Le Bernadin, As Delightful As Ever

I still remember the scallop carpaccio I had at Le Bernadin some 15 years ago … the plate covered with such thinly sliced, perfect rounds of translucent shellfish with a drizzle of olive oil with some type of green herb, and a few perfect little pieces of citrus. Should I order the scallop again this time? Or had I inflated the experience so much that the current scallop carpaccio – no matter how delicious – could not match the memory?

We decided on the tasting menu, so that was that. No scallop this time. So no direct competition … but still incredible.

When we went in the 90’s, the place looked old school, as in a bit dated. Or as G said, practically Napoleonic. The colors, the layout, the patrons. We were there for pre-theater, a 5:30 seating, which may have accounted for the older feel. The meal was great and the service, very polite, but we were sitting across from a table of a grandmother with two tourist-y grandchildren.

Lobster carpaccio

Fast forward to July 2012. Le Bernadin has just enjoyed a high-profile makeover, and it looked it. The restaurant looked more open and spacious. Sleeker, less upholstered.

We had a drink at the bar and admired the bottles on display. At Le Bernadin, your default seems to be Johnny Walker Blue Label. They keep the low-end Black Label in the back … We had a glass of sancerre rose each, but admired the handmade Negronis the bartender crafted. They looked delicious …

The menu choices looked amazing – amazing seafood preparations. Every dish on the a la carte menu looked great, but so did the tasting menu:

Le Bernadin tasting menu

I wish we had had a bit more time with the wine list – it looked divine. Our sommelier came by to ask what we liked. Thought: what a weird job, figuring out what random patrons liked and how much they were willing to spend. Then again, this guy has seen thousands? or guests, and needs to be able to make that judgement – quickly. He went through a handful of options, describing them, but we must have both perked up at the Jura, a crisp, minerally French white. It’s not like we would be encountering one of those again anytime soon …

The meal. We started with tartare with caviar.  So I’m not a huge caviar afficianado … I mean, I like it, but I’m sure I don’t appreciate it as much as some others – like, G, who apparently loves it. Terrific start, but I felt weird starting off with beef at Le Bernadin.

Lobster carpaccio – Amazing. Each medallion was exactly the same shape and size, same buttery poached texture, in the zabaglione. I could eat an entire lobster prepared this way.

Octopus that tasted like chicken, free range organic, to be specific. It was seriously meaty, but delicious.

Seafood medley

Seafood medley in daishi broth – This one reminded me of Sushi Taro in Dupont Circle. Even the bowl. The sea urchin was like a soft piece of butter that melted in my mouth. The prawn was crunchy almost. The custard underneath was like a flan in broth.

Arctic char in pea puree – I love Arctic char … a more delicate salmon. The favas and peas were green, no other way to describe the freshness, the peak flavor.

Monkfish, perfect with white Burgundy

Monkfish medallions – Here, the sommelier poured our 1/2 bottle of white Burgundy, an amazing pairing. Our sommelier remarked to G, your wife really enjoys white Burgundy. Oh yes, I do, especially when it’s with monkfish …

Desserts … well-crafted, delicious, not too heavy. Our raspberry sorbet was a nice palate cleanser, and beautifully made. As was the peanut dessert, with dark chocolate upscale (very) kit kat.

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