Restaurant: Blue Hill
Cuisine: French/American/Fine Dining/Local
Last visited: September 12, 2011
Location: Manhattan, NY (Greenwich Village)
Address: 75 Washington Place
Nearby subway stops: W 4th Street
Price Range: $50+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Farm inspired fine dining
- Local ingredients/Seasonal menus
- Family owned
- 2 locations
- Executive Chef/Co-Owner Dan Barber
- 1 Michelin Star
- Top 10 Best Lists
- Multiple award winning
- Hidden gem/Local favourite
- Wine list
- Reservations highly recommended
- Monday thru Saturday, 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
- Sunday, 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
**Recommendations: Try to visit the Blue Hill Stone Barns location. Reservations must be made months in advance. Chilled Corn Soup, Berkshire Pig, Stone Barns “Freedom Ranger” Chicken, or the Farmer’s Feast (Tasting Menu).
It’s fine dining in New York, but away from New York. It would have been even more so if I made reservations at their other location in Stone Barns. Blue Hill has 2 locations in New York, one in Manhattan and one 30 miles north of New York City in Stone Barns. It’s an all year working farm, education centre and on site restaurant which features no formal menu, but a list of 100 seasonal farm ingredients to choose from. I still plan to visit it one day because the experience is completely different from the Blue Hill in Manhattan, but you need to make reservations months in advance.
Blue Hill was another restaurant that didn’t show up on my original Follow Me Foodie to New York itinerary. Once again I got the recommendation from the head chef at Jean-Georges, who had already given me amazing recommendations for Peasant and Dessert Club, ChikaLicious, both of which I loved. Well actually I got the recommendation from him and Jean-Georges’ brother, Phillipe Vongerichten, who had recently celebrated his birthday at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. So, it was quite the recommendation that needed little convincing to take up.
It was my last dinner in New York and I wanted something memorable. I already had 11 days of gastronomical magic, so this was supposed to be the icing on the cake. Blue Hill is a hidden gem that experienced foodie locals know about and tourists have yet to discover. I wanted my trip to end with passionate food, wrapped around a great experience, topped with exceptional service, and garnished with something uniquely New York, and that’s more or less what I got here.
Tucked away on a rather quiet residential area of Manhattan and away from the noise is Blue Hill. It’s a 1 Michelin Star restaurant and it’s not as hyped as many of the other fine dining restaurants in Manhattan, which is kind of part of its charm. (I took this photo at the end of the night, but otherwise the restaurant was fully booked).
Blue Hill was definitely one of my better fine dining experiences globally. However the concept of “farm to table” dining is really nothing new to me being from Vancouver, BC. Even the idea of dining on farmland isn’t particularly foreign, and quite often our local restaurants will have dinners where you can even meet and greet the local farmers and artisans. With Market Mondays at Raincity Grill, Gumboot Dinners at Seasonal 56, and even places like Krause Berry Farms, where you’re actually picking the fruits and vegetables on the farm, I must say we often don’t know how good we have it until it’s taken away. I must mention La Traite and Au Goût d’Autrefois in Quebec too since those are the best farm to table experiences I’ve had on the East Coast to date.
Of course I appreciate, value and support the philosophy of farm to table and the restaurants embracing it, but it has to mean something when they do it. Almost every restaurant is “farm to table” or “100 Mile Diet” these days and at times it can feel like a whole marketing “thing”. Personally when I dine “farm to table” I like it casual, on big long wooden communal tables, with big portions served family style, and fresh flowers over candlelight… and sometimes outdoors (I say sometimes because I hate bugs and I get cold easily).
Blue Hill in Manhattan was certainly still a rewarding choice, but Blue Hill at Stone Farms is the real experience. I haven’t been there yet myself, but I’ve researched, read and spoke with others about it and already I felt the difference. I think I would have felt the heart and passion of the restaurant at Stone Farms even more, and here I saw and tasted it in the food, but I didn’t absorb it in the ambiance. I probably would have even tasted it more at Stone Farms since the ingredients have less of a distance to travel and are probably picked when ripe. Regardless, in the end it really depends on what you’re looking for and by no means was I disappointed in what I got here.
On the table:
- These warm mini house made baguettes were so good they almost had me full before the amuse bouche even started.
- They are super crunchy and crusty on the outside and soft, fluffy and chewy inside.
- They weren’t tough to chew and they had great flavour and a bit of salt.
