Le Bernardin is one of the few restaurants that New York Times has awarded 4 stars. The Modern French seafood restaurant has also received 3 Michelin stars. BFF Paul reports:
I know about Chef Eric Ripert from the telly and I’ve always liked his cool, suave demeanour and his Frenchified English. Like Catherine Tate doing translations. So cute. I also thought, Wah lau, your food got so good meh. I mistrust celebrity chefs (Momofuku was a disappointment a few days before even though I really like David Chang’s personality and style).
Anyway, we went for lunch. And yes, his food got so good.
At Le Bernardin, there’s little to quibble with the quality of the food. I say with no shame that it is, at worst, delicious, which is so much more than you can say for many other fine-dining establishments.
These are the special mentions.
The Scallops in Brown Butter Sauce were fresh, perfectly cooked and devilishly succulent. The brown butter sauce highlighted the lustrous sweetness of the scallops without being dominating.
The Razor Clams with Pesto Broth has got to be my favouritest starter. I squealed with extreme delight at the final moment when it went down my gullet. This was great joy because the tastes actually progressed nicely from the zestiness of the lemon confit to the sweetness of the basil and clams. You could savour each ingredient individually and completely. An exquisite dish.
Both the Smoked Salmon with Smoked Roe (above)– a strong, broody, masculine smokiness – and the Salmon Tartar (below) – straightforward, palatable, spicy – were equally satisfying.
For the codfish (below), I really enjoyed this dish’s harmony. Firstly, there’s the typical combination of mushroom and fish, earthy richness and oceanic sweetness, which is always joyous. Then there’s the umami-laden dashi broth. And lastly, the crisp and slightly bitter radish. It was really simple but the ingredients and the execution were admirably thoughtful because though lightly flavoured, you could taste, again, distinctly every component and feel them converge into a unified whole in your mouth. It’s one of those simple dishes that makes you doubt its appearance, that there’s got to be some complex logarithm involving precise timing and choice of ingredients.
You’d think that the Seabass with Red-Wine Sauce (below) would taste (sort of, generically) Western but actually it reminded me of home: an odd but pleasant experience being so many thousand of miles away in a fine-dining restaurant helmed by a French chef and not some Chinese grandma, or my dad in his tattered white tee. There was the nostalgic confluence of ginger and brown rice, with the red wine providing it a deep earthy richness. It was a nice dish, very reminiscent of dinners in my HDB home, the chincai kinda father’s cooking, but made classy. I don’t think Ripert intended for the food to allude to Singaporean heartland cooking but regardless, it was pleasing that the food (more objectively reminiscent of Thai-Chinese flavor profiles) could evoke such memories.
The Meluza came with a curry sauce richer in its turmericky tones that went superbly well with bread. The Halibut with kimchi (below) was scrumptious too.
By the time dessert came, I just abandoned my camera and note-taking and just ate. So there’s only one photo – the exotic fruits (deconstructed) pavlova. Another inspiriting dish of yuzu-coconut sorbet, roasted pineapple and guava jam. Refreshing and ambrosial.
My experience at Le Bernardin is as experiences should be at fine-dining establishments – transformative and edifying. The finesse of Le Bernardin is even more pronounced when I compare this experience with that of mine at Waku Ghin. Even though both make the Top 50 Restaurants list, even though both aspire to simplicity, to the paying of homage to fresh, sumptuous ingredients, the latter did it in a way that was trite, uninspiring and perhaps even a little complacent. Le Bernardin, on the other hand, demonstrated elegance, beauty and lots of food-loving.
Service, while slightly impersonal, was extremely professional. The servers paid attention to our needs, filling up glasses with water and wine without our calling. A sauce stain on the table didn’t go unnoticed and they apologised, even though the fault was completely ours, and soon covered it up with a small piece of white table cloth so it looked as pristine as when we first arrived.
So it is superbly inspiring to know that there are, that there can be, restaurants that that care for their food as much as their service. That kind of assiduous application of both the professional and the artistic, and their respect for food and their patrons are things sorely lacking in Singapore’s culinary scene. Eric Ripert has been Executive Chef at Le Bernardin for 18 years, you know? You’d think he’d’ve gotten complacent and standards would’ve slipped. But no.
Le Bernardin made me incomparably happy that day.
155 West 51st, New York, NY 10019
T: +1 212 554 1515
Lunch: M-F 12-2.30pm
Dinner: M-Th 5.15-10.30pm, F & Sat 5.15-11pm
Le Bernardin Lunch Menu
Categories: New York