Lion's Roar

The STAR of the PLATE

JOURNALISM IS A TOUGH PROFESSION. At this very minute, there are reporters out there who are risking their lives in war zones to report the news. Meanwhile, my assignment is to eat lunch at one of the best dining establishments on the planet.

I screw up my courage as I step through the revolving door of Le Bernardin in New York City and face the daunting choice between the tasting menu and the three-course prix fixe. After enjoying its exquisitely plated seafood delicacies and calmly sumptuous ambiance, I will meet its famed chef, Buddhist Eric Ripert.

In 2019, Le Bernardin was declared number one restaurant in the world by the global food guide La Liste. Back in the eighties, when Le Bernardin had only been open for three months, it received its first four-star rating from The New York Times and has gotten four stars ever since. It boasts three stars from the Michelin Guide—the highest possible rating—and has won more James Beard Awards than any other restaurant in New York.

Although I’m no stranger to fine dining, I’m not accustomed to places this fine. I worry I won’t ace the etiquette and that I’m wearing the wrong shoes. After I’m led to my table, I’m presented with a welcome glass of champagne and a white cloth to freshen up, plus nibbles to awaken the appetite.

First there’s a duo of salmon—poached and smoked—that’s served with shaved sourdough toast. This substantial spread is presented in a delicate white bowl edged with a faint bubbly pattern reminiscent of sea foam. This, after all, is a seafood restaurant.

“We have a mantra that says the fish is the star of the plate,” Eric Ripert tells me later. The aim, he continues, is “to elevate the qualities of each species.”

Already I can taste

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