LE BERNARDIN: One of my favorite meals of 2011… (pre-renovation)

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Dear Food Diary:
I visited Le Bernardin right before their renovations earlier this year. Regardless of the new decor and trendy bar menu, the food and service I read, remain untarnished. As I looked back at this tasty and exciting year, this dinner was without a doubt top of the list and one I’ll surely remember.


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There’s something nice about old school charm and elegance… I’ll miss it. Based on the photos I’ve seen, the new modern and chic decor is nice, but I’m glad I had to chance to see what it was like…

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This dinner took 16 years in the making. You see… my buddies from elementary school (Lord Lansdowne, Toronto) were visiting and it so happened that A chose to celebrate her birthday in NYC with us. The last time all of us were in the same city was 16 years ago (S is missing from the shot, she had to return home). Back then our birthday celebrations consisted of pizza and watching MTV. This time around, all grown-up, we wanted a proper meal or like H puts it, dressing up just for us. We laughed till our tummies hurt about being “crazy but classy”.
And so our meal Chefs Tasting Menu ($190) began…
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A variety of fresh baked breads, soft butter along with friendly, professional and non-snooty service. Knowledgeable sommelier, just as one would come to expect. With a bottle of fruity Austrian Gruner, our palates were romanced from beginning to end…

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PONZU OYSTER to start. Lightly dressed. A simple mouthful of citrus and ocean.

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SPICED FLUKE SASHIMI – Fresh Green Almond, Spring Onion Slivers, topped with Citrus/ White Soy Nage. The citrus/white soy concoction is poured the minute its served, this way the fluke wouldn’t get marinated, instead everything is gracefully gathered together. Elegant bursts of citrus with a hint of salty/savory umami. The mild flavors of the fresh fluke weren’t overpowered by the bright spring aromas. It awakened my senses in a delicate manner with just enough spice to let my tongue tingle.

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SEARED LANGOUSTINE – Mache and Wild Mushroom Salad, Shaved Foie Gras and White Balsamic Vinaigrette. Sweet, earthy, aromatic, rich and fresh all in one bite. Very gently cut through by a minimal hints of tartness. The foie gras dissolved the moment it hit my tongue. I would of loved a bigger portion, but this was actually enough so I can reminisce.

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CAVIAR & SEA URCHIN – Osetra Caviar Nestled in Tagliolini Warm Sea Urchin Sauce. If I were to choose my last meal, sea urchin would undoubtedly be on the menu. So you can imagine the kind of joy this brought me. Oh so sweet and creamy, I just wanted to lick that plate. The pops of salty pearls not only brought a luxurious touch, but it added balance to the sweetness and texture. Love, love, love. I haven’t been to Basta Pasta in a while, but they were the first ones to use uni in pastas (genius). Lucky for me, it’s all over town these days (Marea, Lincoln). Each with their own version, but none with caviar like this one.

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BAKED LOBSTER – Red Wine Braised Sunchoke and Wilted Fava Sprout with Bergamot Emulsion. The lobster was perfectly cooked. Tender, naturally sweet and fresh with a slight bite to it. The fragrance from the bergamot was like liquid sunshine, bright and citrusy. I suspect a light hand on the butter, just a touch. The crustacean captivated my full attention, I sort of forgot about the sunchokes.

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RED SNAPPER – Bread Crusted Red Snapper, Saffron Fideos, Chorizo Smoked Sweet Paprika Sauce. The tender fish has a nice golden brown crust. A soft crunch. The “fideos” or spaghetti was a nice forkful, but other than looking pretty on the plate, I wouldn’t have missed it. The sauce on the other hand, made the dish. Smokey and spicy but always very gentle and respectful, so the main ingredient remains the center of attention.

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Very chatty and humorous staff were attentive but not overbearing. Since we’ve had a couple courses served table side, at this point in the meal, we became old friends.
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POACHED TURBOT – Wild Mushrooms, Affilla Cress, Spiced Squab Jus. The affilla cress added a sweet-pea like taste to the very delicate and flaky fish. Superbly moist, with very rich and earthy tones. The squab jus has an umami that flavors the whole dish. A great way to end our savory journey.

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CITRUS LIME PARFAIT – Meringue, Avocado Puree, Mint, Grapefruit & Tequila Sorbet. After the array of dishes, this was an refreshing and much welcomed break. Almost like a palate cleanser or pre-dessert if you will. Light, airy, fresh and tres cute. Melt in your mouth garden explosion with just a bit of alcohol. Enough to recognize it, but none to suggest a wild “fiesta”.

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CHOCOLATE TEA – Dark Chocolate Cremeux, Cocoa Pain de Genes, Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream. Luscious, creamy semi sweet chocolate, enhanced by the perfume like earl grey tea. A sexy love affair on a plate.

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The unexpected surprise was their signature MILK CHOCOLATE POT DE CREME EGG – Caramel Foam, Maple Syrup and Maldon Sea Salt. Not only is the presentation “eggsquisite”, but the classic flavors just work together wonderfully. Then “eggain”, how can it not be… it had the essentials of any good dessert: chocolate, cream, milk, eggs and sugar.

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Our mignardises showed up shortly after. I picked the petite Caneles, which was good, but after everything else, there was an overload and tea is was all I asked for…

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My usual chamomile tea to end this delightful meal with amazing company.
I can’t wait to go back to the “new” Le Bernardin in the new year.
P.S. Chubby’s Rating:chubby rating 5
www.lebernardin.com
155 West 51st St.
212.554.1515
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