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Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin

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Contact info

155 West 51st Street10019 New York
United States
T+1 2125541515




Chef's personal info

Name: Eric Ripert
Date of birth: 02-03-1965
A return to CookingDutch

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Where to sleep in the neighborhood?


GQ .com by Alan Richman
The 10 Best Restaurants in New York 2012

The 10 Best Restaurants in New York 2012


2. Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St.

2. Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St.

Near the end of the 1990's, I wrote that Le Bernardin was the greatest restaurant in America, the most perceptive critique of my career. As the years passed, the restaurant never faltered, an amazing run, first under Chef Gilbert Le Coze and his sister, Maguy Le Coze, presently under Chef Eric Ripert and his partner, Maguy Le Coze. I admire Le Bernardin as much as ever, maybe more, now that a new no-reservation lounge is offering light dining, including Ripert's greatest hits (luxurious lobster cappuccino with coral foam, clever caviar croque monsieur, and curiously bold kampachi topped with wasabi-infused tobiko).

Ripert remains the most talented seafood chef on earth. Aldo Sohn is still the best sommelier you'll ever come across, and the new pastry chef, Laurie Jon Moran, is not only darned good, he shows signs of being a sorbet savant. After a recent renovation, Le Bernardin is a little less handsome than before, slightly more gentle and flowing. The food is no longer particularly French and hasn't been for awhile, but Ripert makes fish taste fabulous in any language. Try the charred octopus cooked three ways and served with three sauces (that might sound like too much, but it isn't), langoustine with a sliver of foie gras and white balsamic dressing (that might sound like the best thing you ever ate and possibly is), and his Sea Medley, done Japanese-style with dashi and custard, but elevated with an array of small ocean creatures.

Despite all that—and a diner could hardly hope for more—I no longer think Le Bernardin is the most exciting and exhilarating restaurant in New York. At the same time, I still feel in my heart that Le Bernardin is the best restaurant in America. That might sound like a pronouncement from a befuddled mind, but enduring greatness should not be penalized.

- GQ .com by Alan Richman - Pete Wells
Moving Ever Forward, Like a Fish

Moving Ever Forward, Like a Fish

Daniel Krieger for The New York Times

ERIC RIPERT has been the executive chef of Le Bernardin for 18 years, and people sometimes ask him if he gets tired of cooking fish. Clearly these people have never eaten at Le Bernardin. No other restaurant in the city makes the simple cooking of fish (and the fish at Le Bernardin is cooked simply, when it is cooked at all) seem so ripe with opportunities for excitement.

Daniel Krieger for The New York Times

Wavy blades of twisted aluminum ripple along a wall in the main dining room. More Photos »

Some of the thrills are the hushed kind, like the way black garlic, pomegranate and lime support the crisp skin and white flesh of sautéed black bass. Others are scene-stealers, as when a white slab of steamed halibut is slowly surrounded by a crimson pool of beet sauce that, with crème fraîche stirred in, will turn the delirious pink of summer borscht.

A few are flat-out luxurious, like a small boulder of caviar nested inside a heap of sea urchin on a carpet of little gnocchi. I blinked my eyes a few times at the $70 supplement on top of the $125 set price for four courses at dinner. Then I decided not to worry, because a chance like this might not come along again. A year from now the sea urchin and caviar, along with almost everything else on a menu of nearly 40 items, may well have made way for a new crop of thrills.

For a restaurant so determined to stay on top, keeping such a deep repertory and refreshing it so often would seem to be a risk. It is also, of course, one source of its enduring success. Le Bernardin’s four-star rating in The New York Times has been confirmed every time the restaurant has been assessed, from 1986, when it opened, through 2005, when Frank Bruni wrote its most recent review. Why wait to say it: today I fall in line, happily, with my predecessors.

Not that I am reviewing the same restaurant, exactly. Under the relentless guidance of Mr. Ripert and Maguy LeCoze, his partner in the business, Le Bernardin moves forward without a pause. To rest for a minute might mean growing old. Change, typically gradual, came in a rush last summer, when the interior was given a shake-up by the architecture firm Bentel & Bentel.

The old dining room was always compared to a corporate boardroom, but for some reason its monumental scale and profusion of framed canvases in an antiquated style made me think of the atrium of a minor art museum. That’s all different now, starting with the art. Now, just one enormous painting of a brooding sea, “Deep Water No. 1” by Ran Ortner, looms over the space, imparting a sense of motion and immediacy.

Wavy blades of twisted aluminum ripple like reeds along another wall. Opposite are shimmering, swaying curtains woven from vines and aluminum fibers. This room may never be sexy, exactly, but now it has a suggestive invitation in its eye. The downside of the redesign, however, is the removal of a good number of tables for two. Just as the restaurant has worked up a little romance, couples have a harder time getting reservations.

