It’s a big world but it’s hard to find a chef more accomplished than Eric Ripert. His restaurant Le Bernardin has received four stars from The New York Times, three stars from the Michelin Guide and ranks 18 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. You can also find him on his TV show “Avec Eric”, on numerous appearances as a guest judge on Top Chef, traveling the world with his sidekick Anthony Bourdain or in one of his four cookbooks. The list of accomplishments never ends.
I had the honor to have him as a very special guest chef in my kitchen this week for a private party. So I made myself very small, helped out and tried to learn some tricks from the master himself. I didn’t have much time to take pictures and most of the dishes pictured below are unfinished but you’ll get a little glimpse of what’s going on in the kitchen.
As part of the amuse-bouches was hamachi rolled in lettuce with mint, Thai basil, carrot and lime nage. The inside of the hamachi is brushed with soy-sauce thickened with agar-agar which provides the seasoning. Clever! The menu:
Salad of Rare-seared Yellowfin Tuna “a la Thai”
Poached Hawaiian Escolar
Kaffir Lime-Lemongrass scented Mariniere
Sea Beans and Aki Nori
Artichoke “Barigoule”, Perigord Truffle Butter
Milk Chocolate Pot de Creme
Caramel Foam, Maple Syrup, Maldon Sea Salt
Crispy Sesame-Rice, Ginger, Mango Thai Basil Sorbet
Above, Eric is making smoked salmon croque-monsieur generously filled with Osetra caviar also for amuse-bouche. They were outrageously delicious. On the right, little tartelettes are being filled with piperade and topped with grilled bacalao.
This is a lively combination of thinly sliced tuna (generously seasoned with sea salt and espelette pepper and seared on high heat for 7 seconds on each side- I counted!) , with a Thai salad of greens, mint, cilantro, peanuts, soya beans and a peanut/balsamic dressing. A Thai vinaigrette was drizzled on the tuna later on.
The poached Hawaiian escolar is one of those dishes that defines Eric’s cooking so well. Pure, bright and clean flavors. The fatty fish is gently poached in olive oil, trimmed and sliced and garnished with aki nori and sea beans. A nage is poured at the table made from a Marinière (the juice of mussels with white wine) that’s been kicked up at the last moment with aromatics like Kaffir lime, lemongrass and shallots.
The halibut with black truffles was a total knock-out. Eric taught me to poach halibut in a velouté (aromatic liquid thickened with flour) as opposed to a regular court-bouillon. The viscosity of the liquid keeps the fish from releasing it’s moisture, he said. And it really does. The fish was set on a purée of Jerusalem artichokes in the middle of a flower of artichokes “Barigoule”, topped with slices of the best Périgord truffle I’ve seen all year and a Périgord truffle butter sauce.
“Where do you buy those truffles, Chef?”
“You can’t find them. I buy them all!” he replied with a giggle.
The famous “egg” pre-dessert consists of a chocolate pot de crème, topped with a caramel foam, a few drops of maple syrup and a touch of sea salt.
The dessert was an interesting take on a deconstructed lemon pie. A log of vibrant yuzu curd was piped onto the plate and garnished with crumbs, meringue and a black sesame tuile. An intensely flavored mango-Thai basil sorbet went with it. I love the sleek look of this plate.
Petits-Four consisted of miniature versions of canelés, macarons, pistachio financiers and chocolates. Et voila!
If you enjoyed this post you should check out this one I wrote when I went behind the line at Le Bernardin last year.
Finally, many thanks to chef Eric for being such a class act with everyone involved. It was such a pleasure to have you in our kitchen.