- Even the butter was better. It was freshly churned and it was sharper, saltier, grassier and likely from a grass fed cow.
- The baguettes came with 3 other condiments: whipped lardo with paprika, homemade butter, and dehydrated tomato powder with salt.
- They had me at the bread, but the butter was even better. I was just impressed with the attention and care to detail.
- Whipped lardo with paprika – this was really greasy and it just tastes like pork rinds, but it was too rich for me and I needed more paprika. It was what it was though.
- Homemade butter – This butter was different than the one they served once I sat down. This one was sweeter and almost less sharp, but still grassy.
- Dehydrated tomato powder with salt – It was tangy like sun dried tomato and smoky from paprika and maybe chipotle and the spice lingered. I could eat it by the spoonful and it wouldn’t be salty, so it was light with the salt. I could use it on popcorn and I liked it!
- Romaine, Baby Summer Squash, Baby Cucumber, Heirloom Cherry Tomato, Gooseberry
- Apparently they do this at Blue Hill at Stone Barns too.
- It really set the tone for dinner and it was the perfect amuse bouche to represent the restaurant.
- It might seem crazy to go in detail about each vegetable, but each one was treated differently.
- Romaine – It was a crisp romaine heart seasoned with salt and pepper which had already dissolved, but it was nice.
- Baby Summer Squash – It was crunchy and raw, but also treated.
- Baby Cucumber – It was crunchy, salted and tangy, but not really pickled and there was a mild heat of paprika.
- Heirloom Cherry Tomato – It was juicy, very acidic and also seasoned.
- Gooseberry – It was very sweet and almost like honey and it was great to end with.
- Cute! The entire meal was very good, but this little amuse bouche was one of my highlights.
- The buns tasted like a moist, ground almond marzipan cake. It was sweet like cornbread, but definitely almond in flavour.
- They were filled with fresh tomato sauce, fluffy, soft and creamy ricotta, and a bit of frisee.
- They were delicious! It was nutty, sweet, salty, tangy and just full of flavour and fresh good quality ingredients.
- Some slivered almonds would have made for great crunch and texture, but I’m not complaining.
- The amuse bouche was gradually getting better and I didn’t even expect anything more after the mini “cheeseburgers”.
- I love paté and I’ve had it in many forms, but this was one of the most memorable!
- Again the sweet and salty was so well played.
- It was fatty, buttery and creamy pork paté and the paté wasn’t particularly the highlight, but the whole thing overall was brilliant.
- The flavours complemented so well with contrasting flavours and textures.
- It was almost like dessert, but almost like a savoury appetizer and I’ve never had anything like it.
- The crisp dark chocolate brûlée was almost like crackling on a suckling pig.
- The chocolate brûlée was sweet initially followed by bitter charcoal flavours. It gave an earthy and smoky tone to the rich salty pork.
- It was the savoury version of an ice cream sandwich ideal for any carnivore.
- If you’ve never tried pork and chocolate it’s delicious. Try chocolate covered bacon strips, cocoa rubbed pork tenderloin or chicken and mole sauce. The idea is already there, but this interpretation was the best I’ve tasted for it.
- Chanterelle mushrooms, pancetta ($15 a la carte)
- ‘hnakl;dnlgkna OMG. Delicious! Things were just getting better and better and I didn’t even think it was possible.
- I’ve had chilled corn soup before, and we get amazing corn on the West Coast, but this was the best chilled corn soup I’ve ever had.
- It tasted like pure corn juice.
- It was refreshing and clear, not like a creamy chowder, and almost like a watered down smoothie and very slightly starchy.
- It tasted like they had taken the corn right from the backyard and hand squeezed each kernel after cooking it.
- The soup was incredibly sweet and juicy and sweeter than eating corn off the cob. It was naturally sweet too though.
- I could taste a hint of white pepper that was almost unnoticeable and it was absolutely delightful.
- I was drinking this like my last sip of water.
- This was one of the highlights from my whole New York trip and it was an amuse bouche!
- Homemade Lardo, Fennel and Cucumber $18
- I rarely order salads, but this was recommended and at a restaurant emphasizing farm vegetables, it’s usually a sure bet and something to try.
- It was fresh and well dressed with thick and fruity quality olive oil, a minty dill vinaigrette and some balsamic vinegar.
