Blue Hill stands near the top of the ivory tower that is the NYC fine dining scene. Frank Bruni blessed it with three stars, and even the Obamas ate there when they came to the city. The restaurant is supported by a farm just north of the city (which itself has a restaurant on the grounds), and all of these factors combined together to make me really want to eat there. I meant to go for my birthday but I dragged my feet, and then immediately after the Obamas’ visit the restaurant was booked solid. Finally Donny had enough of my dilly-dallying and pushed me to just make the reservations already, so I did. Was it worth the wait?
I selected the vegetarian version of the tasting menu, playfully titled the Farmer’s Feast ($72). I figured that this would give me the widest variety food as well as showcase the best that Blue Hill had to offer. As we waited for our real courses, servers brought out lots of little dishes. These included breadsticks with butter from Vermont, as well as the famous tiny vegetables on nails. The vegetables given to us were cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, and baby bok choy. I was surprised to find that the vegetables were salted, I think they had been dunked in salt water and then the water had been allowed to dry. I normally don’t like raw tomatoes, but these were excellent.
Next was a tiny tomato-ricotta “burger” — a bit of fresh ricotta, some tomato (cooked in some way), on a small roll of sweet bread. This one-bite wonder was really, really good.
We also got a plate of crispy kale chips, which were really good, and which were supported by what looked like a pin cushion, and a shot glass full of fresh vegetable juice. The juice was really delicious and fresh tasting; I don’t like V8, but I loved this juice. We also got a plate of various condiments to go with the breadsticks: tomato salt, a smoked eggplant spread, butter from the farm at Stone Barns (way better than the butter from Vermont, and I’m not sure why they even serve the Vermont butter if they have this stuff on hand), and lard with espelette pepper (which obviously I did not try).
My first real appetizer was this tomato fruit salad. Again, I generally don’t like raw tomatoes, but this was quite good. The idea of using tomatoes as fruit (which of course, they are) worked well here; the tomatoes were mixed with other fruits and some kind of vinegar dressing.
The next course was also quite good — a poached egg on top of some sauteed kale and chanterelle mushrooms, with a green onion broth. The earthy flavors of the kale and the mushrooms mixed with the creamy egg yolk for great flavor, though it could have used some kind of acid to cut through all of the richness.
My main course was a play on risotto, made with farro and quinoa and topped with tiny summer vegetables, such as beans and grilled little zucchini. This was fine, nothing special. Good seasoning, but nothing really stood out.
Before the main dessert we got a pre-dessert, strawberries topped with mint sorbet. The others got a marscapone mousse on theirs, but since the mousse contained gelatin they didn’t put it on mine. I appreciated this level of detail to the service, if I hadn’t been told I wouldn’t have known. The dessert I got featured peaches and blueberries and a fruit ice cream. It was good, but nothing special. It was a little disappointing, to be honest.
Maybe because the final two courses were kind of a let down, the meal didn’t feel like a great one. It wasn’t bad, by any means, but it didn’t match up to the really great meals I’ve had in New York City. Still, the first few courses were quite good and the service was top-notch, and I’m really looking forward to a trip to Stone Barns.
Blue Hill New York — 75 Washington Place