(Elisabeth Richardson) You’ve probably seen the Radcliffe’s Flower sign on Tryon Street right in front of The Green, a lush, three-tiered park with eclectic literary sculptures. Journey another 50 feet and you are in front of the Radcliffe building, which is home to Bernardin’s, an upscale restaurant that specializes in modern, inventive cuisine.

I always like to sample something from the bar. Usually, if the bar is good, the food is good as well. And Bernardin’s offerings were no exception.

I tried the Raspberry Spritzer Martini, which is muddled raspberries, Tanqueray Gin, and simple syrup, except I got mine with vodka; I am always faithful to high-end vodka, particularly Grey Goose, and believe that all martinis should be too. It was strong and delicious. And just to be sure, I ordered a second.

The crab cakes–nestled in a black bean, corn, chorizo sausage, and cilantro sauce–were delicious. Next time I’d like to try the seared sea scallops with crispy pork belly, spinach and Chinese five-spice glaze. I’ve never seen them presented that way, so I’m curious how the flavors complement each other. Bernardin’s also has foie gras, calamari, oysters, escargot, and more.

For dinner I ordered the Sautéed Brie Stuffed Chicken Breast with caramelized pearl onions, prosciutto, and Shiitake mushrooms in Thyme jus, served atop garlic mashed potatoes with asparagus. The Thyme jus sauce absolutely made the dish, infusing every bite with flavor.

My husband ordered the Grilled Emu, which was drizzled with cranberry Madeira sauce over Murisaki sweet potato puree, zucchini, asparagus, heirloom carrot, and Chanterelle mushrooms. He savored every bite and said the Emu medallions were tender, not gamey, lean, and prepared medium-rare.

For dessert we split the Chocolate Torte with vanilla ice-cream, whipped cream, and chocolate and raspberry sauces—a perfect finish to a perfect meal.

Of course, we go to restaurants for fabulous food, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the amazing ambiance. Stained glass windows cover the front of the restaurant and a banquette juts out into a roomy window seat for a party of four. Because the restaurant is small with an arched ceiling, sound doesn’t echo and amplify, which means that I could hear my husband speak. So often we find ourselves yelling over loud music and other people’s voices that bounce off the ceiling and walls. Not here. It wasn’t quiet, but it hit just the right note in managing sound and acoustics.

Bernardin’s is open Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm and 5-10pm; Saturday and Sunday, 5pm-10pm. Parking is easy and free. Pull in the parking lot right before you get to the restaurant (underground parking that you enter on the restaurant’s south side, right next to The Green) and be sure to have your ticket validated before you leave. Cheers!

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