USA

Where:
Edi & the Wolf
102 Ave C
New York, NY 10009
East Village, Alphabet City
USA

Phone:
+1 (212) 598-1040 or fuck yeah, OpenTable.  My American homies recommend making a booking.

Price:
USD8 for Bloody Marys. USD14 for burger. USD8 for a side of fries.  Before tax/tip.

The deal:
Edi & the Wolf was a place which was consistently recommended by all my US homies for brunch or drinks.  It’s cool as fuck with its open, airy dining room and its rusted metal and wood filled industrial interiors which back straight onto the outside greenery (check it here).  Its decor is a mix of looped rope, carefully selected curios (how fucking twee, the lamp over our table had a tattered top hat on it), dried foliage and casual arrangements of fresh flowers which punctuate the space.  On a Saturday brunch slot, they are playing requisitely chill indie jams, no doubt picking a Spotify playlist called “Dreamful chill times on a weekend afternoon”. Load The XX and MSMR motherfuckers, it’s brunch time bitches.

I ordered the Schnitzel Burger for lunch which promised pork schnitzel, cucumber salad and a toasted brioche bun.  While we waited, I ate a choc au pain – I can get behind any complimentary bread basket which comes with choc au pain in addition to the other types of bread (rye + white in this instance).  My burger arrived and on initial bite, I was fucking disappointed cause it just wasn’t saucy enough rendering this a pretty fucking dry and flavourless fuck no experience. I’ve concluded, I fucking hate burgers on toasted brioche buns – I don’t know why people are persisting with this other than it sounds a little bit fucking fancy to write it on your menu. Brioche just doesn’t respond well to toasting, it dries out on the inside and in the final killer blow, cuts your goddamn mouth all up – you can fuck right off toasted brioche.  The avocado cream was a sad, tiny schmear (my insatiable lust for avocados continues) and added nothing to the burger.  The schnitzel was a fuck yeah though – so I set to work doctoring my burger by putting the creamy shredded cucumber salad that was chilling on the side onto the schnitzel, adding some bacon aioli and some of the ketchup from our fuck yeah paprika dusted fries. The menu actually declares it to be very fucking fancy Gray Kunz ketchup (the chef behind Cafe Gray in Hong Kong).  By the time I was done with sufficient saucing, my burger was back on track for fuck yeah times.

For drinks, I ordered a Bloody Mary and one thing I can say is that the cocktails in the US are strong as fuck yo. This isn’t my first time at the drinking rodeo and I estimate that the average drink here is three times as strong as the obscene measured 30ml jiggers of Australia and probably two and a half times stronger than the drinks of Hong Kong.  Edi & the Wolf’s Bloody Mary was a fuck yeah, topped with the requisite celery stick and a toothpick which skewered an olive and a pickled baby carrot.  I had two of these over breakfast which would normally provide me with some Vitamin C, two sticks of celery and perhaps a mild feeling of well being, but two Edi & the Wolf Bloody Marys had the end result of me sitting in the back of a taxi later, head askew as I declared that I was fucking wasted.  FYN estimation of vodka shots per Bloody Mary = 3+.   Welcome to the Land of the Free Pour, bitches.

Verdict:
Yeah, so the burger was a bit of a dud pre my adjustments, but shit was cute as fuck here and I reckon if I’d asked for more sauce, it wouldn’t have been an issue.  Full disclosure, maybe my strong as fuck Bloody Marys have softened my sentiment but I’d come back / recommend it – fuck yeah!

Where:
Caracas Arepas Bar
93 1/2 E 7th St
New York, NY 10009
East Village

Phone:
+1 (212) 529-2314 (I dunno if it’s really a booking kind of place though)

Price:
Arepas range from USD7 – 8.50 each (excluding tips, etc.)  

