Tuesday, February 14, 2012
On 1:14 PM by The Bloggers @ 67 Wine No comments
Yesterday, my wife and I allowed ourselves one of NYC’s great culinary indulgences: a meal at what might arguably be the best restaurant in NYC – Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin. This place is amazing, creating some of the best food I have had in a long time. Our reservation was quite late, however, but we arrived somewhat earlier than our appointed reservation early. The hosts requested that we sit in the bar area.
In such situations, while waiting at the bar, the only thing to to is order some cocktails. We did just that. First up, a Manhattan. It was very smooth, with a subtle infusion of ginger and tea… so delicious, so nice. The second cocktail was the Poiré Tonic, a refreshing elixir of Breuckelen Gin, Pear, Poiré "Granit" Rosemary and Clove. The combination was brilliant, expressive, and tasty without being at all overpowering. Along with these two drinks came a welcomed snack of flavored popcorn, cheese sticks (not a hint of oiliness), and deeply-flavored roasted cashews. Little did I know that one of best dinners that I have experienced for some years was fully underway.
Like clockwork, we transitioned to our table, in spacious and luxurious dining room. We were seated in the rear of the room, near a textured painting of waves. Once comfortably tucked into our table, the amuse-bouche arrived. I had a small bite of grapefruit, shaved fennel, and black olives – simple, beautiful, perfect. My wife received tuna tartare, and a lobster leg, and we both were served a brilliant cauliflower soup with black truffles. All pretty amazing. (Just a quick comment on the service. It appeared that we had four dedicated servers, just for our table alone!)
Next, we selected the wine, and did so with the capable help of one of the young members of the sommelier team. After moments of serious deliberation, we decided on the Antonie Arena Carco, a wine from the Patrimonio region of Corsica. This wine, made from Vermentino, was showing nicely with a bit of age, being the 2006. A joy to drink, with serious minerality, and quite a lot of floral notes, and a solid hint of white pepper. For me this was a great wine, and a fantastic pairing, with enough acidity to cut through the dishes that I ordered.
The food began to arrive soon after the wine, starting with bread and butter. Just a quick mention about this element of the meal, as the bread was warm and the butter soft, and finished with sea salt. They get this right! Our first courses, from the “almost raw” section of the menu were a market salad which had a lot of brilliant, perfect things with mixed greens (Chef Ripert – where are you getting perfect asparagus in February?), and a hamachi lettuce roll with thai basil, sauced with carrot and lime.
Next was the lightly cooked course: A superb vegetable dish of warmed lentil salad with market veggies, black truffles, and black truffle vinaigrette. Hands down this dish must have been contained the most black truffles I have ever consumed in one sitting! And even with all the truffle-ness of the dish, it was balanced – a perfect winter salad.
The final savory course had to be my favorite of the night – tagliatelle pasta with black truffles and truffle sauce. (Yes – more truffles!) The dish was all about the earthiness of the truffle, and fresh, housemade pasta. . . what a joy! My wife’s final savory dish was fish (where Chef Ripert's superior talent is in a class itself). Her black bass with black garlic and lime sauce was served skin up, and executed so that textures and colors matched – red with red, black with black – and served with a side of lightly pickled cucumbers.
And lastly, onto dessert, of course. Gianduja was deconstructed, with banana added to the chocolate and hazelnut flavors. It was thankfully not to sweet, and each flavor was spot on. The other dessert was called "Religieuse," a profiteroles-like pastry with elderflower cream, pear coulis, and black current powder. Not sweet really, just amazingly balanced with the tart, fruit and acid.
As we were leaving, each member of the staff said thank you and good night, a nice touch to the end of a great evening. The entire experience was a fantastic way to indulge in a celebratory meal for Valentine’s Day! – Ben Wood | Wine Buyer | @7stringben on Twitter