Seafood-heaven Le Bernardin is king of the sea in the La Liste ranking of the worlds 1,000 best restaurants for the second year in a row.
Having loved the place since my first meal in 1987, I can testify that the honors well-deserved.
Eric Ripert and Maguy Le Cozes 37-year-old piscine paradise bested every other US restaurant, even the fabled French Laundry, in La Listes rankings of the worlds 1,000 best eateries which are algorithmically derived based on a global database of critics reviews, media articles of all kinds, guidebooks and millions of online reviews such as from Yelp and Tripadvisor.
Why is it so popular among tough-minded critics and ordinary, birthday-celebrating customers alike?
Simply, Le Bernardin offers the most perfect blend of consistently great and creative cuisine not just fish and service so seamless, it might have come from an earlier era. Not only flawless, but personal, unlike at competitors where you feel like the floor squad just came out of a football huddle.
The luxurious dining room is anything but institutional-feeling. Many long, large tables and round ones carry the buzz and laughter of cozy, old-time Chinese restaurants.
The warmth flows from every person on the team, down to the lowliest employees who know when to take empty plates off the table without asking if youre still working.
The menu, which sometimes can seem as Japanese or Southeast Asian or French, is an ever-changing collaboration between Ripert and his Martinique-born executive chef Eric Gestel.
Austrian-born head sommelier Aldo Sohm runs the citys most gracious, unpretentious wine service. Le Coze trains every new service person down the last napkin fold.
Le Bernardin has one more extraordinary, rare strength: Unlike in the global empires of such competitors as Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Thomas Keller, its Riperts only restaurant other than a seasonal one in the Caymans. Le Bernardin has his full attention which cant be said of any other fine-dining American restaurant with a rock star chef.
The La Liste recognition couldnt come at a happier time for the place. The Paris-based ratings are more closely followed abroad than in the US, where Ripert said its catching on more slowly.
Thirty percent of dinner guests come from Asian countries, mainly from South Korea and Japan, followed by once-No. 1 China.
Ripert wouldnt cite specific data, but he said this years revenue would surpass last years record volume. Were doing 10 more covers each day [for lunch and dinner] than in 2022, he said.
Le Bernardins basic four-course dinner menu is priced at $208, considerably lower than the least expensive options at its super-class competitors Daniel, Jean-Georges, Per Se and Eleven Madison Park.
Another trend he noted was that, even at Le Bernardin, people are eating earlier than they did before the pandemic.
We now open at 5 p.m., compared to 5:30 in the past. The dining room is full by 6 p.m., he said.