The deal:
We had a US Supercoach (abbreviated to USSC) who provided us with many fuck yeah New York pro tips.  Given his East Village expertise, one of his MUST DO recommendations was Caracas Arepas Bar.  After finding pictures of arepas before we touched down, Mr Noms and I were already trading anticipatory single worded messages to each other simply declaring “AREPAAAASSSSS” for weeks in the lead up.  When we finally tumbled into Caracas Arepas Bar, jetlagged and literally hours from finishing a fuck no 15 hour flight, we stared at the menu overwhelmed by feelings.  For those that don’t know, arepas originate from Venezuela and consist of a grilled and baked corn bun (fuck yeah, no gluten motherfuckers) which is then stuffed with ingredients such as chicken, pork, cheese and black beans.  Dazed and confused as fuck given the timezone changes, I settled on the La Sureña arepa (USD8.5) – promising grilled chicken, chorizo with avocado and quote “the classic and always enigmatic spicy chimi-churri sauce”.  I am unsure what made it enigmatic but I know that once I had that gritty bunned arepa in my life, a million fuck yeahs ricocheted through my travel weary body.

FYN artistic rendition of my reaction at this point in time:

myemotions

I begged Mr Noms to let me order another so I could double fist arepas into my goddamn face, but he claimed (reasonably) we should exercise restraint given the amount of eating available in the East Village.  I grudgingly agreed, reflecting upon our FUCK YEAH arepa as we walked down the street as I wistfully sang “Near, far, wherever you are I believe that the heart does go on” in its memory.

Given we are travelling, our time is limited and to double down on the same restaurant shows the extent of our FUCK YEAH love for Caracas Arepas Bar.  Granted our return visit was under less illustrious circumstances – following a marathon drinking session at The Top of the Standard, fuelled by a Jamaican/Australian barman homie who after learning we were Australian he declared “WOOOHEEEEE, someone’s getting fucked up tonight” (hot tip, it wasn’t him).  Our new friend idly paid no attention to the fact he was free pouring rum into a jug of mojitos before providing us with another separate glass of rum to add once we’d had a glass so there’d be more jug room. MY AMERICAN HOMIES, do you feel that drinking in countries other than the Land of the Free Pour is an exercise in merely drinking mint and soda with a hint of some sort of alcohol?  Unable to feel our faces, we cabbed back to Caracas to Go and I deployed Mr Noms to order a De Pabellón (USD8 – shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains) and a Reina Pepiada arepa (USD7.50  – shredded chicken mixed with my love, avocado) to try and mitigate some of the free pour damage.  The Arepas Homie may or may not have asked him “Is that your wife leaning against a tree outside?” as I mashed my fingers against my phone, in an unsuccessful attempt to message the USSC that we were back, buying more fuck yeah arepas and that Murica is the tits.

We woke up in the morning to a sea of plantain chips, aluminium foil and paper towels.  But no fucking regrets.  My heart will indeed go on when I return to the Kong and a fuck no arepa-less existence.  Too fucking sad, I will miss you dearly Mr Areppaaaasssss.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAH, arepppppaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!!!

Where:
Per Se (their website is pretty bullshit atm though)
4th Floor, Time Warner Centre
10 Columbus Circle 
(West 59th Street)
Upper West Side
New York
, USA

Phone:
+1 (212) 823-9335
 or fuck yeah, OpenTable (but only rely on OpenTable if you want a last minute booking)

Price:
USD310 a person for the 9-course tasting menu with additional ‘upgrades’ to courses available such as USD40 to upgrade from the sunchoke salad to foie gras and USD100 to upgrade from lamb to the 100 day aged beef.  Service/tip is included automatically.  There is no set wine pairing available, you are able to tell the sommelier your budget (recommended minimum of USD200 – USD250 a person). After champagne and a few extras, we were out at a very hefty USD500 a person.  PLS TO SEND FINANCIAL HALP.

The deal:
Like every asshole with access to WordPress and the ability to eat food, I fucking love food.  This means that when I travel, I crank open google and try to figure out where I’m going to bust out some high end eating experiences which of course come with a similar, high end, bank breaking cost.  So after sorting through the Michelin stars and the San Pellegrino The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014 list, you’re left with Eleven Madison Park (#4), Le Bernardin (#21), Per Se (#30) and Daniel (#40) in New York. I don’t buy into the ranking of the list nor the concept that this necessarily translates into fuck yeah times, but it’s a useful starting spot to at least identify which restaurants are considered highlights in a city.  I also read the NYT love letter from a food critic who selects Per Se as his “last meal” and busts out some incredibly over the top descriptions including calling the first course and the wine pairing a “metaphor of transubstantiation” and describes the linen as being “ironed to the texture of freshly sanded pine”.

