For $48, eat a three-course four-star lunch at the phenomenal Le Bernardin

August 12, 2005 | By | COMMENTS

[This is part two in an eating adventure with mom that began with the post before this, Chanterelle...]

$48 is a lot of money and it’s a lot of money to spend on food. Is it $115? No it’s not, it’s cheaper. $115 is a tasting menu at Chanterelle. Is it $5 for a extra value meal at McDonald’s? No, it’s almost 10 of those.

Would you rather eat 10 extra value meals or lunch at one of the best restaurants in New York? My point is that I am wildly enthusiastic about my lunch yesterday with mom at Le Bernardin and I want you to experience it too. I think you can save up $48 somehow and go. Save your pocket change for a month, and you might have $48. (Especially if you operate tollbooths.) Or what about birthday checks from grandma? Can you sell back your college books? What if you prostituted yourself, just for a DAY?

Ok, enough prostletyzing. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I just want you to know that for $48 you can eat a beautiful, four-star lunch at Le Bernardin.

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The room, for starters, is beautiful and I think it’s probably more beautiful during the day than it is at night. There’s beautiful wood ceilings that’ll remind you of a yacht and colorful, eye-catching paintings on the wall. In the middle is an island with large vases of flowers. Every table in the place is pretty great except for two right near the kitchen door. Naturally, they tried to sit us at one of these and mom asked to be moved. They were very nice about it and moved us towards the middle.

Your meal will begin with toasted slices of bread and this smoked salmon spread:

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You may have had smoked salmon spread before, but this is fresher and more alive. It’s terrific. [Note: at this point, I should mention, regarding my opening salvo (is that a salvo?), that you shouldn't prostitute yourself if you're a vegetarian. Le Bernardin is a temple of fish---so you gotsta to eat fish. K?]

The $48 menu works like this: one appetizer, one entree, one dessert. When you see the menu, you’ll be overwhelmed with options. The whole left side of the page (first course) is divided into “Simply Raw” and “Lightly Cooked.” (You can see the menu here.) I chose, on the waiter’s tip, the “Hamachi Tartare Topped with Wasabi Tobiko; Ginger-Coriander Emulsion”:

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Do you see how that looks like a jewel? Well that’s what it tastes like. I can’t convey to you the wonder and complexity of this dish. There’s the wasabi and the ginger and the fish and yet because of the differences in texture and presentation it’s like no combination of those flavors you’ve had before. I loved every bite of it.

Alas, I only bit into half of it because mom and I made a deal where we each ate half and switched. Hers was: “Ravioli of Argentinean Shrimp and Wild Mushrooms; Foie Gras Sauce.” It was also awesome, though not as awesome as my hamachi.

For our entrees, the waiter recommended–upon us asking what was the best–the “Crispy Chinese Spiced Black Bass in a Peking Duck Bouillon Scented with Maitake and Enoki Mushrooms.” We each ordered it and look how gorgeous:

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Ok, this dish is subtle and yet subtle in a marvelous way. I felt this dish was superior to me somehow: that it had mysteries I was incapable of uncovering. And I ate each bite with great studiousness and excitement. Those mushrooms were so excotic and so suggestive. The skin on the fish was perfectly crispy and tasted of China, or at least what you think China might taste like. I bowed before this dish, after scraping my plate clean.

Here’s the thing that gets me about those of you who are reading this and still thinking to yourselves, “I’m not spending $48 on that lunch.” If Picasso offered to paint you a portrait of you and give it to you for $48, you’d say yes, of course. “Ok,” you’ll say, “but you’d have that painting forever, this meal will only last for an hour or two at the most.” “Ok,” I’d retort, “but what if Picasso drew the picture of you, let you see it, and then burned it. Would you still pay $48?” And I think those of you who’d answer “yes” understand why you must eat lunch at Le Bernardin.

Plus, you get to choose a dessert from the regular dessert menu. Meaning, you get the same dessert those who pay $155 for a full tasting menu get at the end of their meal. This is such an extraordinary deal, really. I chose the passionfruit dessert because I love passionfruit:

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That’s “Passion Fruit Cream Enrobed in White Chocolate, Ginger Caramel, Mandarin Sorbet.” My dish was enrobed, everyone. Do you see this? Do you appreciate this? And that combination of white chocolate and passion fruit was the most brilliant thing ever.

Mom had the chocolate-cashew dessert: “Dark Chocolate, Cashew and Caramel Tart, Red Wine Reduction, Banana, and Malted Rum Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.”

