Classic restaurants revisited

While some iconic New York eateries have been lost to history, others have reinvented themselves to meet the city's ever-changing dining landscape. We checked out five survivors where the second act is worth the price of admission.

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  • Photograph: Courtesy Le Bernardin

    Le Bernardin

    Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Courtesy Le Bernardin

    Le Bernardin

    Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Le Bernardin

    Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Le Bernardin

    Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Le Bernardin

    Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Lobster en Brioche

    Lobster en Brioche at Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Pisco Gaudi

    Pisco Gaudi at Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Poire Tonic

    Poire Tonic at Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Scallop Ceviche

    Scallop Ceviche at Le Bernardin

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Spiced Tuna Brochette

    Spiced Tuna Brochette

Photograph: Courtesy Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin


 

Le Bernardin
New York dining mores have experienced a seismic paradigm shift in the past decade, toppling Old World restaurant titans and making conquering heroes of chefs that champion accessible food served in casual environments. But Le Bernardin—the city's original temple of haute French seafood—survived the shake-up unscathed. The restaurant's roots are in Paris where, in 1972, Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze opened the first Le Bernardin on the Left Bank. The Breton siblings earned their first Michelin star in 1976, later moving to a glitzier space near the Arc de Triomphe. The Le Cozes finally brought their eatery to Gotham in 1986, launching with a then-novel commitment to sourcing local fish. Although Gilbert died in 1994, the restaurant has maintained its reputation (and its four-star rating from The New York Times) under the stewardship of Maguy and chef Eric Ripert. Last summer, the pair closed the doors for a six-week-long face-lift—a smart revision that modernized the space without renouncing its fine-dining stature.

The revamp: Le Bernardin is still a formal restaurant with white tablecloths, decorous service and a jackets-required policy in the main dining room. But its refreshing overhaul (executed by design firm Bentel & Bentel) includes the installment of leather banquettes and a 24-foot mural of a tempestuous sea by Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner. The biggest shift, though, may be the lounge: Formerly a waiting area for dinner guests, the 30-seat space caters to walk-ins with low-slung tables, a dedicated la carte menu and—for the first time ever—a serious cocktail list designed by the Summit Bar's Greg Seider.

The verdict: The tweaks are effective, not only in rejuvenating the place for its moneyed regulars, but also in providing an access point for a new generation of diners. Guests who find the $190 tasting menu or $120 four-course prix fixe out of reach can still experience the kitchen's finesse via stunning bar snacks: raw kanpachi topped with beads of wasabi tobiko ($18), for example, or gorgeous scallop ceviche ($18) resting in a pool of grassy olive oil. Seider's cocktails, meanwhile, are alone worthy of a special trip: The baroque creations include a  Pisco Gaudi ($16)—a lush drink made with the Peruvian brandy, a smoked paprika and saffron tincture, and egg whites. 155 W 51st St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-554-1515)


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