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Restaurant Review: Le Bernardin, New York in the USA

By Megan Lawton on 6th March 2019

Before December I’d been vegetarian for several months. After a fish-fuelled holiday in Croatia, I’d really overdone it on the seafood front – and the thought of fish made me queasy. But this all changed the moment my mum and I booked a trip to New York, and I realised I’d finally have the chance to eat at Le Bernardin.

If you’re not familiar with the restaurant, listen up, because dining there deserves a place on your bucket list. They specialise in seafood and arguably offer the best in the world. Don’t just take my word for it; the team at Michelin have awarded the eatery three shining stars. This is rightly backed up by The New York Time’s highest rating of 4-stars.

Set up by brother and sister Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze in Paris in 1972, Le Bernardin has decades of experience. Their New York restaurant opened in 1986 and quickly became known as the city’s best seafood eatery. The kitchen has only ever had two head chefs, Gilbert Le Coze and now, Eric Ripert, who is appropriately also of French origin. It’s an understatement to say Ripert is a wizard with food. Seriously. We didn’t consume a single mouthful which wasn’t 10/10.

Le Bernardin specialises in seafood

Although Ripert heads up one of the world’s most high-end restaurants, his food is accessible and often gives back to the local community. My mother and I were lucky enough to try his Harvest Menu; a three-course lunch, priced at a very reasonable $57, $5 of which is donated to City Harvest, a charity which ‘feeds New York’s hungriest’.

The menu consisted of two starters and two mains, so we tried one of each; the North Carolina Shrimp and the Tuna Tartare. Both dishes were nothing short of sublime. The chunky sautéed shrimps were the best shrimps either of us have tasted. Drizzled with a white balsamic vinaigrette, the dish had a perfect mix of sweet and salty flavours.

It’s not uncommon for a seafood restaurant to offer tuna tartare, but Le Bernadin’s offering stands out from the pack. The light dish had a depth of flavour to it, courtesy of the sweet piquillo pepper dressing and a welcome crunch from the sweet potato crisps.

For mains, we ordered the skate and salmon. The almost-raw fillets of salmon were served with a mushroom broth, which packed a flavoursome punch and contrasted beautifully with the delicate salmon. The skate was almost buttery in taste and served with a rich harissa sauce, which was so tasty, I’d have eaten a bowl full of the sauce alone.

Ripert is inspired by global flavour and cooking methods

The portions are what you expect to be served in a Michelin star restaurant; it’s most definitely quality over quantity. Although, having said that, guests are served a flavoursome pot of salmon rillette with wafer thin slices of toast on arrival as well as a roll of freshly-baked bread; the focaccia and pumpernickel were particularly divine.

But savoury food is not the only thing this restaurant specialises in, but spectacular sweet treats too. Our favourite was the Mont Blanc or 6 mouthfuls of heaven as my mother and I now refer to it. It’s a dainty plate, consisting of a pillow full of chestnut cream, with smooth vanilla ice cream on the side. Our taste buds were in ecstasy and I cannot recommend it enough.

All this was washed down by the most incredible wine: a glass of Franzen Bremmer’s Calmont Riesling Kabinett, which was recommended by our wonderful French sommelier. The Bremmer Calmont vineyard is one of the steepest in Europe and you can literally taste the altitude in the wine. It was like drinking a breath of fresh air. And no, I wasn’t drunk-just completely in love.

The dining space is smart but not fussy

Considering the upmarket nature of Le Bernardin, the restaurant has a relaxed feel. The dining room is a modern space and, despite dressing formally, the waiting staff sported smiles, which didn’t seem forced. You can dress to the nines in a shirt and tie/evening dress, but equally you wouldn’t look out of place in jeans (smart jeans!).

As we left the restaurant my mum turned to me and said, ‘This is a meal I won’t ever forget’. And it’s true. In short, dining at Le Bernardin is a must, and honestly was one of the highlights of our trip to NYC.

Address: 155 West 51st St, New York, NY 10019
Phone: +1 212 554 1515
Website: le-bernardin.com

All images credited to Daniel Krieger