I’m pretty low-maintenance in my food choices. I’m perfectly fine eating cereal or a bagel or an entire bag of Pizza Goldfish for dinner. When I eat out, I’m more than content with burgers, pizza, or a quesadilla, as long as I’m having a good conversation that includes some juicy gossip. But once in a while, you need to treat yo’self, and that’s why I was really excited for one of Caitlin‘s suggestion for my 28 Things.
#16 Eat at a four-star restaurant
There are six four-star restaurants in NYC as rated by the New York Times. I wanted to pick somewhere Caitlin had not been to yet either so that narrowed it down to two – she is quite the foodie. Le Bernardin was chosen over Daniel because it is a seafood place and I’ve actually had trouble finding good seafood here (suggestions are welcome). We decided to go on Presidents’ Day for lunch because there is a three-course prix fixe for a lot less than a dinner would be. Caitlin kindly made the reservation while I was in Asia playing with elephants because it was recommended to make it a month beforehand.
After our coats were checked, we were greeted by about thirty happy waitstaff on the way to our table. We both felt like we were a little out of place but we had dressed up nicely so maybe we fooled everyone else. The plate setting looked like it cost more than my rent and the silverware looked as if it had been polished for hours. Somehow the tap water tasted better than normal tap water. We ordered cocktails and were brought bread with a delicious salmon spread and then selected additional assorted breads from a basket – sun-dried tomato, turmeric, sesame basil, pretzel, you name it. The butter was replaced after we used a quarter of it. Then, the real food started coming out.
Course 1 – Warm Scallop “Carpaccio”; Snowpeas and Shiitake, Lime-Shiso Broth – I selected the scallops because they are my favorite and since I got something I hadn’t tried before for my main course, I thought it would be okay to have something tried and true as an appetizer. Plus, Caitlin reminded me that they would be the best scallops I would ever have. And they were – sliced thin and arranged in such a way that you could have seven bites that would taste exactly the same. Each had the same proportion of mushroom, snowpeas, and herbs. The broth was buttery and smooth and had not been poured on the dish until it was placed in front of me.
Course 2 – Poached Skate and Warm Oysters, Brussels Sprouts-Bacon Mignonette, Dijon Mustard Sherry Emulsion – I wanted to try the skate because I’d never seen it on a menu before and was curious. I think I thought it might come out on the plate actually looking like a skate/sting ray but I suppose you don’t actually eat the skin. It was more like an actual fish than I would have imagined, I for some reason was thinking it would be more like a shellfish, even though I’m aware there is no shell. It was white and thicker than other fish I’ve had, maybe half as flaky. I had to leave a few pieces of this on the plate because I just could not fit anything else in my stomach, aside from the obligatory space I saved for dessert.
Course 3 – Madagascan Chocolate Ganache, Candied Peanuts, Popcorn Ice Cream – While every bite of the first two courses was identical, each bite of the dessert tasted different from the next. So much so that Caitlin and I didn’t even try each others dish; I think we each wanted ours all to ourselves. The ganache melted in my mouth and the salt from the peanuts and popcorn mixed with the sweetness of everything else perfectly. If I could eat this every day for the rest of my life I would be able to give up all my other dreams because I would be happy.
The service we got at Le Bernardin was out of control and so much better than the service anyone ever received at the seafood restaurant back home where all my friends and I worked in the summers during college. The food was plated beautifully and every bite was as good as the last. Four-star dining is definitely something everyone should try at least once. A weekday when you’re off work for a holiday is a good time to do it too – it sure made us feel Presidential.
The only bad thing about this experience is that nothing I eat now will ever taste as good as my meal at Le Bernardin. Sorry, future suitors, cheese fries at the diner will do no longer.