Last night was Michael’s birthday, so I took him to Le Bernardin to celebrate. Eric Ripert is the executive chef, though I do not expect that he’s in the kitchen cooking every night. We definitely didn’t see him and, believe me, I looked. This was my second fine dining experience, the first being Masa’s in San Francisco, which was probably one of the best meals of my life. This time around, I brought my camera and managed to discreetly photograph each course. The photos are not of good quality, but it was the best I could do without using the flash. Similar to Masa’s, we opted for the seven course tasting menu.
The first course was layers of thinly pounded Yellowfin Tuna atop a toasted baguette with shaved chives and extra virgin olive oil. I believe the waiter also mentioned that there was some foie gras hidden underneath the baguette. I was pretty excited about that, since I’ve never tasted foie gras before. Not really something I should be interested in, considering that I love ducks and most other waterfowl—but I’ve heard so much buzz about it from shows like Top Chef that I wanted to give it a try. It was good, but I don’t really know how to describe it. Sorry, I’m not a food writer. It’s sort of, vaguely, in the same ballpark as liverwurst…but that’s all I got.
The next course was charred octopus with a fermented black bean concoction poured on top of it. It also had a little sliver of pear, and the plate was drizzled with an ink-miso vinaigrette (squid ink, I presume?). The texture of the octopus was far less chewy than octopus you’d get from a Japanese restaurant, or in an Italian seafood salad. The beans also added a strong smokiness to the dish. One of my cuts of octopus had the suction cups on it, which I thought was a little gross and probably wouldn’t have eaten it in any other situation. But, in that case, I did.
The third course was a warm lobster carpaccio with hearts of palm and an orange vinaigrette. This was my second favorite part of the meal. The lobster was delicious, but the viniagrette totally made the dish. I believe it had cream in it, but it was surprisingly light, and the citrus flavor was a nice touch.
The fourth course was my favorite. It was seared Yellowtail King Fish alongside a truffle/vegetable risotto, drizzled with a black truffle emulsion. This. was. so. good. The yellowtail was cooked perfectly and the risotto had a really strong, comforting, vegetabley flavor. Great description, right?
The fifth course was crispy Black Bass with a beansprout “risotto” and a mini steamed bun, with a hoisin-plum jus. I have to admit, I wasn’t too into this course. The fish was good, but I found the hoisin sauce to be a little salty. At first, I thought the “bun” was an onion, which would have been really bad since I don’t like onions. Luckily, it turned out to be some sort of weird…bun. It was doughy and spongy and didn’t really taste like anything, and I still don’t really understand what it could have been made of. It was weird. This dish would mark the end of the savory courses.
Course number six was parsnip crème brulée, roasted hazelnut, and browned milk solids (also known as chocolate?). I’m all for tasting new things, but I have to say that the parsnip crème brulée didn’t really do it for me. It didn’t really taste like dessert so much as it tasted like, well, a parsnip. Oh well, they can’t all be winners.
And here we are at the last course where, for some reason, I forgot to take a picture until I started eating. This was a milk chocolate parfait with “liquid pear,” which was really intriguing. There was this little white ball on top of the parfait—we were instructed to eat it by itself, and after biting into it and piercing the thin outer layer, this “liquid pear” oozed out. It was kind of like a Gusher, only waaayyyyyy better. The rest of the chocolate parfait was also delicious.
At the end of the meal, they also brought us some petite fours to munch on, which were also very good.
All in all it was a fantastic meal, but if I do a course-by-course comparison, I think Masa’s still wins as my favorite dinner of all time. We’ll probably have to eat lots of Ramen before we do this again, but I’ll have a full report when we do.