Life is uncertain so I am talking about dessert first.This is not a drill. Bern's has an entire floor dedicated exclusively to dessert upstairs from the main restaurant. It's basically heaven. There are roughly 50 desserts to choose from and over 1,000 dessert wines and spirits. It's meant to echo that experience of a bygone era when people would retire to the drawing room for brandy and conversation after their formal meal. Think Downton Abbey without the stuffiness! It's called the Harry Waugh room after the man who introduced the founder of Bern's to the idea of the drawing room while dining at his home in England. Most importantly, the desserts are all so incredible. Hubby went retro with a baked Alaska that they torched right at the table. For me, it didn't get much better than rich chocolate with a glass of amazing port wine!
Any good steak dinner needs some equally great wine to wash it down! Bern's has the most extensive collection of wine I have ever seen. I was fortunate to get a tour of the cellars (ask about it if you go) and I was like a kid on Christmas morning. It was a dizzying spectacle in the best way possible. It was a room the size of my house that was wall to wall bottles of wine. They have thousands upon thousands of bottles to choose from with vintages going back over a hundred years sometimes. There are also hundreds of table wines, ports and madeiras that can be bought by the glass with vintages going back to the 1970s. Don't worry if this all seems overwhelming. They have a team of Sommeliers that can help you choose the best wine in your price range to go with what you are eating.
Obviously all of the great wine and dessert in the world isn't worth too much if the dinner doesn't match up to the standards they set. Let me tell you that it does and then some. First and foremost is the steak. There are so many cuts of beef to choose from and they all are broiled to your perfect desired cooking level. Just please, please promise me to entertain the idea of not going past medium rare. The steak loses all of its juiciness if it isn't a little rare. There are sauces to complement the different cuts as well. Filet mignon for instance is cut from the tenderloin and therefore doesn't have as much fat and marbling as other cuts. So a creamy bearnaise sauce is just the ticket to add that fat back and make the whole dish come together! If you are a vegetarian or pescatarian, don't worry either. There is tons for you. The vegetarian friends we were with went nuts over the white truffle mac and cheese for dinner and the fish dishes looked so incredible as well.
I was struck by the atmosphere the moment I walked into Bern's. It was so elegant and refined without feeling stuffy. The service was white glove quality without anyone seeming affected or snooty. The restaurant has this old world quality with lots of modern touches that I just loved. The amazing dessert floor I mentioned has rooms constructed from wine casks, which just gave so much character. All of the servers are so knowledgeable about the many ways to prepare the different cuts of steak and pairing them with sauce. Guiding someone through the extensive menu can't be easy but they do it effortlessly and with a smile. It's American steakhouse meets European fine dining in the best way. I had never seen anything like it!
So Bern's not only has a huge wine cellar, a whole floor devoted to dessert, but they also have a cheese cave. I'm telling you, it's heaven! Whether you are dining downstairs in the main restaurant or upstairs in the dessert room, you can order a cheese platter with a huge selection of your choices of cheeses, nuts, olives and fruit. Much of it is seasonal or whatever is available at that time so the cheese cave changes a lot. I tend to really gravitate toward sheep's milk cheeses, and they have so many of them from around the world. The cheese menu is just another of many ways to make your night at Bern's delightful!
It is always a treat to see a commercial kitchen in action. If you ask, depending on whether they can that night, you can get a tour of the kitchen before they get into the heat of dinner service. It is a sea of shiny stainless steel and so huge to accommodate their extensive menu and prep work. Not to mention all of the broiling of steaks they have to do! It's a fantastic inside look into how they operate. I love a restaurant that can be transparent and let people see where the magic happens.