Every year between Christmas and New Year's, I visit Le Bernardin, sit at the bar, and enjoy the three-course City Harvest Lunch Menu. For 45 ($5 goes to the charity) you get three real courses with items plucked right from the tasting menus, not just some pared-down Restaurant Week versions. Often I'll order an extra dessert just to see what kinds of things they're working on. I've never been disappointed in the past and I wasn't during this visit either.
Executive Pastry Chef Laurie Jon Moran has been at the helm of Le Bernardin for almost two years now and he seems to be taking a few more risks with his desserts. His Pistachio-Passion Fruit ($22 a la carte) is a fine dining dessert with some advanced techniques, but it has a whimsical side, too.
The central component of this dessert is a glossy pistachio mousse in the shape of a mushroom crown with a subtly earthy, nutty flavor. Moran shows off his technicals skills by somehow incorporating a sealed pocket of molten passion fruit gelee inside the mousse. The tart passion fruit is a great compliment to the sweet mousse.
The mousse sits on top of a cakey pistachio financier separated by a delicate pistachio sugar tuile. When you take in the soft mousse and a bit of crackily tuile together, the textures are like a spoonful of good crème brûlée. A lightly sweetened quenelle of pistachio ice cream and a garnish of tangy candied Meyer lemon peel strips round out the plate.
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