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Copyright Daniel Krieger

While we never had any complaints about the old Le Bernardin, the new incarnation of chef Eric Ripert's beloved Midtown restaurant has us thinking about fine dining in a whole new (and, dare we say, hip) light.

The gutted and redesigned dining room (which recently reopened after a five-week renovation) is a solid departure from the conservative look you may remember. Think steel wall panels, slatted-teak room dividers and an arresting seascape painting courtesy of Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner.

The biggest change, however, is the addition of a front lounge (in place of the old coat check) where guests are encouraged to stop by sans reservations for a light bite or a drink from the restaurant's first-ever cocktail menu. We loved the Aperol Noir ($17), which tastes of lemon, pinot noir and champagne.

The food has undergone a redesign as well, with new dishes ranging from gnocchi with caviar and urchin on the prix-fixe menu ($115) in the main dining room to a peppery tuna brochette ($16) in the lounge.

Our pick for dessert: "the egg" ($12), a small eggshell filled with rich chocolate pot de crème, light caramel foam and super-sweet maple syrup. Need we say more?

Le Bernardin, 155 W. 51st St. (between sixth and seventh aves.); 212-554-1515 or

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