There might not be anything worse than when fine dining goes wrong, and boy is it going wrong at Blenheim. This new restaurant in the West Village is basically a bad attempt at pulling off Blue Hill at Stone Barns in a closet. What does that mean? Let us explain.
Blenheim is an upscale, ingredient-driven restaurant that does actually have a farm in the Catskills from which it sources its food. So that's not the problem. The restaurant itself is small but absolutely beautiful, so aesthetic isn't the problem either. The problem comes in execution and attitude.
First of all, the food here is terrible. Between two visits, we ate about two thirds of this menu, and I don't think we had more than three bites of anything. Every plate that arrived at our table was some overly precious creation made mostly from greens that humans don't typically eat for a reason, and seemingly designed to impress via confusion. Like a bad magic trick from a gardener.
Second, the level of service comes nowhere near meeting the expectation that the restaurant sets. Once you start laying Laguiole knives down onto white tablecloths, you better be able to back that up with hospitality that meets some sort of fine dining standard. The hosts and bartenders at Blenheim do that job, but the servers do not.
For example, we had a vegetarian with us on our most recent visit, and asked our waiter what we might be able to order that would accommodate our friend. Aside from his cocky disposition and the fact that the answer was basically "radishes," he then proceeded to deliver an amuse bouche of chicken liver to each one of us about two minutes later. We're basically at the point these days where the guy at f*cking Chipotle will ask you if you have any dietary restrictions, but a New York City restaurant with a $75 tasting menu doesn't? Nice moves. Aside from that, there's just no attention to detail, or attention to anything really. Food is coursed out in random increments, often with long lags in your meal, and dishes are often delivered with little explanation. These dishes are so full of unfamiliar things that they should deliver them with a field guide, let alone a quick few words about what brassicas are.
Ultimately, Blenheim just feels like it's putting on a show. They went and got all the key elements of a high end, farm-sourced restaurant, including a farm. But they forgot to do all of the other stuff, like properly train the staff, or make the food taste good. Let's just say this isn't a show you need to see.
The fresh baked rolls that show up to your table will be the best thing you eat all night, by a long shot.
Radishes in Seaweed Butter with Purslane
This looks like someone dragged a rake through a garden onto a plate. The radishes and greens are randomly scattered everywhere, seemingly with little consideration that someone is going to eat them. Good luck chewing through those huge strands of purslane, unless you're adept at grazing.
Kholrabi With Ham and The Flavors of Ponzu
More flower crown than dinner. You'll be seeing lots of these at Coachella next year.
Lettuces With Lovage, Honey, and AnchovyFancy greens, touched with an unpleasant, gloppy dressing. Nope.
Quite possibly the most unsettling thing we've eaten in a restaurant. You know you're in trouble when the foie gras that you ordered shows up at the table and someone goes, "you got soup?" I really have no idea how to describe this, other than to show you a picture and explain that the experience is sort of like searching for something expensive in a bowl full of vom. Just awful.
Artichokes and Crab Imperial
Not particularly offensive, but not particularly good either. There are equal sized hunks of crab and artichoke heart in this dish, and they're both covered in a thick Imperial sauce, which is too rich.
Brassicas and Basil Yogurt
More of the rake through a garden thing, this time with yogurt.
Pork with Angelica, Gooseberries, and Wild Rice
Our server made it a point to mention that the angelica herb on top of this pork has the exact flavor of cannabis. Twice. So, excuse us for being surprised when this didn't taste like a Betty Crocker brownie. Otherwise we found the pork to be a bit too salty.
Lamb With Dried Apricot, Cumin, and Chard
A decent lamb dish, though know that medium rare comes pretty rare. Have them cook it a little closer to medium if you're averse to bloody.