Friday, August 28, 2020

Bernardin's

I turned 33 this week. Like anyone that's celebrated a birthday during COVID, I spent a lot of time outside, and had a lot of wine. I visited some beautiful wineries and stocked up on some good bottles. To top off the celebration, my family and I went to Bernardin's in Winston-Salem. This restaurant is in the historic Zevely House, which also used to be a restaurant (and happened to be my mom's favorite.) The evening was close to perfect, and this post marks my first restaurant review since March. 

I chose Bernardin's for my birthday dinner because they have a beautiful outdoor terrace. In fact, they're only doing outdoor seating right now. The patio is covered, with plenty of space between tables, and ceiling fans add a nice breeze. It backs up to a beautiful garden in the West End neighborhood of downtown. We were one of two tables occupied, so it felt like private dining. Our server was prompt, congenial and made us feel comfortable and right at home. She listed off what seemed like 10 specials that all sounded fabulous - it was difficult to make a decision with so many delicious options. I was especially excited to see the Asian influence in this menu - several items featured wasabi, sweet Chinese mustard, cilantro and kimchi.

I started with a perfect martini (Absolut-dirty-blue cheese olives) and the Tuna appetizer. This dish featured tuna two ways: seared rare and sliced, and tartare, both served with a spicy Kimchi Slaw, Chili Soy Sauce and Wontons. It was certainly peppy from all the spice, but that's the kind of dish I love!  Really bright, punch you in the mouth flavors. Nice crunch from the kimchi and wonton. Next time, I'll order this and a salad and call it a day.

Seared Tuna + Tuna Tartare

Kale Caesar Salads are certainly trendy these days, partly because kale is a superfood and it just tastes better with a yummy dressing, and partly because romaine is a bit unpredictable. The kale is sliced into thin ribbons and tossed with Carrots and Red Cabbage for additional color and crunch. It's tossed with a homemade Caesar dressing, and topped with shaved Parmesan and Garlic Croutons. It was so light and there was no bitterness from the kale. I liked that it wasn't totally drowned in dressing, either. And it was large enough for two people to share, easily.
Kale Caesar

After deliberating on several menu items, I had it narrowed down to the Seabass with a Truffle Vinaigrette, and the Curry Grouper. It nearly killed me to choose, but I opted for the latter. This is my kind of dish. Beautiful, thick grouper is nestled on a bed of Jasmine Rice, topped with an Eggplant "Caviar" and a Curry Tomato Sauce. It's drizzled with a Cilantro and Mint Yogurt Chutney. I mean, WOW. This combination of flavors is a dream to my palate. The curry wasn't overly spicy, but it gave you a warming sensation so you got the heat, and could still taste everything. That's the sign of a good curry. The chutney was essential for cooling things off, and the rice soaked up every bit of the remaining sauce. I'm sure the seabass was great, but the curry grouper was love at first bite.
Curry Grouper

I also sampled the Salmon with Garlic Spinach and Port Wine Sauce, which was excellent, but very rich - that port wine sauce is heavy on the butter! The Filet Mignon with Gnocchi and Goat Cheese is also a solid choice - you can never go wrong with a Filet.
Salmon with Spinach and Port Wine Sauce

Filet with Gnocchi and Goat Cheese

Bernardin's is a staple in downtown Winston-Salem and for good reason. It's technically called "Bernardin's Fine Dining" but the fusion-inspired menu and pop music playlist makes it feel more accessible. The menu features staples, but with a modern twist. I'll be back to get the other 20 items on the menu that called my name.

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