Le Bernardin Review


#21

Never really read Andy Hayler’s reviews but he is from the UK and a member of Opinionated About Dining, which the top reviews are wealthy jetsetters who eat around the world at the hardest to get into places (and many of them Michelin stars), so they are scratching bucket lists faster than the normal person. OAD is founded by former music executive Steve Plotnicki who wants to build OAD to be better than the Michelin Guide for restaurants worldwide and with the pool of connections he has (along with friends who are also reviewers), it’s like a club of the elite eaters.

As to their preferences and objectivity, they are more or less the same as regular people, except with more experience. A lot of them are on other forums or social media, and some are extremely knowledgeable and likely very down to earth, but not all of them are (or appear to be). At the end of the day, great for reference points if only the pictures…but ultimately you are the true judge of your preferences. Some don’t trust Andy’s sushi reviews very much for example…especially some who have eaten around Tokyo (and Hong Kong) and look down upon say, Sushi Shikon (Yoshitake) and this one other place that Andy gave high scores to. If you ask the top Instagram sushi fiends in Japan, you’ll never see them at Yoshitake (or Shikon if in Hong Kong)…

A lot of these famous restaurants know who these people are, so it is possible to some extent they will get a better meal than the average FTC person who makes a reservation… doesn’t necessarily happen but I’d bet that is a possibility…or they make sure Sergio is cooking and presenting the dishes and that they are on the top of their game. At the end of the day it’s good for business when some key opinion leader representing influential groups has a good impression. Of course at a Michelin star establishment you would expect some uniformity (especially at the three star level where everything has to be pitch perfect as possible consistently down to the service).

For sure some scores are over inflated, and some are well deserved, but the scales are tipped towards the former a lot all over.

Anyways very interesting beverage pairing! An obscure Junmai Ginjo sake at the beginning too. I was a little excited seeing Biondi Santi 2004 though it’s a Rosso not a Brunello…never knew these could age that long, but then again it’s Biondi Santi!


#22

I first heard about OAD on a Netflix documentary called Foodies. Interesting bunch.


#23

I follow Margaret Lam who I believe is part of OAD (@little_meg_siu_meg on IG). I love her posts, so informative and insightful!


#24

So Skenes actually has gotten out of that rut. Good. It’ll be interesting to see if they give him three stars.


#25

It wasn’t new to serve quite a few small courses, but Thomas Keller was the first to abandon the main course entirely. The innovation quickly made him world-famous, which resulted in wide imitation.


#26

Michelin’s official baldfaced lie (at least in the US) is that only the food counts toward stars.

one star = very good in its category
two stars = excellent, worth a detour
three stars = one of the best, worth a special trip

Anyone who thinks the only restaurants with food in those last two categories serve long, complicated tasting menus or sushi is an ignorant fool. Same for anyone who thinks a very good Italian restaurant must have French influences.


#27

For some historical perspective, the first SF Chronicle review of TFL, from 1995:

https://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/article/Yountville-s-French-Laundry-is-magnifique-3148791.php


#28

It’s quite a narrow lens to see any restaurant serving multiple courses as a TK copycat. What about the individual chef’s style and what they bring on the plate? Just because Californios serves many courses means that they’re no different than TK when they’re serving tacos and ceviche?

On the other hand, what made TK famous wasn’t solely because he was doing a tasting menu. It was because TK was an influencer and created a new style of American fine dining where he applied his French techniques to non-classical French fare. Even in the article linked, the writer noted TK’s “remarkable cooking” was what “captivated” her.


#29

How about those who take more direct inspiration from kaiseki and not TFL? Kaiseki obviously predates Keller, as I’m sure you know.

Kaiseki meals don’t have a “main course,” either.

They gave him 3* even for this shorter menu format, which happened sometime around 2017. So, contrary to your original statement, no, not all 2* and 3* restaurants follow the TFL mold nor should they be thought of as being mere imitators.


#30

Chez Panisse had been using French techniques with non-French ingredients and cuisines for going on 20 years when Thomas Keller bought the French Laundry. By the mid-90s, most ambitious restaurants in the SF Bay Area were doing some variation on that. Keller was very good at it, but what made him world-famous was inventing the modern tasting menu.

Traditional kaiseki meals have larger portions and fewer courses.


#31

I’m sure that some of the chefs who have or aspire to Michelin stars would do something different if it wasn’t obvious that (at least in the US) if they don’t do a tasting menu they’re not going to get more than one star. It’s a criminally narrow view of the wide world of cooking. There are lots of restaurants with food worth a detour or a special trip that don’t serve tasting menus or charge hundreds of dollars per person.

