Le Bernardin Complaint - Not worth the special journey, maybe a detour
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- While this review may not be as relevant to the members of the my3cents community as one about the TGI Friday's one block over on 7th Ave., I hope some readers will find it helpful.
Having dined at Le Bernardin on January 2nd, selecting the Chef's Tasting Menu and Sommelier's Wine Pairings, I must say I was not convinced their status as a 3-star Michelin rated restaurant and the 15th best restaurant in the world according to the S. Pellegrino Guide is justified.
The eight course menu was designed to showcase the skill and creativity of the kitchen in their use of seafood, but in my experience a number of dishes came across as gimmicky interpretations of traditional meat courses, not unacceptable in any sense of the word, but simply not outstanding. The first course of tuna "prosciutto" and the sixth course of lobster on a bed of truffled foie gras stuffing with a red wine brandy sauce were two key examples of dishes that were acceptable in their own right and prepared with masterful execution, but simply lacked the panache that a more traditional preparation with a "meatier" protein (particularly in the case of the lobster course) would have provided.
The fifth course of crispy black bass was to be one of Le Bernardin's signature dishes and contained two of my favorite components--braised celery and parsnip--in an accompanying custard, but aside from the dish-saving texture of the crispy bass skin this course was an unmitigated disaster. The Iberico ham and green peppercorn sauce completely overpowered the delicate and underseasoned black bass and the highly anticipated custard was thrown in a second dish almost as an afterthought and created such a cacophony of mismatched flavors and uninspiring texture that it remained untouched after the first bite.
The runaway star of the meal was the second course, a deconstructed Eggs Benedict consisting of a poached Pastured egg floating in a sea of mariniere broth topped with Osetra caviar and served with a house made "English muffin". This ranks in the top five dishes I have consumed in my lifetime, but when the lasting memory of a meal at a restaurant known for its seafood preparation is a dish that contains zero seafood (unless the caviar is considered) improvements must be made.
The two dessert courses were poorly misguided attempts at molecular gastronomy, neither offended as much as the bass, but neither lived up to its potential, either. Leave the liquid nitrogen and gelatin compounds to Moto, Alinea and WD-50 and stick to what you know, Le Bernardin.
Were it not for the exceptional and truly mind-blowing wine pairings I would have felt my night and money at Le Bernardin to have been wasted. This was the first progression my dining partner and I have had where the Sommelier's selections surprised and delighted the palate more than the Chef's. The service was also exceptional, as was to be expected.
Finally, as a further word of caution to prospective Le Bernardin diners, the current Chef's Tasting Menu displayed on their website exactly matches the menu I experienced four months ago. I trust M Ripert recognizes the importance of seasonal updates to his menu to reflect the best available ingredients, but really, Le Bernardin? Four months without a menu change?