Once you’ve done that and looked up that transubstantiation means (the change whereby the bread and the wine used in the sacrament of the Eucharist becomes the reality of the body and blood of Christ), it’s where I turn to my reliable cast of Sir Lunch-a-Lot friends, who cut through the bullshit and don’t get blinded by whatever accolades a restaurant may have.  I consulted the no bullshit Ms Two Serves who said she wasn’t that impressed by Daniel (despite a chorus of people telling me it was the Best Ever).  I then hit up another Sir Lunch-a-Lot who suggested Le Bernardin and Per Se, before providing his feedback re: Eleven Madison Park:

[I] expected more from the food – no “wow” factor – a couple of courses were novel, but overall I was left wanting.

I mean, shit hot damn, fuck no I don’t want to be left wanting after dropping that much coin on any meal.

So we settled on Per Se – the East Coast counterpart to Thomas Keller’s famous as fuck West Coast heavyweight, The French Laundry (one day, I will come for you my laundromatic friend).  Getting a booking here is the stuff of a shit tonne of internet speculation with so many fucking sites ruminating on “How do I get a booking at Per Se?”.  People suggest all sorts of things – calling them and making a massive deal about things and claiming industry insider connections (lolz, being a “I’m kind of a big deal asshole” should definitely work), getting your Amex Black peeps onto it, being prepared to be on hold for two hours, asking your hotel concierge to secure you a seat, hitting OpenTable precisely at reservation open on several devices and then if all else fails, add yourself to the waitlist and pray.  But for all the mess and speculation, this is what I did to get a booking at Per Se and it’s not super straight forward but it fucking worked for me and took about two nights of effort:

Fuck Yeah Noms’ Guide to Getting a Booking at Per Se

  1. Bookings are released for Per Se, 30 days in advance at 10am EST.  Bookings can be made via phone or via OpenTable.
  2. Getting an online booking through OpenTable is pretty much bullshit if you’re going the 30 day in advance route.  I was ready and loaded to hit the site up at 10am EST and it doesn’t appear that the tables are released but when you check the days previously / 1 hour later, everything is full up.  Don’t fucking bother with OpenTable.
  3. Phone up EXACTLY at 10am EST (if not before).  I still had some success calling at 10:05am but by the time I got through, there were only lunch slots left.  When you call at 10am, be prepared to be on hold from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.  I got through two days in a row (refer #4 for more details).
  4. As the bookings are made 30 days in advance, be prepared to call a few days in a row before you get the booking that you want.  Ie. The first time I called, I got through after 40ish minutes on the phone and was offered a lunch booking for the Sunday.  I called the next day and I got through after 30ish minutes and was able to then move my booking from the Sunday lunch to a Monday dinner.  So if you aren’t set on a particular date, this is going to help your booking cause.
  5. For dinner, you pretty much have a choice between a meat or seasonal vegetable nine course menu.  It takes a minimum of 2.5 hours to complete (if not more), so booking the last 11pm slot might not be your first choice.
  6. If you want to take a more laissez faire approach to your booking, OpenTable will then have last minute bookings available.  This means that if you search for dates around today, you might get a random slot from today up until the next five days.
  7. If you cancel within 72 hours of the booking, you’re going to get charged USD175.  They will take a credit card number when you book.  Don’t be a flakey fucker.

Travelling to the fourth floor of a shopping mall, you arrive at Per Se with its blue doors modelled on the French Laundry.  FYN red hot tip – don’t start your fancy dining experience by looking like a goddamn moron by trying to open the non-functional blue doors, but slide on easily in through the glass ones (Thomas Keller thinks this makes you smile – I doubt anyone’s smiling once they mess up how to get into a really fucking fancy restaurant).  As you can imagine, service is fucking impeccable here.  The dining room has views over Columbus Circle and Central Park, its interior dictated by the exacting requirements of Thomas Keller.  A gently flickering natural wood fireplace, stainless steel accents, Australian walnut covering the walls (with that wood all sourced pedantically from the one, single tree), purposefully tousled floral arrangements of white and green which tower over the room at each end and 16 round tables, draped with a heavy undercloth and then an impeccably ironed crisp white tablecloth.  FUCK YEAH, SOFT FURNISHINGS.  I can’t even bring myself to cuss too much because everything is just so measured.