One exception doesn’t disprove the rule. We’ll see what happens if Saison moves further away from the Thomas Keller model.


#32

You said they all follow the Keller model; that’s simply not true, and I don’t think its a “rule” - again, many of the restaurants are sufficiently different that they cannot accurately be described as a Keller “cover band,” and basing your comparison of the presentation of a meal - which is shared with that of another tradition which predates Keller altogether - is a very narrow approach since it fails to consider the type of food actually being served.

I had more courses at my traditional kaiseki meal at Okuda than I did at Saison…

Now, I’ve had several meals at Saison in which the penultimate course was a rice pot, just preceding or following a soup course. Keller model? Nah.


#33

LOL. I read that as “nice pot.” Is there an opposite of penultimate when that would be better served?


#34

My point is that Michelin celebrates Thomas Keller-style tasting menus at the expense of almost every alternative and is thus a pernicious influence.

To me the individual variations are irrelevant when there are too many courses with portions that are too small.


#35

My favorite meal is a starter, a main, a palate clearnser and a dessert. And unless really appropriate, please no foie, caviar, uni, ?.


#36

It’s all rainbows and butterflies even if all restaurants are carbon copy of each other serving the exact same thing, but god-forbid, these highly individualized restaurants dare serve many courses in one sitting following a tradition that predates TK. More to the point of BradFord, what were these Japanese thinking hundreds of years ago imitating this TK thing in 1995? :thinking:


#37

With all due respect - truly - I don’t understand what you’re saying.


#38

Ok, I can largely agree with this.

One qualification I would say is that Michelin favors tasting menus, a style of which Thomas Keller popularized in America. Of course, there are many 3* around the world such as Troisgros which have held the distinction long before Keller opened any restaurants.

But you’re changing your tune - it’s a different point than you were making originally with statements like:

Demonstrably false. Sushi for one, as you’ve admitted. I assume we’re talking US-only even if you didn’t qualify it as such up front. Otherwise, places like Lung King Heen in HK which serves dim sum and Cantonese food, or places like Ishikawa in Tokyo are further evidence (and there would be dozens of more examples) that your statement is false.

Furthermore, if you eat at a place like Californios you’re not going to mistake the food there for the food at any of Thomas Keller’s restaurants. The ethos and the techniques, style, and approach at Saison (the live fire hearth being a focal point as it touches every dish) are sufficiently different than those of TFL. Even The Restaurant at Meadowood is noticeably different than TFL.

I get that you don’t like Michelin, that’s fine. I’ve also had many disappointments at Michelin places and think that Michelin is both inconsistent yet predictable to an extent. I think it leads to an unfortunate degree of homogeneity.

But, you can’t accurately write off restaurants as “Keller cover bands” merely on the basis that they often times share a similar format. Partly for the reason that there exist traditions which predate Keller, and those could just as well be the inspiration for the way a restaurant serves its food.

You’re conflating a perceived similarity in menu format with the assumption that all the 2 and 3* restaurants are somehow all following Keller to a tee. I mean, a “cover band” is an imitator, not merely one who is inspired by someone before. There is a difference.

The individual variations among restaurants may be irrelevant to you but that doesn’t make your original assumption valid.

To say that they

Is also false. I’ve provided examples of meals ive had a 2 and 3* that were neither canapés, nor dishes which came in a very long series. Also to wit, my meal at Saison consisted of fewer courses than my meal at Okuda. Are there canapés? Sure. But you might just as well call them otsumami or something. Are they the entirety of the meal? No.

@moonboy403, it actually sounds like you enjoyed several courses at Le Bernardin. I think Le Bernardin is overrated but also not bad at all. It will easily disappoint given its reputation and the expectations which naturally ensue, but it doesn’t sound like there was much wrong with the meal other than not achieving “greatness.”


#39

Correct. It’s not a bad meal by a long shot. It is, however, on the bottom of my preference in terms of the 3 * restaurants in the US.


#40

Presenting a preset series of 15-30 canapé-sized dishes as a meal did not predate Thomas Keller. That’s revisionist history. Now there are kaiseki meals that follow the TK model but that’s his influence on them, not the other way around.

The closest thing would have been sushi omakase but that’s personalized for every diner and is not about indulging the chef’s ego or the diner’s conspicuous consumption.

Sure I can. Imagine that there were a lot of restaurants where they strap you to a chair and squirt food in your mouth with piping bags. Would it make much difference to you whether the contents of the bag were Mexican, French, or Japanese?

That’s exactly how I feel about the tasting menu fad. To future generations it’s going to look as perverse as Edwardian feasts. I’m hoping Skenes’s change of direction marks the beginning of the end.