Monday, January 15, 2007

The Bern's Experience 

Due to the graciousness of the class I teach at church on Thursday nights now, who allowed me to move the time of our meeting up by an hour last week, I was able to take my father and his office up on their offer to treat me at Bern's Steakhouse. They do this every year just before tax season.

This is a place which the Boss Man was telling me about by saying, "Bern's. Get someone to take you there."

Probably the fanciest and most historic steakhouse in Tampa, and maybe even Florida, it also tends to be on the pricy side of things. Having been built many decades ago, it now stands in what appears to be an odd part of town for such a fancy restaurant. You turn your keys over to the valet and walk into a red lit, cherry panelled foyer where the hostess greets you and asks under what name your reservation was. I take that to mean you must have one in order to dine there. The menu is long, and filled with as much story about the restaurant and about meat as it is with choices of food. The wine and spirits list is nothing short of momentous. As I was about a half hour late, the folks I was meeting were already at the table and into their first or second cocktail. A double Balvenie Doublewood 12 was poured for me as I sat down, having been ordered for me by one of my father's business partners who also shares a love of the single malt. I enjoyed some fabulous Oysters Gratieè for an appetizer (sort of their version of my favorite, Oysters Rockefeller) and even tried my father's appetizer of Golden Steak Tartare. It was not bad tasting, but I could not consciously get over the fact that I was eating raw meat. I was glad therefore, when the famous french onion soup arrived. It lived up to the hype, let me tell you! A sizeable salad was served next, dressed with chunky homemade bleu cheese. Then came the entreè: Chateaubriand. A steak expertly and precisely cut against the grain and grilled to medium rare perfection. This was accompanied by their famous shoestring onion rings, a baked potato, and a orange vegetable of undetermined origin, but which I guess to have been some sort of squash. Either way it was all succulent.

Dinner was followed by a tour of their kitchen where we saw them cutting the meat, their huge grill which can hold something like 270 steaks at once, if need be, their salad and vegetable station and then the coolest thing. At the end of the kitchen was a bent over old man filling soup cups. He was the French Onion Soup Guy: making, perfecting, and serving French Onion Soup for Bern's for the last 40 years. We travelled from there to the wine cellar where they hold about 100,000 bottles (their warehouse across the street holds the other 900,000 bottles of their collection). The prices per bottle ranged from about $20 to upwards of $10,000.

The Dessert Room was next. You must make a separate reservation for the Dessert Room, where they seat you in pod like structures with rounded walls all the may to the ceiling for ultimate privacy. They had a range of standard desserts like cheesecakes and tiramisu, but also featured their house desserts like Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee, which they flambè table-side. Paired with a Remi Martin XO Cognac, we were as close to heaven as you can get on this side with our Bananas Foster.

The evening then unfortunately drew to a close, but we were very satisfied. So, in conclusion, allow me to reiterate the Boss Man's remark:

Bern's. Get someone to take you there!



i've been there once, and will probably never go there again, but oh my gosh! they have the best strawberry sorbet in the world! did you see the fish swimming around in the kitchen? agh!!

By Blogger , at 11:15 PM  

My mom took me to Bern's for my 21st birthday... what an experience! Great place and I"m glad you got someone to -take you- there!

By Anonymous Randall, at 7:37 AM  

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