can only have the tasting menu if the whole table orders it.

I adore fish (I'm more likely to order fish than anything else in a nice restaurant), but I found the all fish tasting menu a little fatiguing. Also, perhaps because I am a sushi and sashimi person, I found the buttery and oily sauces on the fish fatiguing. My favorite of the dishes was the salmon with white asparagus, peas and fava beans, chervil emulsion and it wasn't for the salmon (although I love salmon). It was for the peas, which were so fresh and delicious.

In general, none of the dishes were bad, but they didn't really stand out for me either. Afterwards, it was hard for me to remember what I had eaten.

If I returned to Le Bernardin, I definitely would not do the tasting menu again.

Two desserts came with the tasting menu. One was the "EXOTIC FRUIT “PAVLOVA” -Roasted Pineapple, Guava Jam, Yuzu-Coconut Sorbet, which wasn't too memorable. The other dessert was a heavily coffee based dessert and since I don't like the taste of coffee, they let me pick off the menu. I chose "CITRUS Confit Buddha Hand, Mint Meringue, Olive Oil, Blood Orange Sorbet." This was very original and delicious and one of the best restaurant desserts I have had. With a cup of Keemun tea, it was a great way to end a meal. They also brought me some tea infused cakes.

The tea was perfect, which was nice because one of my pet peeves about expensive restaurants is that most of them serve the most mediocre tea possible (I guess assuming that most people will order coffee).

For anyone thinking of ordering the tasting menu (or really anything) in the lounge, I have to say that the tables are very close together. If you happen to get horrible neighbors (as I did), it can be excruciating, particularly for a long tasting menu meal. I was there for over two hours, as was the pair seated next to me, and listening to them for over too hours was not pleasant. They were some sort of business colleagues -- he in his late '60's and she in her early '30's and she had just arrived from the China office for a visit to the NYC office. In between discussing business, he spent the entire lunch lobbing her with compliments - her sweater was so pretty, in her wedding photo, which he had seen, all her bridesmaids were as attractive as her, ad nauseam. I also learned that she had not yet been able to get pregnant, but that she shouldn't worry because it took his wife and him a long time and then they had three children, that he still has a house in Chicago that his wife doesn't want to sell and that his wife was going away for the holiday weekend to her nephew's law school graduation. And that his daughter lives in Tribeca and that his son used to be a U.S. Attorney, but you can't make any money there, so now the son is in more lucrative private practice. If you don't relish these kinds of conversations (which were even more noxious by his evident infatuation with her and ceaseless over the top comments (no, her sweater was not particularly pretty), then I don't recommend the lounge.

By the way, the couple on my other side also consisted of a late 60 something guy with a young woman, although thankfully they weren't as loud and also weren't there for the entire 2 plus hour lunch. What is it with Le Bernardin -- is this where old geezers take young women to impress them?

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  1. "What is it with Le Bernardin -- is this where old geezers take young women to impress them?"


    1 Reply
    1. re: mitchleeny

      +1. But only the really bold, reckless, and rich will take their mistresses, as the news of being "seen" at Le Bernardin will travel very fast.

      I was having lunch there a few months back by myself, in one of the tables by the wall with the banquette, so I faced the dining room. The table in front of me was an older-looking bald dude, very well dressed, but with a pained expression, having lunch with a lovely, tasteful cougar, the kind that only Park Ave. UES NY can support.

      They seemed to be enmeshed in a deep conversation, sounded like she was his ex-wife or was dumping him, but he was not happy and she was mock-concerned. Loved the set piece.

      Since I was by myself, I enjoyed the bit of theater. At the end of their meal, as they were leaving, the woman comes to my table and asks me if I am Uncle Yabai (well, my real name). I was taken aback. It turns out I had met her 25 years earlier in college, but I had absolutely no recollection of her. But she did. Man, had I known I had made such an impression, maybe it would have been me and not the bald dude getting his sorry ass thrown out the window.

    2. I was there just a few weeks ago - i went through one of their smaller tasting menu options - in a single meal (in fact on consecutive dishes) i realized the heights of greatness and the depths of a place that my not be as bullet proof as it once was -

      the seared scallop in brown butter dashi was amazing and the subsequent dish - a halibut poached in sweet vermouth with a korean "boulibaise" with shrimp dumplings was as flat and as flavorless as one could possibly imagine.

      1. I'm an old geezer that takes young women to Le Bernadin ( which I think has gone downhill in the last couple of years). I also take young women to Pig and Khao, and Yokocho, Marea and Ippudo, actually . Anywhere, if i'm hungry and they are hungry. None are mistresses and some are good friends. I think the OP needs his own private restaurant. Where there are no other people. OP seems to be obsessed with those around him. Hates Le Bernadin clientele, and hates 15 East clientele.