It’s hard to keep food in your mouth when your jaw keeps dropping in awe. And awestruck you’ll be at chef Eric Ripert’s skilled transformation of everything that swims into his pristine dishes. A sure thing since it opened in 1986, Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Le Bernardin has really hit its stride under perfectionist Ripert. Since he succeeded chef Gilbert Le Coze in 1995, Ripert has continued Le Bernardin’s tradition of serving luxurious French seafood with a modern and international flavor (yuzu in the fluke marinade, and salmon served with a jalapeño emulsion). Ripert has divided the menu into playfully named sections: “Almost Raw” (oysters, kampachi), “Barely Touched” (poached white tuna, warm lobster carpaccio) and “Lightly Cooked” (pan-roasted monkfish, poached halibut). A handful of meat dishes available upon request — like seared Kobe beef and pan-roasted squab — will make carnivores sit up and take notice, too. With its butterscotch leather chairs and beige fabric-covered walls, Le Bernardin feels a bit like a corporate dining room, but enormous sprays of seasonal, twiggy flowers soften the décor.