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Look, this is your test as a New York foodie. If you can look at all of the above and resist it, still, you’re just a bitter, angry person. I liked this lunch as much as I’ve liked any meal since I’ve moved to New York, and in many ways I liked it more because it was so reasonable. And I will make you this promise: if you do follow my advice and go to lunch at Le Bernardin, please write me an e-mail about it and I’ll post it on the site. Men, you have to wear jackets but you’ll need a jacket to contain the excitement you’ll experience at this food. It’s the best lunch you can ever have EVER.

Categories: Manhattan, Midtown, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • Heather

    The Mirror in Nashville (http://www.eatdrinkreflect.com/) makes good polenta fries in tapas form…mmmm.

  • http://www.joeyinisrael.com Joey

    So you finally made it to Le Bernardin. I guess Ducasse is the last on your hit list. You have to go there even though it was demoted to three stars. The baba rum is the best dessert outside of Paris. Back to Le Bernardin. I ate there for the first time in July and thought it was outstanding. While the best meal I’ve ever had was at Jean George, the best dish I’ve ever had was at Le Bernardin, white tuna drizzled in olive oil. I suggest you go for dinner, you’ll love it!

  • http://fingerineverypie.typepad.com Julie

    After reading this, I immediately thought “Oh good! The next big occasion I have is my boyfriend’s birthday next week — we can go to Le Bernardin for lunch!” Then reality hit me. I’m the one who likes those sorts of meals, not him. After our recent trip to the Bay Area, he rated my friend Betty’s chiles rellenos and the tacos he ate in the Mission as his favorite meals, far above our meal at Chez Panisse (which made me ecstatic)…sigh.

  • Pete

    Is that REALLY your mom, or are you using a stand-in for the photographs? She looks WAY too young to have had a kid your age.

  • Terila

    I’m not going … because I can’t afford the airfare. But it sure looks great!

    Thanks for a terrific website!

  • http://monasapple.blogspot.com Monica

    Hey, was just directed to your site today, as I’ve recently started my own restaurant blog. Found yours on “accidental hedonist.” Too funny today I added my own Le Bernardin review. And couldn’t agree with you more about the texture of the hamachi..and the caviar popping in your mouth! Would love any insight as to what I can do to make my blog better, if you ever had the time and wanted to take a look.

    Thanks!

  • Chris

    Is the prix fixe lunch M-F only? Or available Sat too?

  • e

    Were you paid or was your meal comped for this review? Not trying to be rude, but this review and the evangalism (the sort of nagging “go go go go go go go go go”) part was a bit over the top, made me think that perhaps there was something behind the scenes. Seriously, I don’t mean to be rude, but I really am curious about the nature of this over enthusiasm.

  • http://www.amateurgourmet.com The Amateur Gourmet

    e, I wish I was paid for it. I was not. My go go go go go was purely genuine. And if over-enthusiasm leaves you queasy, please ignore my reviews of Jean-Georges and Babbo and other places I really love.

  • e

    lol. it does not make me queasy. I simply meant that it was over the top for you, and you tend to be over the top in general (over the top is not a bad thing, btw.). I was really wondering what was up. Anyway, the place should be happy to garner such over-enthusiasm. Free meal happy. Not the same as free happy meal.

  • Nina Vargas

    I just had a dinner at Le Bernardin on Saturday, Oct 13. My Boyfriend and I tried a tasting menu accompanied by recommended wines and I must say that each item brought out seemed better than the last.

    It was a superb experience, and I think I MUST go back for lunches. Their cocktails were exquisite as well, truly a must for anyone who wants a fabulous meal.

  • http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com burumun

    OMG!!! Those pictures look SOOO GOOD! I’m going to NY soon and I really really (Really) wanna go there, but I can’t get reservations at all for the 3 days that I’m there *sobs* *sobs* anyone know if they take walk-ins at all??

  • Debra

    I think that such visiting a restaurant can be thought as an even that doesn’t deal
    only with meal. You get not just food, there is a pleasure of the other aspect. You will be delighted with all possible ways, as you not just taste, but also smell, see and feel all the beauty of this place. I think it is worth trying, as the designers and organizations have done a great job creating such place. And money should be spent on such delight that will bring you a lot of emotions and memories. I can even understand those people who get payday online loans just to have such pleasure and experience. People always are following things that make them happy and this is great.