5:20 PM: Jim and I show up at Le Bernardin (previously known as Restaurant X) ten minutes before our 5:30 reservation. The hostess informs us the table is “not quite ready” but it will be only a few minutes. 30 seconds later, another hostess tells us our table is ready and asks us if we have plans on “going to the theatre” after dinner. I love that – “going to the theatre.” Such an air of sophistication! We said no and she replied, “Good! You can take your time with dinner then.”
Wait, is this the same restaurant who, 48 hours earlier, put a time restriction on our dinner?
5:22: The maitre d’ showed us to our two-top in the main dining room – a gorgeous, open Arts and Crafts meet Japanese tea room decorated with towering cymbediums. Scanning the room, I notice almost every table has at least one short leather stool next to a seat. Our table does not.
5:24: The captain hands us our menus and asks if we’d like anything to drink – I chose a Belvedere martini (my fall back drink) and Jim orders the same. I do not need to open the menu to know what I’m about to order.
5:30: Our chilled martinis arrive and I cheer a belated birthday to Jim.
5:41: The captain returns, asking for our orders. “I’ll have the Chef’s Tasting Menu with the wine pairing, please.” Jim mirrors my order. “Will you be attending the theatre after dinner?” “No, not tonight,” I replied. “That is good! You can sit back, relax and enjoy your meal!” I begin to wonder if they will start giving us the stink eye at around 8:00, though they do seem pleasant and honest enough to truly not rush us.
5:47: One of three sommeliers stops by the table to introduce herself and lets us know she is available if we have any questions on the wines we are about to be served.
5:48: “Oh my goodness!” I hear a woman exclaim in back of me. I turn around and this 60-something blue-haired woman is beaming from ear to ear. “They just gave me a chair for my purse!” Those little leather ottomans were set into place for women to keep their purses off the ground (and subsequently, I’m sure, to keep the waiters from stepping on them). Jim and I were beginning an expensive love affair with this restaurant and there was no turning back.
5:55: This is when things start to get fuzzy. We are both given what I can only describe as Pots de Creme au Lobster. A small ceramic cup filled with some kind of cream, with sweet lobster meat at the bottom, topped with a tiny sprig of dill. “Compliments of the chef,” we were told. OM-frikkin’-gawd, this was good.
From this point on, I stop the whole stopwatch-timing-the-entrees idea. It proved too distracting and I wanted to relax. For the food, I can only let the menu speak for itself. Every dish, every wine, was absolutely sublime. No words can describe the meal. If I were to put my thoughts down on paper during dinner, it would sound like a porn novel. “Oh, baby.” “You make me feel so good.” “Give it to me.” “More.”
I do remember my favorite dish being the baked lobster.
The last dish was Jim’s requisite birthday dessert. Please don’t ask me what it was. All I remember was, it was delicious. The photo pretty much embodies how I was feeling that night – dreamy, festive, drunk on happiness, love, and the greatest food I’ve ever had.
Exactly four hours since we stepped into Le Bernardin, we stepped back out onto the streets of Manhattan. Thank you, Chef Eric Ripert, for giving us the most memorable meal of our lives.
P.S. Woody and Soon Yee sat at the big table next to us.