New York Restaurants: Le Bernardin
From America to Japan to Italy… and on to France (and my first Michelin 3-star restaurant!). I had wanted to go to Le Bernardin for a long time, but it was always a little out of my price-range. After some research, I realized that the lunch menu is very similar to the dinner menu, but WAY cheaper! So I bit the bullet and invited my seafood-loving friend for his birthday. It was quite the experience, but not exactly as I thought it would be.
We sat down, ordered our drinks and observed the newly remodeled dining room. I was surprised with how dusty the wall paneling was, considering the dining room was just redone. We ordered our food and watched the sophisticated guests throughout the restaurant. To my disappointment, the waiter never returned with the wine list for us to order wine for our meal. Our first courses arrived beautifully plated. I ordered the warm scallop carpaccio with snow peas, shiitake mushrooms and a lime-shiso dressing. The scallops melted in your mouth and the flavors complimented each other perfectly.
The chef had heard that we both worked at The Modern and sent us an amuse bouche (something normally only done during dinner service) of langoustine in a cream sauce. This dish was delicious, I could have eaten a double portion for my main.
I was surprised with the simplicity of the main courses after seeing the elegant plating of the appetizers. I ordered the pan roasted lobster with charred baby leeks, sea bean and mango salad with a lobster-lemongrass broth. I was extremely surprised and disappointed to discover that my lobster was overcooked, considering that this restaurants is known for seafood and that I was paying a $15 supplement for the lobster. The dish lacked flavor and seasoning.
I was lucky to get some of the other main course, which was the wild striped bass with Bhutanese red rice, a green papaya salad and a ginger-red wine sauce. This dish looked simple, but had amazing flavors as well as perfectly cooked fish.
Our other dessert was a black sesame ice cream. This dish really surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect when biting into the charcoal-colored ice cream, but it was delicious! There was also a black sesame cookie type thing that dissolved just like charcoal in your mouth, it was very cool. The sweetness of the mango complimented it very nicely.
At the end of the meal I was satisfied, but I left with a very different view on Michelin 3-star restaurants. I expected perfection walking in, so I was disappointed when I wasn’t able to order wine for the meal after asking twice for the wine list and when my main course was overcooked. I think that The Modern (only 1 star) serves much better food than Le Bernardin, which taught me not to judge restaurants by the number of stars they have. There is a lot more to the rating system than meets the eye. If you want to try a really expensive restaurant though, I recommend going for lunch. You will be able to order mostly the same stuff, but for much less money.
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