There is not much more to say about Le Bernardin that hasn’t already been said. Three Michelin stars; a four star review in the New York Times; a top twenty ranking on S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants; an almost perfect rating on the Zagat Guide; a gaggle of James Beard awards: Their trophy case must bulge like that of a diminutive Julliard-ready violin prodigy.
There is a hint of genius in the dishes: not the mad wizardry of deconstructing and reconstructing the food into novel form, but rather the subtle artistry of bringing out the inherent goodness in each ingredient. The delicate portion sizes remind me of a multi-course Kaiseki: Pen Shell Clam Sashimi; Sautéed Langoustine; Ultra Rare Smoked Wild Salmon; Poached Halibut; Warm Alaskan King Crab Crabouillabaisse; Sautéed Sole: The food is harmoniously paired with fine wines from around the world.
Unless you are fortuitous and find yourself often dining on someone else’s expense account, Le Bernardin is a restaurant for special occasions, and the night we were there was no exception: There was a wedding party to the rear; another birthday to the right; a row of well-dressed couples seated in the deuce tables along the wall. But Le Bernardin lives up to its well-deserved reputation of being a special place, a place where time seems to distort and bend, where two and one-half hours transpires like fifteen minutes and you are left to carry the memory of the experience for time immemorial.
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New York City's haute temple to seafood is one of my favorite fine dining experiences in New York City. Chef Eric Ripert is a genius with both his sourcing and preparation of fish. If you're not in the mood for a white tablecloth affair, check out the casual and inviting Aldo Sohm Wine Bar next door--a collaboration with Ripert and Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin's wine director (love the well-vetted wine list, the small bites, and the Keith Harings on the wall).