[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.
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:
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”:
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:
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:
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.”
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.