- The salad was incredibly aromatic and herby and the greens were interesting, which is what I look for in a salad at a fine dining restaurant.
- There were various types of snow peas, different kinds of skinny green beans, strong dill and parsley.
- The cucumbers were perfectly cut in rounds and they were super crunchy and pickled with a mild licorice flavour from the fennel or anise.
- The tender and juicy nectarines and peaches were also perfectly char grilled with criss cross marks, but only on one side which I found unusual.
- The only thing is that the fruits were a bit tart so I’m not sure if they were vine ripened, but at last they weren’t mushy.
- The peaches and nectarines were infused with spices like coriander and cumin and the vinaigrette had a lemony tang so it was a nice refresher.
- The lardo was basically the bacon bits, but there weren’t many. I would have loved some nice cubes of pork cheek croutons!
- There were good crunchy textures and summer flavours, and I did like it, but I wanted a bit more to this salad.
- It was very herby and tangy, so perhaps some candied nuts, crumbled goat’s cheese or blue cheese with a touch of wildflower honey would have done it.
- Cherry Tomatoes, Preserved Lemon and Hazelnuts $18
- The presentation was beautiful! The portion was larger than expected too.
- I was ready to get lost in this random yet organized maze of perfectly cut and grilled mackerel.
- The herbs included chervil, parsley, tarragon, and chives and it was another herby appetizer. I liked it being herby though and it enhanced the farm to table theme.
- Mackerel is such a strong tasting fish with a prominent fish flavour, so it always works well with lots of herbs. However, this mackerel wasn’t fishy tasting and it was actually clean and mild in flavour.
- The skin was chargrilled, crispy and almost puffy and the fish was pretty much sashimi rare. It was almost Western style aburi (seared sashimi) and it tasted like ahi tuna.
- I could taste the burnt charcoal that gave the appetizer such an earthy tone. The tangy preserved lemon and acidic burst of cherry tomatoes balanced out that earthiness.
- In between the pieces of fish were dollops of fruity olive oil with crunchy toasted hazelnuts and dressed micro herbs.
- The hazelnuts made for great texture and it was interesting eating them with the mackerel.
- It was almost like a deconstructed interpretation of a pesto, and I loved all the flavours, but it was missing a sweetness again.
- I like to taste salty, tangy, and sweet in my dishes so I just wanted that missing note, but I still loved it.
- Cannellini Beans, Zucchini, Corn and Pancetta $36
- The “Freedom Ranger” chicken is a breed of chicken which started in France and it’s known for its premium taste and quality since it is raised in a free range and slow growth environment. The bird is naturally inclined to go outside.
- I know chicken can be such a sleeper on the menu, but I’m telling you, it’s making a come back! People are making them shine and if you’re served a good quality chicken, it has a ton of flavour.
- This chicken was not just a sous vide chicken, but this was treated a bit differently and it was made interesting.
- The thigh and breast were executed differently.
- The thigh was poached in olive oil and the breast in buttermilk so both were incredibly tender and soft.
- The chicken skin on the thigh was crispy and it kind of reminded me of Chinese style “Crispy Chicken” and it was infused with herbs and I think some thyme because it was a bit fruity, lemony and tangy.
- The breast was poached in buttermilk and it was a bit smaller which is typical of Freedom Ranger chickens.
- The breast was drizzled with a sauce that tasted like a bacon caramel sauce. It was viscous and gelatinous chicken au jus and it was thick, syrupy and well reduced.
- The chicken breast was silky smooth and almost like tofu it was so tender, but the flavour of the thigh was just superior (probably because it was dark meat too).
- It was served with a succotash made with firm cannellini beans, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, sweet pops of corn and crispy salty pancetta served over a creamy bed of velouté, which is my favourite type of sauce.
- Velouté is basically a béchamel like cream and butter sauce and it was silky smooth like velvety rich and creamy pommes puree.
- The succotash was another highlight and I could have eaten 10 bowls of it. They should offer it as a side dish.
- There’s just something about corn, bacon and velouté that will have you at your knees.
- Peaches, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Shiitake Mushrooms $36
- This was probably the best version of a Berkshire Pig I’ve had. It was definitely worth it.
- It featured various cuts of the pig and it was almost like an individual serving of a Whole Hog Dinner.
- Being Asian, I’m used to eating all parts of the animal, but I still really enjoyed this dish on a Western level. They did a great job!
