One of New York’s lesser known fine dining deals is the City Harvest menu at Le Bernardin. This three course lunch menu is exclusively offered in the lounge. This $45 menu gets you an appetizer, an entree, dessert and a $5 donation to City Harvest. Price-wise, it seems like a great deal. If you order off the a la carte lounge menu, you will get the chance to order some of Eric Ripert’s more well known dishes, such as the “Le Bernardin” Salmon Rillette with Toast, but keep in mind these are all appetizer portions. In order to make a complete meal, you would to order about three to four items and at about $20 each that sky rockets your bill to over $60 without wine, tax or tip. You might as well order the $72 lunch prix-fixe in the dining room. It comes with more options and better real estate in terms of seating. [Photo via]
Of course when we first heard about this $45 City Harvest menu we were a bit skeptical. Our two major worries were if would we be leaving Le Bernardin Hungry and if this special menu would have the same quality of food that is served on the regular menus? Because let’s be honest, while a $45 three course meal at Le Bernardin may look like a steal, if the food is mediocre and on top of that you leave the restaurant hungry then the meal was really a waste of money. For example, while the special $25 two course menu at WD-50 was a great way for us to try the food since we have been wanting to check it out. But, when we finished our dinner we were not overly impressed with the food and we were still hungry afterwards (naturally, we headed over to Minca to finish our dinner properly).
The City Harvest menu changes weekly and is updated regularly on Le Bernardin’s website. When we visited the restaurant yesterday we received this menu:
Initially, we didn’t receive this menu first. We were given the lounge menu and thought that this menu would be hidden in the back somewhere. However, the City Harvest menu is on a completely separate sheet of paper that you have to ask for. This isn’t the first restaurant to hide special prix-fixe menus (Mr. Chow’s recession buster menu is on a tiny laminated index card) but just as a warning you should ask your server for it once you sit down. [Menu via]
Out of the options we were given, we had the Octopus Carpaccio and the Striped Bass. Since we are allergic to nuts, our server swapped the Hazelnut-Marshmallow Ganache for the Deconstructed Black Forrest Cake. After our initial experience at Le Bernardin, our main goal this time was to not leave hungry. The food prepared at the restaurant is mostly very simple, very light but very small. With that in mind we loaded up on the bread basket (their pretzel bread is a must). But when our appetizers came out, we realized all that bread may have not been necessary. The Octopus Carpaccio was easily one of the best octopus dishes we ever had. The tender octopus went perfectly with the lemon confit and to top it all off the portion was actually the size of a normal appetizer. We wish they would include this on their regular menus. The Stripped Bass on the City Harvest menu is similar to that served on the dinner prix-fixe menu. However this dish comes with a Basil-Mussel Broth mixed with Cannelloni beans rather than the normal Blue Crab Consomme. This second dish was a bit too simple for our liking but the portion of bass was generous and the fish was moist and cooked perfectly. The Deconstructed Black Forrest Cake for dessert was also very good. We enjoyed that the components of the dessert were separated so we had the option of eating each part individually or together (but we will admit this dessert is really made to be eaten with all the parts together). [Photo via]
The City Harvest menu at Le Bernardin is a genuinely good offer. You don’t need to load up on the bread basket before hand and you actually get top quality food. While the fish used in these dishes will be cheaper (think Tuna and Sea Bass rather than Dover Sole) the kitchen doesn’t serve you overly simplistic food to cut down on costs. We recommend the always changing City Harvest menu at Le Bernardin especially to those wanting to try out the restaurant before committing to one of the pricey prix-fixe menus. [Photo via]