In case you haven’t heard, Le Bernardin just got a new look, and more importantly, a new lounge with a lot more seating and a menu all its own. For those of us who don’t like to make reservations or wear a jacket & tie (at least not all the time), that’s very good news. Instead of a white tablecloth in the main dining, you can sit at the bar, or at one of the low, lounge tables, and have the same, phenomenal food without the fuss of formal dining or service. You might wager that you’d have to wait for a table on a Friday night, but in fact, I walked in and got a table right away. And I wore jeans. (Mind you, they were black jeans, but it was casual.)
The lounge is newly refurbished with a white marble-topped bar and tables, handsome, brown leather banquettes and chairs and silver accents. There’s a stellar, new cocktail selection with subtle twists on classics, like the Manhattan and negroni, and an outstanding cocktail called the “Aperol Noir,” tinted with Pinot Noir, and flavored with orange bitters, aperol and lemon champagne. You can order from the lounge menu, which features three kinds of caviar, smoked salmon, oysters, and a few signature Ripert preparations, like tuna tartare or the lobster cappuccino. Or you can order off any of the dining room menus, which include a “Le Bernardin tasting menu”, a “chef’s tasting menu”, and a “prix fixe” menu.
I highly recommend you order off one of the dining room menus. Really, that”s what’s so fantastic about Le Bernardin’s new lounge, the fact that you can sample Eric Ripert’s lauded cooking in a laidback, lounge setting. I ordered the $115 prix fixe and had a terrific meal that included (but was not limited to) striped bass tartar with artichoke, olives and lemon, seared langoustines anointed with shaved foie gras, and poached striped bass in a Peking duck broth. But the best thing I had was listed under “almost raw,” a delicate appetizer of shaved geoduck clam, mingled with smoked edamame mousseline, tobiko and a citrus-wasabi emulsion. It was complex and beautifully balanced, with a subtle smokiness, lifted by a potent dose of lime, coriander, and wasabi.
Address: 155 West 51st., btwn. 6th & 7th Aves.
Website: Le Bernardin