My appetizer at Le Bernardin: sautéed langoustine with truffle and wild mushrooms, and aged balsamic vinaigrette.
Whenever we return from New York, half our friends ask us what plays we saw. But the other half have just one burning question: Where did you eat?
So, we took a few notes and a few pictures and here’s a full report on last weekend — from a foodie point of view. We will place the eateries in several categories: excellent; very, very good; good; and meh.
If there were a category even better than excellent, Le Bernardin would be in it. Our meal there was over the top by every description: taste, presentation, atmosphere and service. (And price, too. Our meal for four cost just over $1,000. And we didn’t go crazy on the wine, either.)
Located at 155 W. 51st Street, Le Bernardin is the highest-rated restaurant in New York, having received more James Beard awards than any other restaurant; holding a four-star rating by the New York Times for more than two decades; and achieving a three-star rating by Michelin, the highest rating the prestigious hospitality organization bestows. Two things to know: You are going to eat seafood there, and you need to make a reservation before you leave Knoxville. Le Bernardin, under the hand of famed French chef Eric Ripert, accepts reservations no more than a month out, however, which is when we made ours.
Our friend Warren Logan, the CEO of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, studying the menu at Le Bernardin. It is a serious decision.
Part of the amazing amuse bouche at Le Bernardin: tuna tartare in a sweet potato crisp. (And I don’t normally like raw fish.)
More raw fish that was simply divine: fluke ceviche, left, and lemon-kissed lobster with sweet pea puree. (The lobster was cooked.) Yum.
One appetizer: barely cooked scallop in brown butter dashi.
My appetizer: warm Peekytoe Maryland lump crab with shaved heirloom cauliflower in turmeric-mustard emulsion.
We all agreed we could have made a meal just on the wonderful bread at Le Bernardin.
Baked snapper with charred green tomatoes and Baja-style shrimp sauce.
My baked cod with braised daikon, charred scallion jam and lemon confit-kimchi broth. Unbelievable.
Warren and I had a very simple dessert: raspberry sorbet. It was intense and delicious.
Alan, of course, upped the ante on dessert by ordering an exotic fruit “pavlova” – roasted pineapple, guava jam and yuzu-coconut sorbet. He loved it.
Our friend Phyllis Nichols from Knoxville also joined us at Le Bernardin.
Here’s a happy Alan at Le Bernardin. It’s his favorite restaurant.
And, as if we had not eaten enough . . . (It’s a French thing, this kind of meal-ender.)
Very, very good
Our friends Scott Bird and Michael Higdon recommended Perry St to us and, boy, are we glad they did. Perry St., located in West Village at 176 Perry Street, is sleek and hip and noisy. A restaurant of world famous chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, its food and service are impeccable. The menu is creative, a fusion of French, American and Asian. The clientele is youngish. It was our second favorite eatery this trip.
Alan at Perry St.
We had drinks at the bar. I loved the huge bunch of forsythia. (I always call this plant “For Cynthia!” Ha.)
Here’s Perry St’s cool interior.
At Perry St, the amuse bouche was a crunchy baked asparagus number. Perfect for a starter.
The split pea soup with Tumbleweed cheese and sourdough croutons was extraordinary. It made me promise to serve soup more often at home dinner parties.
This rice cracker-crusted tuna with Sriracha-citrus emulsion was supposed to be an appetizer, but I made it my main course. It was out of this world.
Alan loved his pan-seared black sea bass with grilled maitake mushrooms and aromatic basil broth.
Alan’s dessert was Valrhona chocolate mousse with mint ice cream and chocolate wafers.
On the recommendation of the concierge at our hotel, The InterContinental, we stopped in for lunch prior to a matinee at a fun little French place called Marseille, at 630 9th Avenue. We snagged a cute little corner table and loved the vibe and the food. It is modeled after the French seaside city of the same name, but if I didn’t know better, I could have sworn we were back in Paris again.
Here’s Alan outside Marseille.
The charming dining room at Marseille.
Alan really enjoyed the charred beet salad with candied walnuts, sorrel leaf, Asian pear and goat cheese vinaigrette.
The bouillabaisse was loaded with seafood — and fabulous.
Alan ordered Moroccan chicken with saffron cauliflower puree, green chickpeas and baby carrots.
It was a great discovery.
We also had an excellent lunch (again) at one of our favorite Theater District eateries, Becco. It’s Italian and located at 355 W. 46th Street.
This sign makes us happy. We’ve only had excellent meals at Becco.
As soon as you sit down, you are greeted by this spread. It’s delicious.
I was surprised when Alan ordered the kale salad. But he really liked it.
The way they served the grilled pounded chicken breast mounded with arugula tossed with sunchokes, and oven-dried tomatoes and drizzled with lemon vinaigrette was very light and refreshing.
