155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019
Dining date: 2/27/15
Le Bernardin is one of the legendary fine dining restaurants in New York City. Originally opened in 1986, the restaurant has stayed at the forefront of NYC dining up through this day. Currently helmed by famed chef Eric Ripert (Executive Chef since 1994), the restaurant has be given a full 4 stars by the New York Times, 3 Michelin stars, and ranks #21 in the World’s Best Restaurants, 2014 list. Few restaurants have received more acclaim than Le Bernardin. I wasn’t sure if/when I’d be able to try the restaurant, but was excited to dine here on this most recent trip to NYC.
A four-course a la carte menu is offered for $140, while the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu offers seven courses for $170 and Chef’s Tasting Menu with eight courses for $205. We opted for the Chef’s Tasting Menu for the ‘full experience,’ although this would be my dad’s second time having it.
8265 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 1/18/15
Terrine opened at the end of last year on popular Beverly Blvd a block away from Jar. The restaurant is described as a “California brasserie;” typical French brasserie items do make an appearance along with a bunch of salads, pizzas, pastas and a wide-ranging variety of dishes.
I’ve enjoyed Kris Morningstar’s food as he’s bounced around the city (Blue Velvet, Casa, Ray’s and Stark Bar) so Terrine was definitely on my list of restaurants to try. We came during one of the Friends & Family preview events, but the overwhelmed kitchen wasn’t able to send much out with consistency. Having given the place a few weeks to gain its bearings, we stopped in for dinner.
3228 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dining date: 12/26/14
Nico opened in late 2013 quietly garnering a following as a sort of neighborhood restaurant nestled between Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. SF Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer has been a fan since the restaurant opened; on Christmas Eve, he wrote a review calling it a “destination restaurant” and gave an impressive three-and-a-half stars (out of four). While looking for post-Christmas meals, my dad snagged a last minute reservation here for the family to try.
While Nico is tasting menu-only, it’s priced very reasonably especially for San Francisco standards. $45 buys three courses while $55 buys 5 courses with an optional wine pairing for $45. In a city where it seems fine dining restaurants continue to push the envelope with quickly-increasing prices, it was nice to find something a little more value-conscious here. We opted for the 5-course menu.
451 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dining date: 11/29/14
Corey Lee, best known for being ex-chef de cuisine of The French Laundry and for three-star Benu, opened Monsieur Benjamin over the summer. It’s a departure from his fine dining experience towards something more casual – a somewhat modernized French bistro. Given Lee’s pedigree, I was eager to give the place a try during Thanksgiving weekend.
The menu is extensive with a raw bar, a couple dozen small plates/appetizers and another dozen large plates/mains. My parents and I each ordered a small plate and ambitiously shared four mains.
4 rue Beethoven
75016 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14
After lunch at l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, our last meal in Paris was dinner here at l’Astrance. A Michelin three star and currently #38 on the world’s best restaurant list, it was our toughest reservation too as the popular restaurant has 25 tables and is open only four days a week. Luckily, we scored a table through our hotel concierge.
Pascal Barbot trained under Alain Passard at l’Arpege and brings many of the same principles, using high quality seasonal ingredients and simple preparations to allow the ingredients to shine. Barbot does incorporate more meat into his dishes, though. Having spent a bit of time cooking in Asia, there are hints of Asian techniques and flavors throughout. There is no menu; the restaurant creates a surprise tasting each night (€210).
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
5 rue de Montalembert
75007 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14
This Paris Saint-Germain location was the first of Joel Robuchon’s l’Atelier concepts, which is now a worldwide chain. Holding two Michelin stars and ranked #31 in the latest world’s best restaurant list (and as high as #12 in 2012), it’s oft-regarded as the best of Robuchon’s l’Atelier restaurants.
In my first trip to Europe seven years ago, this restaurant was easily the best (and by far most expensive) meal I had. It’s still one of the more memorable dining experiences I’ve had and I wanted to return once more to see if the restaurant was as good as I remembered. There are no lunch specials at this location, just a la carte and a €179 discovery tasting menu. A la carte starters and mains price in the €40-€80 range each so I figured the 10-course tasting menu was the way to go.