lunch at le bernardin

my flight from cleveland arrived early; my bag was waiting on the belt; there was no cab line and virtually no traffic. from boarding the plane to walking into the apartment was just about two hours. the worst part of the trip was arriving at hopkins 2.5 hours early and sitting in the food court and gate area, waiting for my flight. drew served a late breakfast (my third of the day) of croissants, scones and coffee. we got ourselves together and headed out to the museum of modern art. the highlight of that visit was the retrospective of
tim burton’s work. drawings, sketches, paintings, film, video, puppets, costumes, props, and other ephemera were all jammed in together to make for a wild and almost nightmarish exhibition space. we also strolled through the photography and design archives, as well as spending a few quiet moments with monet’s water lilies.

we had a late lunch reservation and when we arrived the restaurant was really buzzing. we settled into our chairs in the center of the room and ordered a couple of big fat martinis. almost immediately we were presented with one of my favorite parts of lunch here: the salmon spread and toasts. a luscious preparation including fresh and smoked salmon, mayonnaise, lemon and chives, it is an integral part of the moment wherein we leave the outside world behind and allow the restaurant to envelope us.

for the first course, I chose a progressive tasting of kumamoto oysters en gelee. the six mollusks arrived atop a hillock of crushed ice woven through with a strand of seaweed. each was topped with a dice of differently flavored jellies, from yuzu to shiso, dashi to kimchi. each was a bracing mouthful of briny goodness. drew was presented with a salad of grilled bacalao (salted cod). the strong tastes of salt and the grill were tempered by a cool, white gazpacho, almonds and sliced white grapes. alongside, we nibbled at an assortment of breads that included parkerhouse and seven grain rolls, sliced raisin bread, and an olive baguette. when we finished these plates, I was brought a silver fingerbowl with which to wash away any traces of oyster.

for our entrees, we chose two different types of bass. drew had baked striped bass. two skinless pieces of fillet shared the plate with a corn “canneloni.” a fine mince of black truffle was scattered across the fish; the light perigord sauce spooned around the plate was also flecked with this precious fungus. i was served a beautiful piece of crispy skin black bass, laid across two stalks of melted celery. the sauce here was a sharp combination of iberico ham and green peppercorns. alongside arrived a ramekin of parsnips three ways: custard, foam and chips.

after a lengthy pause that included a consultation on dessert wines with the sommelier, we commenced with the sweets. a pear composition that included a cinnamon caramel parfait, fromage blanc sorbet, smoked sea salt and “liquid pear”–a colloidal suspension filled with the essence of pear. a hazelnut themed plate featured gianduja cream, brown butter ice cream, caramelized banana and roasted hazelnuts. we topped this course off with a trio of seasonal sorbets: coconut, blood orange and pineapple buttermilk. these arrived with a pair of butter cookies. there were also served a basket of warm almond madeleines and pistachio financiers. to drink, we tasted a lovely fortified muscat wine and rich, dark roasted coffee.

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