Last weekend I had the pleasure of dining at Le Bernardin. In case you are not familiar with the restaurant, Le Bernardin is a Michelin Guide three star, Zagat-rated French seafood restaurant located in the Times Square neighborhood of New York City. The reservation was part of a surprise date night and when I found out that morning I was excited, but a bit intimidated as well.
When we arrived, my fiancé, who was my boyfriend at this point in the evening, asked if it was alright if he ordered for me. Seeing as how we both enjoy similar flavors and preparations (thank goodness, I don’t think I could marry a man who ordered his steak well-done) we usually tandem-order anyway so I immediately agreed. When my fiancé informed our server that we would be ordering the Le Berdardin Tasting, he asked if we’d like to see the menu; we declined because we wanted to be surprised. Normally when I dine out I like to look at the menu in the morning so I can get excited for my meal, but I knew that this would be a dining experience of epic proportions and I definitely did not want to get ahead of myself. After the amuse-bouche there was a total of seven courses with a wine pairing (go big or go home, right?)—With each bite of food or sip of wine we were delighted.
Our experience reminded us of this 2011 NPR interview of a chef from a different Michelin Guide three star restaurant, Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago. Achatz is an American chef and restaurateur known for being one a leader of the molecular gastronomy movement. In the interview, Achatz says that he actually aims to intimidate diners on a certain level. It’s not that he is trying to be exclusive or snobby, Achatz feels that by intimidating his patrons he is able to break the monotony of the typically dining experience, “then we get you to take notice of the moment, and now you’re thinking about the food. It’s making you feel a certain way. Then we’ve won.”
Le Bernardin definitely won last Friday night; the staff was warm, welcoming and well-informed. While we savored each dish individually, every dish that followed seemed like the best thing we had ever tasted. From the barely cooked scallop with brown butter dashi to the lobster lasagna with truffle sauce; everything before, after and in between made my fiancé and I feel as though we were in a culinary dream. I had no idea what surprises were in store for the rest of the evening, but now that all has been revealed and I have had a taste of what’s to come, I can confidently say that life is going to be delicious.