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Classics are classics for a reason. Case in point? New York City institution Le Bernardin, which has been wowing food aficionados the world over for 50 years. And while some establishments become outdated and irrelevant as the decades pass, the legendary Eric Ripert eatery is hotter than ever.

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane. It all started back in 1972, when siblings Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze opened Le Bernardin in Paris on the Quai de la Tournelle near the River Seine. Then in 1986, the duo brought the esteemed eatery stateside, setting up shop in Midtown Manhattan. In 1994, a then 29-year-old Ripert took the helm as head chef, putting his stamp on the French-forward seafood-focused fare. The well-deserved accolades have rolled in ever since, including three Michelin stars (an honor bestowed upon just 14 U.S. eateries), a four-star review from The New York Times, a constant spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and more James Beard Awards than any other New York City restaurant.

Artful Living | Why Le Bernardin Remains New York's Hottest Reservation

Photography provided by Le Bernardin

“We’ve always strived for excellence; it’s what has kept us moving forward for the past half-century,” Ripert tells us. “I sometimes can’t believe that it’s been 50 years, but I know that the same passion for the best quality seafood, service and innovation that Gilbert and Maguy had from the day they opened Le Bernardin in Paris in 1972 will continue to hold strong for our Le Bernardin family.”

Both Ripert’s inventive cuisine and the eatery’s singular ambiance by Bentel & Bentel (which earned the 2012 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design) attract a celebrity fan club, including domestic doyenne Martha Stewart, former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and more. But Ripert isn’t the only talent here; longtime wine director Aldo Sohm is considered one of the city’s best sommeliers.

Artful Living | Why Le Bernardin Remains New York’s Hottest Reservation

Photography provided by Le Bernardin

If you’re lucky enough to score a reservation at this eternal It restaurant, the chef’s tasting menu (with wine pairings, obviously) is the way to go. You’ll embark on a journey of Le Bernardin’s most delectable dishes, including seafood that fits into a variety of categories: almost raw, barely touched and lightly cooked. (The filet mignon is available by request for those craving some red meat.) If you’re looking for something lighter, the prix-fixe lunch is another a fine option. Honestly, there’s no wrong way to experience Le Bernardin — that is, other than missing out on New York City’s most important fine dining institution.

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