Every Dish That Sucks At Le Bernardin, From 1986 To 2012

THIS JUST IN, NEW YORK TIMES WEB FRONT PAGER: the bread at Le Bernardin could be better! As the new food critic reaffirms Le Bernardin’s four stars, we must note that this is the first time that a complaint about the bread has been made. What a long trip it’s been for the little fish shack on 51st street and its ever-present four stars. Let’s look back!

Here is the 2007 four-star review; here is Ruth Reichl in 1995. Here is the 1989 revisiting. Here is the March, 1986 original review, when the restaurant was three months old. (Fun fact: Le Bernardin was mentioned in 57 articles in the New York Times from its opening until the end of 1987. So maybe the New Foodie-ism is just like the Old Foodie-ism.)

And on nearly every trip, there’s something the reviewer just did not like.

1986: “The only disappointing entree was pasta in a stodgy lobster cream sauce.” Uh, no doubt. Sounds barfo.

1989: Dessert gone awry! “My least favorite was a special, combining harsh cinnamon ice cream with a rice pudding souffle (an unnecessarily dandified version of a gutsy American classic).”

1995: “The chilled orange soup is made of distressingly sour oranges. Not a single cheese on the board is ripe. And isn’t it time to retire the famous quartet of caramel desserts?” Ruth Reichl was the harshest of all! “NOT A SINGLE CHEESE”!!!

2007: “You may encounter preparations at Le Bernardin with less ostentatious complexity than you expect.” And Frank Bruni, the least harsh.

2012: “Dover sole in a red wine and cassis sauce the color of grape chewing gum. Out of more than two dozen I tasted, this was the only dish that didn’t come together for me. And at each meal just one minor detail struck me as not quite keeping up with the rest: the breads.” That’s Pete Wells, today.

The bread! (To be fair? It doesn’t look that good!) And in this day and age of bread fetishism, it does seem impossible. BURN IT DOWN. Strip those stars. Back to France, etc.

Photo by Chris Chen.