There is no a la carte menu with only a choice between the meat/seafood tasting menu and the seasonal vegetables menu.  There are a few constants on the menu – the amuse bouches, the first course of the “Oysters & Pearls” and some elements of the dessert courses.  Everything else changes depending on what is in season.  The two starting amuse bouches of the gruyere gougere and the miniature salmon cornet are Thomas Keller classics – I wanted to eat handfuls of the tiny perfect pastry puffs, stuffed with warm gruyere but had to make do with a singular puff.  The raw salmon cornet is a miniature tuille ice-cream cone, filled with red onion cream cheese and a minced scoop of salmon, accented by a slender spring onion chive.  These were the most impressive fuck yeah amuse bouches of my life – small, perfectly formed with the warm gruyere cheese contrasting against the cool, minced salmon.

The first course of the “Oysters & Pearls” was a FUCK YEAH of the highest fucking order.  A “Sabayon” (a creamy, unsweetened sauce that’s used to dress fish / shellfish) of pearl tapioca served served with two small Island Creek oysters and Sterling White sturgeon caviar.  ARGH the memories of the textures of the oysters, the caviar and the pearl tapioca, served in that off white sabayon perfectly complemented by the wide rimmed delicately shiny and matte checked pattern of the Raynaud Checks tableware which Thomas Keller designed to ensure no competing visual with his food.  This was one of the biggest fuck yeah courses of my life – I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU OYSTERS & PEARLS.

I outlined before about how I don’t like to walk people through course by course of an elaborate tasting menu, because it takes away the potential for the unexpected.  Each course that followed was predictably, fucking excellent – though I wouldn’t necessarily say flawless.  What did strike me was that each individual element on each plate was clearly selected by Per Se as being representative of what they see as being the fucking best.  It was the small things like the Moroccan olive in the Pecorino Oro Antico cheese course or the greenmarket tomato slices that accompanied the Bigeye Tuna course being singular examples of the most fuck yeah flavourful examples of an olive or a tomato that I’ve ever eaten.  The attention to detail to source each ingredient is mind boggling with examples including unsalted cultured butter from a US producer who has a herd of no more than ten Jersey cows or how they present you with six different salts to use with your foie gras (including 30 million year old jurassic salt from a copper mine in Montana, black volcanic and red clay salt from Hawaii and two different salts from Brittany).  There is the laser focussed attention to detail, such as the brioche that’s served with the Hudson Valley duck foie gras course which is replaced at regular intervals, as Per Se insist that once it cools it becomes too heavy. So fucking wasteful but demonstrative of the precise dining experience Per Se wants for you.

But then there’s moments when despite all of this detail, I don’t look back and feel everything was flawless.  Perhaps it’s a function of when something is striving for something so perfect, you naturally look for the faults.  I didn’t find the bread to be a super fuck yeah (as evidenced by the fact that I left unfinished bread behind and didn’t have to exercise any restraint in declining bread in anticipation for more food) or the lamb course which didn’t translate into a slam dunk for me, because I expected the Per Se lamb to be the biggest fuck yeah lamb moment of my existence but it wasn’t rare enough for me and the braised kale that lay underneath it was too salty.

But with this amount of detail that has been plowed into the experience, it’s clear that this shit hasn’t happened by accident.  I only presume that Per Se are cooking what they feel represents the ingredients in their best light and that’s what you experience, despite my views on saltiness.  I concede that Per Se may not have been tailoring shit exactly to my palate.

The final dessert course is billed as a single course but it is really an exercise in endurance with another four separate dessert plates covering fruit, ice-cream, chocolate and petit fours/mignardises.  Each dessert course was  fucking spectacular but despite my tagline, I was pushing the limits of my well-trained endurance.  A stand out for me was the “fruits” course which was based around raspberries, predictably using the most spectacular and intense raspberries I’ve ever eaten.  Each tiny drupelet separated and precisely placed, set off against a vanilla ice-cream and then presented with Per Se’s take on an ANZAC biscuit (wiki link for my non-Antipodean homies) – fragments of golden syrup, oats, coconut and butter.  When have Thomas Keller, Eli Kaimeh and his gang eaten an ANZAC biscuit?  I can’t even fucking imagine. I can’t even remember if they referred to it as an ANZAC cookie, I was so fucking floored by this point.

