Dinner Out: Scott Goes to the Best Restaurant in the World
By Scott Campbell
Every year, Paris-based organization La Liste announces its list of the best restaurants in the world, and last November it awarded two restaurants first-place recognition: Le Bernardin in New York City, and Guy Savoy in Paris. And yours truly was already planning a spring trip to New York, so I made sure we went through the lengthy and complicated reservation process, and were able to secure two seats at Le Bernardin.
The outside of Le Bernardin isn’t as austere as one might imagine the “Best Restaurant in the World” would be. The entrance and signage are very slick and contemporary, as is the rest of the décor of the restaurant. The service was beyond reproach. We were greeted, seated, and welcomed by no less than three different hosts and servers before we’d even been offered a welcoming cocktail. We decided we’d have the Chef’s Tasting Menu – an opportunity for the chef to decide what we should have. We sat back, sipped our delicious cocktails, and waited for the servers to start bringing what we knew would be amazing course after course. Le Bernardin’s executive chef and owner, Eric Ripert, is well known for his seafood cuisine and although the menu at Le Bernardin is varied, there is a definite seafood focus, so we were not disappointed when the amazing seafood dishes began to arrive at our table.
The first course was tuna. Layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna were laid over a slice of fois gras and served atop a toasted baguette. Sprinkled with chives and drizzled with a brilliant olive oil. This is one of Chef Ripert’s signature dishes. The light tasting tuna worked perfectly with the rich fois gras. Since we had opted for the wine pairing, this first course came with a fresh 2017 Riesling/Furmint blend from Hungary. Again the light wine was a perfect accompaniment with the tuna and fois gras.
Next up was the lobster course. A baked lobster tail served alongside butternut squash manicotti, all under a delicious shrimp-black pepper-brandy sauce. This was served with a 2012 Spanish La Bota de Florpower 57 (a fortified white wine). As you would expect, the sweet lobster, rich manicotti, and bold wine were a terrific trio.
Our third course was merluza. For those of you not familiar with that term, you can find this fish locally as hake.The merluza was pan-roasted and served with saffron potatoes, caramelized leeks all with a zarzuela sauce (a rich fish sauce typical of Spain). This delicious dish came with a 2016 Savennières, Roche aux Moines. Savennières wine is a white wine, usually dry, produced from Chenin blanc around Savennières in the Loire Valley of France. The rich lineage of the wine was appropriate for the rich saucy fish dish.
The fourth course was salmon. The barely cooked Faroe Islands salmon was served with a black truffle-vegetable pot-au-feu. The light tasting and perfectly textured salmon came to us with a very special wine companion – a 1991 Arinto, Poco do Lobo. The high acid of this delicious Portuguese white wine gives it great cellaring capability and perfect drinkability for decades after it’s bottled.
Our final savoury course was pan roasted monkfish with squid ink fideos (a striking black pasta usually cooked in a seafood broth) and a chorizo emulsion. This came out with a fantastic 2014 Californian Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley – a Joseph Swan “Cuvée de Trois”. The monkfish, the pasta, and the bold wine were a resounding savoury finale to this meal.
You might think the best restaurant in the world would want to finish off a magnificent meal with an equally magnificent dessert. But that’s not the case at Le Bernardin. No, they finished the meal with two magnificent desserts.
The first dessert was a coconut-calamansi (a small citrus fruit) custard with a coconut sorbet. This was paired with a 2017 Austrian Beerenauslese – Alois Kracher. This dessert was packed with flavour and wine aficionados will recognize the Beerenauslese wine classification as referring to a grape that has been exposed to “noble rot.” This distinguishing factor of this wine is sought after and puts this wine very high on the quality scale, and gives it more than enough flavour to stand up to the tasty dessert.
Our dining experience ended with “s’mores,” no less. However, these were no ordinary s’mores. A warm chocolate fondant, smoked chocolate, Peruvian chocolate ice cream were the amazing ingredients of our s’mores. The chocolatey dessert was finished off with a gold leaf and accompanied with a Pineau des Charentes from France. This non-vintage fortified wine is a mix of three grapes and although well-known in Europe is only in the past few years starting to gain popularity in North America. It was a wonderful chilled pairing with the frozen dessert.
It was a rare treat to be able to experience dining at a restaurant that has earned such a title as “Best Restaurant in the World,” and to be able to see, first hand, the work, talent and dedication that goes into achieving and maintaining this bold accomplishment. I’m happy to be able to share it with you. Cheers.
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