Le Bernardin

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The name of this restaurant is based on a folk song called “Les Moines de St. Bernardin” about an order of monks who rejoiced in food and drink. Oh, boy, were they right! This place is nothing but pure pleasure.

Since arriving at this restaurant you can feel the elegant and candid atmosphere, is like entering a ballroom. The restaurant is fancy and romantic at the same time, with an amazing chandelier and paintings on the wall, the decoration sets your mood for what’s coming.

The menu, certainly, is a selection of the famous Eric Ripert, which is focused in French seafood but expect to find a lot of amazing dishes, different styles, exotic mixes and compositions that would blow your mind.

The journey begins with some canapes, in a lovely presentation. We enjoyed some Uni, Lobster espresso ( this was outstanding) and some tuna tartare. They were super fresh and well prepared.

Second course: Kampachi Sashimi; Crushed Niçoise Olives, “Greek Salad” with a bed of extra virgin olive oil. The balance of flavors in this dish was stunning, the buttery fish, with the saltiness and popping of the olives, was so different and perfect at the same time.

Thirth course: Baked Lobster; Butternut Squash Manicotti, Shrimp-Black Pepper-Brandy Sauce. This was one of my favorites, it was a nice discovery that the sweetness of the butternut squash and the lobster could be paired with such a positive outcome.

Fourth course: Poached halibut with some radish and ginger. This plate took my mind to the beach, it tasted so fresh that I imagined myself fishing it just a few minutes ago. It was super soft and tender, and so rich in flavors that it remains on your memory for a long time.

In the end, undoubtedly, you know, my favorite part: The dessert. You’ll get to choose from 4 different desserts, and I chose the apple: Brown Butter Mousse, Apple Confit, Armagnac Sabayon. I think this dessert deserves a detailed analysis. First, the look: is like they gave you a perfect waxed apple that’s too beautiful and shiny that you don’t want to break it. Then, with tenderness, you open it and it’s a mousse, you can notice all the layers of it, you can’t believe the incredible structure of this dessert. The flavor: the sweetness is there but not overpowering, the “waxy” crust gives a little lightness to it, and the Sabayon is just the last piece of the puzzle.

Le Bernardin offers some of the best service you’ll find in any restaurant. The staff is formal and professional while anticipating and attending to your every need. This experience is totally worth it, I highly recommend if you are in NYC to come and dine here, just make sure to make reservations.

 

Alinea – Chicago

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”   -Albert Einstein-

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This place is all about magic and surprises. One gets a mysterious feeling as when one is about to enter into a magic show or an unpredictable event.

The experience begins when one is trying to book online; it has to be done with at least two-three months of anticipation, and the seats are sold-out within 5-10 minutes, just like for a U2 concert.

The enchantment begins upon arrival to the restaurant (which is located in a pretty neighborhood, a small house-like entrance). One does not receive a menu, and is only asked whether one has any allergies. In essence, you are in the hands of the chef, ready for a hodge-podge of flavors, textures and aromas.

As one waits for the courses to start coming, the waiter hands out an alphabet soup which lets you know bits and pieces of the menu, but only if one is able to solve it; you only know what you ate at the end of the meal as they give you an envelope with the names of the actual dishes.

Given the rareness of this place, one can only expect an unusual type of dishware – a bowl made of pure ice (from which one needs to eat quickly before it melts), a coconut shell, a tree trunk base, a green apple diffuser. Among others, these different and amazing bases will blow your mind.

One of my favorite dishes was the: “Thai coconut, pompano, shellfish and kuzu”. It actually tasted like the perfect mix of Bali’s freshness and Tokyo’s gourmet touch.

Along this ride, you will feel as if the waitresses were your confidants (perhaps the booze has something to do with it). They are there to guide you along and share your amusement.

Chef Grant Achatz stretches his imagination and lets you have some meals in ways you’ve never tried them before. A great example of this is the lobster. Instead of giving you the regular piece of lobster, he offers lobster paper (you read it right). Such paper turns into exquisite lobster meat when you pour it in hot soup. Uniqueness is the term that stands for this chef.

As you may have noticed, I have a sweet tooth, thus I really appreciate an original and tasty dessert, and Alinea certainly would not let me down. I tasted the outstanding banana/apple balloon… yes, an edible balloon!!! You have to aspire all the helium that’s inside, and then eat the chewy part.

Beside the uniqueness of the flavor and the originality of the dessert, it’s impossible not to laugh when your partner sounds like a chipmunk talking. Such a blast!

I highly recommend the wine pairing. There are three categories for it, depending on your budget, but all three are amazing and they really put a lot of effort to find the perfect match for all of your courses.

Whether you want to experience something outside the box, impress yourself, or try something new, you have to come to Alinea. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Piazza Duomo – Regione di Alba (Alba- Italy)

“One cannot think, love, sleep well if one has not dined well” – Viriginia Woolf-

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Alba is a small town surrounded by these famous out-of-life wine regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. There must be something flowing through the earth or wind that makes this place so unique.

It has a very distinctive feeling of an old European town that is disconnected from the rest of Europe yet it stands above them.

Getting to the restaurant is an experience in itself. Right next to the Piazza, in a small alley you ring a bell and someone asks for a reservation – very Stanley Kubrick-like “Fidelio” password to enter the place.

Once inside, the setting is that of a neighbor’s cozy living room. Exotic paintings on the wall (a deer and a stove) that end in a few windows with a view of the Piazza.

The menu has some ingredients that you have never heard before (think of…) that lead the customer into the unknown.

Piemonte is so proud of its wine that they have their standalone menu. The rest are classified as “rest of the world”(including the Italian Veneto region which should be a country in itself)

Given that my husband and me are avid Cacio e Pepe fanatics, we could not go for any of the tasting menus as none of them included this traditional Roman dish.

In a very Italian way, we first ordered an apperitivo.

The appetizers where just like a Kandinsky painting, perfect colors, textures, and the flavor was…. Just as “Composition VIII”.

The initial ones were kind of futuristic given the way they look – perfect presentation with unusual plates and bases, like rocks and mirrors.  Homemade pasta, wafer peanut, foie gras and gingerino, chard sponge with tuna sauce – perfect for accelerating the expectation of the actual dish you order.

I asked for the “Sea Bream Carpaccio, Lime, Juniper” which can be defined as a flower symphony, a perfect balance between a fresh and flowery flavor; the presentation was exquisite.

At first I thought that the flowers where mainly decorative, but as I tried each one of them with the balanced fish, I knew that they were made for each other, just like Alice in Wonderland.

The Agnoloti del Plin with meat sauce was smooth in the mouth like a glass of a fine champagne; the flavors where so well balanced that pasta and strong meat reunited themselves at a perfect point.

After all these delicious plates, for the grand finalle, the chef presents you his royal sweet flush with truffles, a smooth Madagascar vanilla milk, and a pair of delicious chocolate popsicles. All of these are just a preview of your actual dessert.

I asked for a Hazelnut Monviso, a creamy pastry that just melted in my mouth. My husband ordered the surrealistic Miró Panna Cotta; I describe it like that because it was colorfully disrupted but tasted just like the Italian grandmother classic dessert.

I recommend strongly the Wine Pairing, so you can perfectly feel the combination of Piemonte’s wines and Enrico Crippa’s original and playful mind.

 

Dish you cannot miss: Rabbit kidneys, bernaise sauce.