Le Bernardin

155 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019, USA

Le Bernardin, on 51st Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, is one of the handful of New York restaurants that is regularly awarded four stars by the New York Times (it is also one of five restaurants in the city with three Michelin stars). Chef Eric Ripert’s specialty is fish, and the menu is divided into three categories: “almost raw,” “barely touched,” and “lightly cooked.” If you like your tuna cooked medium, this isn’t the right place for you. Ripert often finds his inspiration in Japanese cooking, with his sashimi and light broths, and adds some Latin American influences, in his ceviches and some other dishes. The fish is always allowed to take center stage, and typically any sauce is merely intended to accent its flavors. The dining room has an understated, contemporary style with light-wood walls and high ceilings. Unlike some celebrated chefs, Ripert has chosen not to build a restaurant empire, increasing the odds that on any visit he will be at Le Bernardin, presiding over its kitchen and dining room.

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A Meal to Remember at Le Bernardin

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.

Smoked-Salmon Croque Monsieur at Le Bernardin

Chef Bill Telepan of Telepan and Telepan Local says: “Have this take on the classic French sandwich with a glass of Champagne. It makes eating at Eric Ripert’s famous restaurant the epitome of NYC sophistication.” Check out Chefs Feed to get more dining recs from nearly 1000 of the nation’s best chefs.

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