Once you hit the petit fours section, there is nothing petite about it – first of all, you are presented with a selection from 28 chocolates (I had one, you are allowed to have all 28 if you so desire) and then a silver three-tiered container reveals nougat, caramels, three different types of macarons and more chocolate truffles.  I pocketed some nougat and a caramel purely for survival reasons, envisioning my bloody downfall as I exploded across the pristine white linens, and brown and gold carpetting.  The famous closer of “Coffee & Donuts” (which Thomas Keller invented for a James Beard competition) then appeared, presenting the lightest fuck yeah sugared and cinnamon dusted doughnut balls of my life to be eaten with a light coffee semifreddo topped with warm frothy milk. It was criminal that I couldn’t finish this.  Reminiscing on all I could not finish while writing this, I am crying for my physical limits, for my George Herbert moment as I struck the board and cried NO MORE.

The Per Se homies will then coo comfortingly and ask if everything is ok and will then present a hand written cheque.  Their final gift, a tin stamped with “Per Se” with three shortbread and chocolate biscuit sandwiches.  Perhaps to sweeten the sting of the very large fuck no number you are signing off on.  Three hours after you first sat down, you will slip back into that shopping mall – shallow breathing with plenty to reflect upon.

Verdict:
It’s not flawless but Per Se’s attention to detail, thought around its ingredients and the overall experience is pretty fucking incredible.  Most definitely a fuck yeah on payday.

Where:
Black Ant
60 2nd Ave (between 3rd & 4th St.)
East Village, NYC 10003
USA

Phone:
+1 (212) 598-0300 or online reservations are available here (fuck yeah, OpenTable)

Price:
USD70+ for two people, after 20% tip/tax, excluding drinks.

The deal:
It’s so fucking hard to get decent Mexican in Hong Kong, I temper that statement with the hard fucking facts that I’ve never been to Mexico, I’m not Mexican and I have no Mexican friends who are showering me with Mexican food.  But I can only assume that good Mexican food shouldn’t taste like bland mushy textures, sadness and the optional extra of bankruptcy (given the price of Mexican noms in the Kong).  We went to Black Ant because I wanted something spicy to push out the jet lag and the niggling suspicion of coming down with a cold after 15 hours of fuck no germ bag times on the plane.  Black Ant was packed and people were eating some pretty impressive looking noms.

The first thing I knew I had to get in my life was their guacamole.  Everyone knows that while I’m all aboard the Fuck Yeah, HK train that the one thing I fucking miss in the Kong is being able to buy decent fucking avocados (check my interview over at The Branded if you want to see what’s up) – this is pretty much my reaction every time I buy an avocado and I’m fucking excited that imma gonna have guacamole and then when I finally cut that fucker open, it’s inevitably a black, rotten motherfucker inside and I’m all:

nooooo

The Black Ant Guacamole (USD13) was the fuck yeah answer to my parched avocado existence, smashed up creamy beautiful avocados with orange segments, passila (a type of chilli), crispy shallots, fresh radishes and lime juice.  I wept joyous tears as I delicately shoved crispy tortilla chips into my greedy, wanting maw, only pausing to shout self-serving abuse at Mr Noms that he was messing up his guacamole to tortilla chip ratio and if he kept that up, we were going to be out of dip before tortillas.

We ordered a serve of the Tacos de Cocochas / cod cheek tacos (USD13) which looked really fucking good with its colourful slaw and microherbs but I just wasn’t feeling it.  The cod cheeks (a slice of meat taken from a cod fish jaw) just had too much fucking batter going on and the cod cheeks were too rubbery, taking on a calamari like texture.  The taco had this fuck no earthy undertone – I wasn’t sure if it was the fish or the beet sprout elements in the slaw but there was just too many fucking flavours going on that weren’t working together.  The Enchiladas de Conejo (USD24) was a spicy braised rabbit and chilacayote ragout which was ok, but again, it just seemed like a whole bunch of flavours were thrown together which should work together but shit just didn’t seem to gel together.

