Larry Silverstein, who redeveloped the World Trade Center after Sept. 11, 2001, was one of the first diners to walk into Le Bernardin Wednesday night.
“It was a joy and a half,” Silverstein, 89, said when he finished his meal at the West 51st Street fixture, the first Michelin three-star restaurant to reopen in Manhattan after being closed for six months because of the pandemic.
His wife, Klara Silverstein, said they’d done little outdoor dining in New York and felt comfortable indoors at Le Bernardin because they know the restaurant’s owner and chef, Eric Ripert.
“It’s only because we trust Eric to have a carefully opened restaurant,” she said. “It was absolutely delicious.”
The dining room is operating at 25% capacity with 59 seats. Banquette tables are separated by see-through partitions, and diners enter in one door and exit another, with masks on. You can feel the cool air blowing from a new high-tech ventilation system. The $245 tasting menu featured familiar dishes like lobster mi cuit and halibut with black truffle butter, as well as a new one: seared yellowtail himachi with toasted cumin and harissa-style oil. There’s also a shorter $175 prix fixe menu.
Though the dress code has been relaxed, almost all of the men wore a jacket and some women glammed-up in cocktail dresses and stilettos. The crowd for two seatings included couples and families with young children, and a New York University freshman on his parent’s last night in the city before returning home to Miami. They arrived six weeks ago to quarantine before school started.
Ripert made the rounds of every table wearing a blue surgical mask.
“The energy feels like it did before we closed,” Ripert said. “We are booked through October. People want to have this back.”
“There is such a buzz,” said diner Michael Reiff, 66, a retired human resources executive. “This is a sign New York can bounce back, because the demand is there.”
For Silverstein, “it’s about time.” New York’s return to normal has been “slow, very slow.”
“The road to recovery is to accomplish the vaccine,” Silverstein said. “Once that can get out and be distributed, and people become comfortable in taking it, the world will start to come back together.”
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