The sleepy little bar was remodeled, too, and is now a sleek leather-and-steel lounge. Cocktails, when appropriate, come with a stainless-steel swizzle stick, not (please pound your fist on the bar along with me) a cheap plastic straw. The lounge is also something like Branson, Mo., for Le Bernardin’s greatest hits, bringing back from retirement classics like the irresistible smoked-salmon croque monsieur overflowing with caviar. The full menu is available, though I can’t imagine perching on a tuffet not much higher than a footstool to eat a $125 dinner. One French Connection cocktail and a brioche filled with warm truffled lobster, and I’d be ready to move along.

Comfort, though, may not be the point. Simply having a lounge at all gives the entire restaurant a pulse that was missing before. The achievement of Bentel & Bentel’s design is that the interior now walks in step with Le Bernardin’s cuisine. Both are up-to-date, lively, intimate and playful.

A corporate boardroom is no place for Laurie Jon Moran’s elegantly disassembled desserts, for instance. Mr. Moran’s plates are a bit busier than those of the last pastry chef, Michael Laiskonis, who left late last year, but the flavors quickly and agreeably reassemble themselves as you eat.

And a museum is no place for the muscular sancocho sauce served with lacquered grouper, or more recently with striped bass. Inspired by the Puerto Rican stew, the sancocho is enveloping and warming, made from oxtails and chicken, with a low current of heat. The fish is treated like meat and likes it.

Another attempt at the same treatment perplexed me: Dover sole in a red wine and cassis sauce the color of grape chewing gum. Out of more than two dozen I tasted, this was the only dish that didn’t come together for me. And at each meal just one minor detail struck me as not quite keeping up with the rest: the breads, which are outclassed at a number of places around town.

Mr. Ripert has been stocking up on ingredients from Asia for years now, but somehow he makes the whole enterprise feel new. Sliced geoduck set down on a fluffy mousseline of smoked edamame and given a bath of wasabi and lime has obvious roots in Japan, yet doesn’t taste Japanese at all. The original impulse has been transformed.

Like nearly all the savory dishes, this one depends upon the kitchen’s expert sauciers, especially Vincent Robinson, who has been on the job since 1985. Standing over his stockpots, Mr. Robinson has the control of Mariano Rivera on the mound. (Get well soon, Mr. Rivera.) When he makes a sauce of sweet pimentón for red snapper, the level of heat will be just perceptible; in a red wine and squid ink sauce for sepia, it will rise a bit higher and stop, right there. When he blends bergamot with grapefruit and other citrus for lobster, or jalapeño with lime for fluke sashimi, the nip of acidity will touch down precisely on this spot of your tongue, and nowhere else.

Every time I went to Le Bernardin, somebody ordered a vintage Bordeaux, and the decanting apparatus would be trundled out. What on earth did those people order, I wondered, and did they ask Aldo Sohm for advice? Mr. Sohm, who holds the title chef sommelier, has studded his list with the required blockbusters, but he also has hidden oddities and discoveries to drink with raw salmon bathed in cardamom and ginger. He was joined on the floor at all times by at least two other sommeliers, silver tastevins swinging from their necks.

They and other servers patrol the room like the Secret Service at a parade, on the lookout for the slight muscular shift indicating a guest is about to stand. One, two, three brisk steps, and someone is there to pull back the chair.

There are slightly more women on the dining room staff these days, although men are still overrepresented as they are at other restaurants in this style. Ms. LeCoze and her maître d’hôtel, Ben Chekroun, are zealous about enforcing correct procedure, and woe to the novice who clatters dishes or forgets to look customers in the eye the minute they walk in the door.

There is one other aspect of the service at Le Bernardin that sets the place apart from some of its peers. In spite of Mr. Ripert’s television appearances, in spite of the restaurant’s global acclaim, no one ever tried to let me know I was lucky to be there.

But I was.

Le Bernardin


155 West 51st Street (Seventh Avenue); (212) 554-1515;

ATMOSPHERE After a redesign, the monumental dining room feels slightly more intimate and even romantic.

SERVICE Always correct, the servers are a little more likely to break into a smile these days.

SOUND LEVEL Never rises above a pleasant background murmur.

RECOMMENDED Geoduck, fluke sashimi, sepia, sea medley, langoustine, red snapper, black bass, halibut, piña colada dessert, yuzu meringue tart.

DRINKS AND WINE Among the big-ticket blockbusters are some affordable bottles.

PRICES Lunch: $70 three-course prix fixe; $190 eight-course tasting menu. Dinner: $125 four-course prix fixe; $145 seven-course or $190 eight-course tasting menus.

HOURS Lunch: Monday to Friday, noon to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 5:15 to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:15 to 11 p.m.



WHEELCHAIR ACCESS The dining room and accessible restrooms are on street level.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN Ratings range from zero to four stars and reflect the reviewer’s reaction primarily to food, with ambience, service and price taken into consideration. - Pete Wells


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