For dessert, we saw everyone ordering the Churros Fondue (USD10) and what’s not to love about fuck yeah deep fried cinnamon style doughnuts which you dunk in three different types of sauces (cajeta/caramalised sweet milk, orange blossom flavoured cream and salty chocolate sauce)?  It was FUCK YEAH dessert times.

However, the best fuck yeah moment of the whole meal (apart from dat guacamole) was listening to the Class A1 wanker at the table next to us (and the Black Ant is noisy as fuck and you are crammed together, so we got front row seats to the show) who was telling his lady friend how he pretty much knew everything, ever, from how to seat people at a wedding, why people ate grasshoppers (high protein content which made them perfect carriers for flavours…not because cows are in short supply in any of those grasshopper countries) and then even punctuated an opinion with repeating “I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR” four times in one minute (not even fucking exaggerating).

Anyway, I’m on fucking holidays and I’m already feeling the arduous as fuck toil of writing about NYC NOMAGEDDON so fuck writing some meaningful and well constructed conclusion and check this graph I made of my meal at Black Ant in lieu of a proper summary:

blackantchart

Verdict:
Shit wasn’t terrible – but no dice for a recommendation/return unless you’re going for the guacamole only.  Fuck no.

Where:
Le Bernardin
155 West 51st, New York
USA

Phone:
+1 (212)-554-1515 but fuck yeah, Murica, you can also make reservations online via OpenTable.  Reservations through OpenTable open 30 days to the day – if you really want to go, take this shit seriously cause shit books up quick.

Price:
The Chef’s Eight Course Tasting Menu is a very large and in charge USD198 per person.  We didn’t go for the wine matching (USD336 per person for wine and food) but went with champagne instead.  After cocktails, champagne, coffees and one glass of armagnac to finish and tip/taxes, we were out at a very hefty, USD500 a person.

The deal:
Le Bernardin is what you’d classify as ‘kind of a big deal’ with its list of accolades running long and it will give anyone plenty of name-dropping material to brag to their friends/blog readers/sychophants and establish your fucking “serious foodie” credentials.  Four stars from the New York Times since 1986, more James Beard awards than any other restaurant in NYC, three Michelin stars and the list that seems to get the biggest panty twisting reaction from food blogs, ranks #21 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.  Not that you should get sucked into believing the hype because stars and San Pellegrino ranking lists don’t necessarily translate into fuck yeah dining experiences (refer: The #5 ranked, two Michelin starred Dinner by Heston Blumenthal).  Our homie who had been before had noted that it was super formal and to almost dress like you were going to a wedding – that might have a been a bit far but it has a strict dress code for the men (jackets required, ties optional) and a full suit/tie is definitely not out of place.

We padded (awwww yissssss, plush as fuck carpet) into Le Bernardin for lunch and it’s no surprise that every single aspect of service from when we arrived til when we left was a superior fuck yeah.  Understated, warm and confident hostesses welcoming you to Le Bernardin.  Fleets of black suited, silent footed waiters who anticipated every need you had (some replete with almost comically over the top French accents).  Sommeliers stalk the floor with a silver tasting saucer hung from a chain around their neck (reminiscent of Flavour Flav with his clock and chain bling). For all my complaining about these new modern restaurants which just want to be stark, industrial spaces and don’t want to spring for the expense of linen under the pretence of how it’s too ‘stuffy’ (see also: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal), it was fucking awesome that Le Bernardin just goes with it and nails a sleek, formal dining room.  A massive 24-foot triptych “Deep Water No. 1” by the Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner depicts a stormy Pacific Ocean (read more detail about the oil painting here) presides over the Bentel & Bentel designed dining room of wood ceilings, plush grey carpet, towering white and green floral arrangements, dark brown leather and shiny steel chairs, soft velvet lounges and white linen.  Fuck yeah, soft furnishings – I’m having my throwback reaction to those noisy, polished concrete moments and you should all get involved so we can be ahead of the goddam trend.

