Blenheim: Beyond Farm to Table, Ingredients Grown to Order

By Nadia Ghattas, Epoch Times
October 5, 2014 9:00 am Last Updated: June 24, 2015 8:00 pm

A sense of nostalgia engulfed me as I looked inside Blenheim. Inviting and warm, it gives a feeling of being on a farm with good old friends while a hearty meal is being prepared with ingredients just handpicked from the land. 

It’s simple, with minimalist, clean lines throughout, and rustic, with elements that recall a barn, but the entire concept at Blenheim is much more than meets the eye.

The restaurant, which opened last May in the West Village, is named after the owners’ 150-acre sustainable Catskill farm, Blenheim Hill. As such, ingredients are grown to order to meet the restaurant’s needs.

Rustic Simplicity

Owners Morten Sohlberg and Min Ye, who are also behind the Smorgas Chef Restaurant Group, drew from their previous careers when it came time to design Blenheim. The aesthetic is minimalist, with clean lines, but embellished with custom pieces that Sohlberg created, such as the moss green cement dining tables bordered with copper. 

Owners Morten Sohlberg and Min Ye with executive chef Ryan Tate. (Signe Birck)
Owners Morten Sohlberg and Min Ye with executive chef Ryan Tate. (Signe Birck)

The chairs and banquettes are adorned in bright colors, and here and there are elements reminiscent of the barn. As one looks up, one finds old milk jugs, once used as targets, now repurposed as hanging lamps.

I was drawn to the small private dining room with a special rustic appeal, called the Toolshed. It looked exactly like a toolshed, with glass barn doors and playful wall art featuring 18th century tools. 

In the end, I was convinced to dine al fresco by the window to catch the sunset and to enjoy a quiet dinner while watching the lively neighborhood. 

Ingredients Grown to Order

The menu is easy to read and the creations driven by fresh ingredients that are grown to order.

Ryan Tate, the executive chef, is the grandson of a butcher and farmer. His background fits Blenheim to a tee—he developed a taste for farm fresh food early on in life.

Owners Morten Sohlberg and Min Ye with executive chef Ryan Tate. (Signe Birck)
Owners Morten Sohlberg and Min Ye with executive chef Ryan Tate. (Signe Birck)

He has worked in well-respected kitchens such as Savoy and Cookshop, which was an early proponent of farm-to-table cuisine. After becoming a partner of the gourmet market All Good Things in Tribeca, he launched in its basement Le Restaurant, which earned him a Michelin star.

Imaginative Dishes

His dishes are imaginative, some bold in flavor and others delicate. 

He is an artist, and his presentations look as if painted on canvas—elegant, uncluttered.

Take, for example, the unusual basket of breads baked on premises with flatbread made of flaxseed. The waitress also brought a beautiful plate of churned fresh butter. I was stunned by the bread, which I could not stop eating. 

For starters, we ordered the vibrant Roasted Beets ($13). It was a medley of black currant bavarois, bronze fennel, and marigold with fresh sprigs of dill sprinkled on top. 

Roasted Beets. (Signe Birck)
Roasted Beets. (Signe Birck)

Tate told me that he was inspired by what he saw at the farm—the earthy beets below the roses. 

The rich and robust King Crab Legs ($19) with squid ink sauce, chanterelle mushrooms, and sea plants, was a revelation. It reminded me of the Spanish philosophy that true flavors include elements from the ocean and the mountains. 

King Crag Legs. (Signe Birck)
King Crag Legs. (Signe Birck)

I loved the delicate and refined, light and subtle flavors of the earth. The Roasted King Trumpet Mushroom ($19) with sauerkraut, spaetzle, and anise hyssop was a sight to behold. 

All I wanted was to admire this superb presentation and combination of dazzling colors and ingredients. It looked like a snow-capped mountain with purple and orange flowers. 

My friend ordered the Guinea Hen ($27) with haricot vert, summer truffle, and wild rice. While the flavors were very nice, I thought the hen was a bit undercooked. 

I was content with the striped bass ($28), a summertime fish, accompanied with coffee-roasted baby carrots, blueberries, and sea urchin sabayon. Here was the absolute essence of sea and earth combined in a single dish. As I was savoring every bite, especially the carrots, I thought of how true Paul Cézanne’s saying is, “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”

With the same finesse and playful spin, the desserts are provocative and scrumptious like the Panna Cotta ($12) with plums, buckwheat crêpes, or the corn crémeux ($12) with poached apricots, popcorn, and apricot kernel ice cream. 

Corn Crémeux. (Signe Birck)
Corn Crémeux. (Signe Birck)

For a lighter ending try the fresh berries ($12) with strawberry sorbet, buttermilk sorbet, framboise meringue, and toasted grains. 

An enticing wine list at great value is available, as well as artisanal cocktails.

Blenheim is congenial and unpretentious, with friendly and very knowledgeable service, and consideration given to every detail.

Chef’s tasting menus are also available.

Blenheim 
283 W.12th St. 
212-243-7073 
www.BlenheimHill.com
Hours
Lunch: 
Monday–Friday 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Dinner: 
Thursday–Saturday 5:30 p.m.–11 p.m. 
Sunday & Monday 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. 
Tuesday & Wednesday 5:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
Weekend brunch:
Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m.–5 p.m.