Le Bernardin’s VIPs Get Baby Eels

Baby eels, before Eric Ripert gets his hands on them. Photo: Melissa HomWe got an excited call from Eric Ripert the other day. "I have baby eels!" the chef said. "You have to try them!" We weren’t exactly thrilled at the prospect. But the Ripper assured us that baby eels were the rarest of delicacies — live, translucent creatures with an ungodly flavor.

"They’re not on the menu. It’s almost impossible to get them alive. So they are just for VIPs. They cost me $100, and I sell them at cost. One of our big customers is coming in tonight, and he is having two portions," said Ripert, who gets the eels from Maine once in a rare while. Ripert sent over a shot glass with some baby eels resting at the bottom, like translucent bean sprouts. He also sent them over prepared: live sautéed baby eels with good olive oil, Espelette peppers, and a little garlic and parsley.

The eels have the consistency of pasta and an indescribably rich and briny mouthfeel. Of course, they still look like baby eels, which is to say, like worms. But since no one can get them but VIPs at Le Bernardin, perhaps this will be of some comfort to you. It is to us.

Baby eels, as prepared by chef Eric RipertPhoto: Melissa Hom