As we were one of the first tables for the day, I spotted Eric Ripert in the dining room talking to the waitstaff.  I managed to keep my shit together (just) before reflecting on how all of these big celebrity chefs can lend their name to restaurants but what does it actually mean if they never actually fucking show up and see what is actually happening in their own fucking kitchen.  It’s interesting to note that while in Asia we love to add the “by” tagline, to denote who is the big name behind the restaurant that the big name restaurants in New York stand alone with no tacky “by Eric Ripert” to get you in the goddamn door.

We went with the signature eight-course Chef’s Tasting Menu because if I’m doing ‘balls to the walls’ dining, I want to have the menu which should showcase the Chef’s vision of his restaurant, his philosophy surrounding the food/ingredients and should optimally present what he thinks is a phenomenal meal.

Out of the eight tasting courses, six are seafood.  It obviously changes depending on what’s seasonal but there are some signature dishes (for our meal we worked through a Tairagai clam, kingfish with Osetra caviar, langoustine, lobster, monkfish and white tuna escolar).  This isn’t a tasting menu which is showing off endless modern technique and scientific methods or a million different references.  Almost every course follows the format of precisely cut pieces of seafood with a purposefully placed accompaniment whether that is a few eggs of caviar, a solitary microchive or a paper thin shaving of a baby fennel or a truffle before being sauced at the table.   I can imagine this simple format would cause some consternation to some people because it feels ‘samey’, but the more I’ve reflected upon this meal I think what I’ve loved was that each course let the seafood be the focal point.

Side note: I’m a slut for tableware too and it was so on point here with the dimpled white and silver Bernardaud “Ecume” tableware and the appropriately stark German Robbe & Berking Riva silver cutlery.

A highlight which wasn’t something I’d had before was the first course – three sashimi style pieces of charred raw Tairagai clam which came dramatically served on its massive black shell, topped with a piece of shaved baby fennel and a Japanese influenced apple and ginger broth. The signature lobster and celeriac lasagne was fucking incredible too, with its truffle butter sauce, shaved truffle and sylph of a microchive.  But the fuck yeah triumph was the fanciest surf ‘n turf of my life, the white tuna escolar with the Kobe beef.  The grilled escolar’s dense waxy texture is set against slivers of sweet Asian pear and topped with a soy-lemon emulsion with the turf compent provided by the only non-seafood protein of the meal, a piece of seared Kobe beef, with its melted fat and a tiny kimchi roll.  This shit was fucking off the hook and this is the dish that I will remember forever, when all the other ingredients and dishes fade into the dark recesses of my memory.

The two dessert courses were small and refined.  One was a Candied Peach Compote, Pistachio Gelato and Raspberry Sorbet “Swirl” Tahitian Vanilla Custard which provided the sharp, tart palate cleanser after disposing of so many rich, creamy seafood courses and the other being the expected chocolate closer, Le Bernardin’s take on a s’more, with a Smoked Madagascan Chocolate Crémeux, Graham Cracker Sablé Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream. I’m not one of those people who loses their shit over chocolate, but this dessert was a fuck yeah to chocolate – avoiding being too sweet or one note by using different chocolate textures, in particular an inbuilt chocolate puddle which pooled out across the plate when you breached the cremeux walls which surrounded it.

I have purposefully not given you a detailed laborious rundown of each course and its ingredients because I think that when you go to a tasting menu, you should go in with expectations but not a whole, goddamn playbook that takes away any potential for the unexpected.  This is why I’m so vehemently against those food reviews which labour through a tasting menu with a blow-by-blow of each course and a million photos from the bread basket to the petit fours.  I also think it’s such a fucking insult to the chef when he’s planned the pacing of his tasting menu and you want to slow down proceedings by taking photos while also fucking up the whole table’s meal.  It’s not that fucking hard to show some fucking respect and just focus on the actual experience at hand versus the one on your fucking camera and/or phone, so you can show people later.  So just in case some of you homies want to one day also drop some serious bank at Le Bernardin, I’ll leave some of the mystery for you to discover for yourself.

Verdict:
This is not the restaurant for someone who doesn’t enjoy seafood or wants a high end dining experience to be filled with tricks and shiz. This was a refined seafood experience which showed each ingredient for what it was in a perfect dining environment. This was the best high end “fuck yeah” seafood experience of my life.  Fuck yeah.  But most definitely on pay day.

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