- Clockwise from 12 o’clock: Jowl, snout, tenderloin, shoulder
- I’m pretty sure all of it was sous vide again at one point and it was served with a salty and sweet pork jus reduced with some wine.
- It was served with a side of chargrilled sweet corn, peaches, tomatoes and Shiitake mushrooms
- The jowl was my favourite and it tasted like Chinese roasted pork or suckling pig. It was better than the toriniku (pork cheeks) at Ramen Santouka.
- It was creamy, buttery, juicy and almost 70% fat, but the whole thing just melted and it wasn’t gelatinous or chewy at all! I could have spread it on bread like butter.
- The pork skin was crunchy like candy and well caramelized and the meat was silky smooth and it was literally melting oils on the plate.
- It was served on top of a stewed peach salsa which was really tangy and herby and a bit sweet so it was a nice contrast.
- The snout is naturally a bit more gelatinous and sticky so the texture is perhaps more acquired.
- It was a bit too salty and chewy for me, but it was made really well for what it was.
- Personally I prefer the snout all chopped up and in a terrine (see here) or served the Filipino way like in Sisig – see Sizzling Pork Sisig.
- The tenderloin medallions were the most traditional and ordinary, but it was still amazing for being a pork tenderloin.
- It was perfectly cooked with a pinkish middle and it was still tender although not necessarily juicy.
- It was infused with rosemary and garlic flavour and it was the only cut where that flavour was obvious. I’m not sure if anything else was infused with it.
- Last was the shoulder, which tends to be one of my favourite parts due to texture and flavour after it is braised.
- This one was smoky in flavour and a bit resistant and chewy which was unusual. It didn’t seem like shoulder to me.
- It was pretty fatty and well seasoned, but there was no dry rub or anything.
- The side of corn and veggies was simple, fresh and light. It was acidic and herby and a great accompaniment to the more indulgent pork.
- This reminded me of baba ganoush (Middle Eastern roasted eggplant dip).
- I love eggplant, but I was really not digging this, but eating it more because it was there.
- It was just unexpected and it seemed more like a dip than a side. It was like a cold creamy mayo spread and I couldn’t eat it alone.
- It was very rich and very heavy on the mayo and was almost all I could taste.
- There was eggplant texture more so than flavour, and it was pureed with what tasted like a lemony yogurt sauce with some mint and parsley.
- It was a bit spicy, but it really didn’t seem like a side and I also thought the eggplant took a back seat.
- Passion Fruit Souffle, Lemon Thyme $12
- It was quite small, but I enjoyed it as a summer dessert and it was well executed and representable of the restaurant’s theme.
- I question the passion fruit though, unless they really manage to grow it at Stone Barns or source it locally.
- I prefer a deep and tall souffle over a shallow one, but this was very well made.
- It was a very soft, tender and fluffy cloud of passion fruit souffle, but I could taste more lemon than passion fruit. The thyme I couldn’t taste though.
- The souffle was airy, light and whipped and almost like a lightly baked marshmallow with a very fluid and custard like centre that just melted in your mouth.
- It actually sat on a thin sponge like tart shell which gave it nice contrasting texture, but it wasn’t crispy or crunchy.
- The souffle was placed on top of a tart raspberry coulis, with lots of fresh raspberries, and a vanilla creme l’anglais, which needed more vanilla beans.
- I could taste a hint of liquer, but I’m not sure if it was from the raspberry or the souffle.
- There was a nice tangy and sweet balance and I did love it, but I also wanted a bit more from it.
- It wasn’t necessarily memorable, although I enjoyed it in the moment. I just expected something perhaps a bit more intricate, detailed, or with more components.
- There were caramelized flax seed clusters, chocolate raspberry truffles, and candied hazelnuts.
- The flax seed clusters were something new! They were super crunchy and like kettle corn, but a bit bitter from the flax. It was like chocolatey rice krispies.
- The raspberry truffles were creamy and full of bittersweet chocolate, but the ganache was faint with raspberry flavour.
- The candied hazelnuts were large crunchy candied hazelnuts dusted with cocoa powder. In France they’re known as Grignotine – a snack.
- It was all served on top of cocoa nibs which I could have eaten spoonfuls of and all the chocolate used was great quality.
- I love chocolate, but personally it would be nice if this summer meal ended with some fresh fruits. It would just add to the charm and theme of the “farm to table” restaurant.