There are some great restaurants in New York, and then, there’s Le Bernardin. It’s the kind of place people from all over the world travel just to sample Eric Ripert’s masterful (nearly magical) way with seafood. It’s that good.
Ripert manages to tease out every subtle nuance of fish with his preparations and flavor combinations. I’ll never forget the just barely Sauteed Langoustines I had recently at Le Bernardin and I’ve had quite a few. These were insanely tender and sweet, mingled with freshly shaved Truffles and Chanterelles, and anointed with a subtly rich Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette — an unforgettable combination of flavors that I dare call dreamy. Ooh, and there was gorgeously Charred Octopus, cooked A La Plancha, dressed in a Sundried Tomato Sauce Vierge, and served atop a sweet and tangy emulsion of Green Olive and Black Garlic. The final touch was a sprinkling of celery leaves, which lent this zesty melange a fresh vegetal crunch. You’ll learn quickly that nothing is quite what it seems, or at least how it reads, as is the case for an entree of Baked Lobster “Goulash.” Of course, Ripert’s interpretation is much lighter than any stew I’ve encountered, baked lobster mingled with pearl onions and sided by teeny nibbles of gnocchi. Even oysters are gloriously complicated here. We started with exquisitely fresh Beausoleil Oysters, each one delicately appointed with Salmon Roe, Sea Grapes, a wisp of Finger Lime (a brilliantly zesty citrus with the mouthfeel of fish roe), and a Pickled Shallot Seaweed Water Gelee. If you’re wondering if Ripert can do “heavy”, just order the Roasted Bone Marrow with alternating nibbles of uni, marrow, and bacon.
The newly renovated dining room makes Le Bernardin feel, well, young again. There are brown leather banquettes and chairs, teak panels and a whopping mural of the sea on the back wall. While pastry chef Michael Laiskinos, there is a new, equally good pastry chef in his place. Her name is Laurie Jon Moran and she makes a mean dessert. One of the best is called “Chocolate-Popcorn” with a rich chocolate ganache, sprinkled with a few candied peanuts, and sided by Popcorn Ice Cream on a pedestal of crushed popcorn that I worried would taste gimmicky. I was wrong. It was a salty-sweet creamy bliss. There’s “Chocolate-Passionfruit” with a Chocolate Marquise, Passion Fruit Sorbet and an addictive Cocoa Nib Crumble, “Black Forest” with a zesty, nearly effervescent Belgian Kriek Beer Sorbet, and an incredible selection of Homemade Ice Creams and Sorbets, my favorite being Blood Orange and Fig.