I always get this dish when I go to Becco: Gamberi ‘al Forno,’ crispy baked shrimp with Lidia’s spicy tomato sauce. Awesome. (I have an odd — I’m told — habit of eating shrimp tails. And these were delicious!)
Finally, the last restaurant in this category was Ristorante Morini, located at 1167 Madison Avenue.
What a find this was. A tiny little Italian place, we literally just stumbled into it while trying to escape a biting windstorm after not being able to get into Neue Galerie to see the famous Gustav Klimt painting of “Adelle” that was featured in the current Helen Mirren movie, “Woman in Gold.”
Isn’t it cute inside?
Here’s Alan at our sweet little corner table.
I had a lobster caprese salad. Along with the olive focaccia bread and olive oil, this was a perfect lunch.
Alan ordered something called bocconcini: tomato-braised chicken-eggplant meatballs with mozzarella di bufala and basil. I tried it. It was unusual and delicious, light but with rich, satisfying flavors.
Sardi’s is, well, Sardi’s. You’re not going to have the best meal of your life there, but you will have a good meal in a classic theatrical venue. Sardi’s is, to me, like the old Regas was in Knoxville. Solid, dependable, comfortable, predictable and with a personality all its own. We go to Sardi’s, 234 W. 44th Street, every time we are in New York.
First course was spinach cannelloni au gratin, which is a spinach and ricotta cheese filling rolled in a French crepe with supreme sauce. Super rich, but super good, too.
The servings at Sardi’s are quite ample. Alan and I both had orange teriyaki glazed broiled salmon with caramelized ginger sweet potato puree, sauteed spinach and sweet lime soy sauce.
I was too stuffed to eat my tiramisu cake with espresso vanilla sauce.
Alan, of course, managed to eat his!
I loved seeing Kermit’s caricature among those of all the other famous actors on the walls of Sardi’s.
You’ve surely heard of Chef Daniel Boulud. A French chef with restaurants located all over the world, he is best known for Daniel, his famous Michelin two-star rated restaurant in New York City. DB Bistro Moderne, located one block east of Times Square, is his take on a casual French bistro. It was easy and fun. We enjoyed eating there. It’s perfect for before or after the theater.
Alan outside DB Bisto Moderne at 55 W. 44th Street.
Here’s the bustling interior of DB Bistro Moderne.
I thought it was very cool that the bread was served in mint julep cups! I never would have thought of that.
The chilled asparagus soup was delish.
Chorizo crusted cod was the main course for both of us.
The dessert was fabulous. I didn’t really mean to eat it, but … Blackberries with lime Mascarpone and little meringue bits.
More French treats.
“Meh” means “It doesn’t matter,” or “I couldn’t care less.” That’s how underwhelmed we were with ESCA. We had so looked forward to going to the much-hyped seafood spot, whose very name means “bait” in Italian. It is part of the Mario Batali family of restaurants. I love watching Mario Batali on the Food Network and I love seafood. So I was certain I would love this restaurant. But, sadly, no.
The biggest problem with the food at ESCA? Too much salt. Way too much. When I asked about the “Zuppa di Pesce,” or Sicilian style fish stew, the waiter repeatedly said, “It tastes like the sea.” Little did I know he was referring to the brininess of the ocean. Or the Dead Sea, perhaps, a body of water so salty that nothing can live in it.
We still had high hopes when this photo was taken outside the restaurant at 402 W. 43rd Street.
This amuse bouche was the best thing we had at ESCA. White bean bruschetta.
The olives weren’t bad, either. You expect them to be salty. And I liked the little kick they got from the peppers.
Here’s the cool interior of the place.
The grilled sardines with shallot thyme vinaigrette and arugula were OK. Salty, of course, but that was not all that surprising. And I did like the way they made “tails” out of the arugula.
Here’s my Zuppa di Pesce. It was inedible due to the salt. I took two bites.
Alan’s mackerel was bland and flavorless.
Of course our disappointing meal did not stop Alan from ordering dessert. Milk chocolate mousse. It was fine.
When I tell you this food was salty, get this. Although I drank water throughout the meal, I was parched when we left the restaurant. During the play we attended after that, I had two bottles of water — one during each half. I continued to drink water after that. And still, in the middle of the night, I woke up with a dry mouth and had to get up and drink more water. There is just something not right about putting that much salt in food.
Here’s a little something else to consider if you plan a trip to New York. We have never eaten at the restaurant in the hotel called The Michelangelo. But we have been to the bar several times. Why? It is located directly across the street from Le Bernardin. We are always so excited to go to Le Bernardin, that we arrive early so as not to miss our reservation. So we have a cocktail at The Michelangelo. They make excellent cocktails. Just saying.