I visited head chef Eric Ripert’s world famous Le Bernardin over the weekend after reading the 4 star New York Times review and seeing the 3 stars it received from the Michelin guide. The restaurant sits between most major office buildings in Midtown making it a great spot for a business lunch. The restaurant itself has undergone several renovations and this one features a majestic ocean wave mural located at the back of the restaurant. The first area is the newly updated lounge which features newly created cocktails which then leads into the grand main dining room which is surprisingly large considering the caliber of the restaurant that Le Bernardin is. The dark woods and high ceilings add to the experience of the restaurant though Le Bernardin could take some notes from Nello and update their unimpressive flower arrangement.
The menu is split up into three different menus. Two being tasting menus (one 8 course menu for $190 and one 7 course menu for $145) and the other is a 4 course a la carte menu for $125. We chose the 7 course tasting menu which consisted of two appetizer style dishes, three entrees and two desserts.The first dish was the Fluke Sashimi with avocado in a Jalapeño-Lime Broth. This dish was perhaps a bit too simple and the fish was cooked just as well as some decent sushi places in New York (Sushi Seki serves much better sashimi in my opinion) and the jalapeno flavor was a too strong and shadowed the delicacy of the fluke. The next dish was the Tuna that was lighly seared and cut into strips and laid upon a bed of salad. There also was a lime, soy and ginger vinaigrette that went along with the dish. The Asian inspired vinaigrette was easily the best part of the dish as it was flavorful if not a bit too strong after more than three bites of the tuna. As for the rest of the Tuna, the dish simply was not anything I could not get anywhere else in New York. Since Le Bernardin ran out of the Escolar we were served a Lobster Carpaccio. The chef took a lobster claw, cut it finely into rings, placed the rings around the plate then put chopped up lobster claw in the middle of the dish. Again, the dish was nothing I couldn’t get at the Lobster Inn in Southampton. I would hope that the Escolar was a far better dish than this sub par substitution. After the Lobster was the Salmon which was the highlight of the meal. The salmon was cooked so perfectly that you didn’t need the fish knife to cut it. The fish was buttery yet light and was really a special dish. Right after this wonderful Salmon I was presented what was probably one of the worst dishes I have had in a restaurant awarded at least 2 Michelin stars. The Black Bass was a piece of fish, grilled and seared on the skin side to make it crispy. There was no intricacy to the dish nor was the fish even cooked exceptionally well. Next up was the Coconut Lime dessert however, mine was substituted for a Raspberry dessert since the extra cautious staff thought I was allergic to coconut (I do have a nut/peanut allergy but coconut is not one of the “nuts” I am allergic to). I would hope the original dessert was a palate cleanser as it really was just a scoop of coconut sorbet with lime flavoring. However my dish was more of a dessert as it featured a small cake pastry which went well with my raspberry sorbet. The next dessert, the Black Forrest, was a variety of different desserts such as a dark chocolate mousse and a raspberry foam. To be honest those are the only two I remember because the other two small desserts were really forgettable.
Actually, the entire meal was forgettable. Aside from the Salmon and the vinaigrette from the Tuna, there was nothing I received from the world famous Le Bernardin that I could not get anywhere else in the city. The Black Bass was not good at all and the fluke was an awful way to start off the meal. Despite the mediocre food, the service is top notch. The servers were overly attentive about my food allergy and the servers always made sure your table was immaculate. If you are looking to dine at a true four star restaurant go to Daniel, otherwise you are setting yourself up for an overly disappointing meal at Le Bernardin.
Note: I know the math doesn’t add up, but the food was so mediocre at Le Bernardin that there is no possible way I could justify rating it higher than a 3 out of 10 (even if the decor and service we’re great).