Blenheim Hill Farm Brings the Catskills to the West Village

Morten Sohlberg and Min Ye blend into Blenheim Restaurant’s soft wood tones, modern lines, and vintage decor as they casually sip tea in a nook at the bar. They quietly survey the room, casting slow, appreciative glances at incoming diners, waiters, and plates carried out by sous chefs. It appears as if they are merely West Village people watchers situation at a calm, idyllic vantage point, enjoying a cup of tea on a warm evening in late May.

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Chef Justin Hilbert at the helm.

Yet it is this unassuming twosome who has welded the lines between the farm and the West Village dining establishment. They brought Blenheim Hill Farm back to vivacity in 2010, promising to restore the fertile land at the foot of the Catskills and to bring animal life back to its pastures. Icelandic sheep, Hereford beef cattle, free-range chickens, rabbits, heritage breed pigs, and bees are some of the farm’s current residents. A computerized hydroponic greenhouse is home to lettuces, beans, tomatoes, herbs, and other produce. Chef Justin Hilbert, a graduate of Johnson & Wales, Mugaritz in Spain, wd-50 and Gwynnett St in NY, visits the farm as often as he can, sampling the crops from which he creates his seasonal dishes. His menu is inspired in part by his own innate creativity and passion, and in part by the various forms of nature he encounters on the farm. The menu at Blenheim Restaurant changes daily, entirely dependent on the the seasonal ingredients found on the farm and Hilbert’s standards. If it is not the highest quality, it will not be placed before you by one of the restaurant’s many knowledgable, highly trained staff.

Chef Justin’s brilliantly executed dishes are subtle but inventive, flavorful but not overpowering. Ingredients are masterfully paired in a sensible yet creative manner, nothing is outlandish. It is clear that he aims for diners to appreciate the nature before them in its simplest form but to simultaneously acknowledge how his expertise can change your perception of the ingredients. Plates are not overly fussy, and proteins and produce alike are cooked to perfection. Chef Justin is not only responsible for execution in the kitchen and making sure that each member of his team is in tandem with each other and with the ideation behind each dish, but he also has to remain in constant contact with the happenings of the farm. He balances himself effortlessly between kitchen life and that of forager.

The restaurant’s dairy deserves an article on its own. As one who shies away from dairy in home cooking and tries to avoid it on restaurant menus, I put my trust in Hilbert completely, and am quite thrilled that I did. If not, I would have missed out on the homemade butter, the buttermilk on the trout dish, the fiddlehead ferns cooked in goats butter, and the utterly exquisite crab imperial. I would have been quite satisfied to sample each dish on the menu, but I suppose this is all in good time, as I most certainly will return time and again to see what exceptional dishes Chef Justin has on offer.

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Thoughtful details at Blenheim; comfortable fine dining in the West Village

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Warm, moist, ever so addicting cheese roll with homemade butter

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Amuse-bouche. If only it were bigger, if only they kept them coming. Three liver mousses with dried apple, bran, and thyme. This was truly exceptional.

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It is very difficult to choose a favorite dish of the evening, but this artichoke and king crab imperial was outstanding. The crab was tender and the imperial sauce… divine.

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May is for fiddleheads. Cooked in goats butter and roasted lemon.

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Fiddleheads cooked in goats butter and roasted lemon

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A photo does not do this vibrant spring vegetable dish cooked in green garlic sauce justice. Fantastic flavors, mix of cooking methods, and plenty of green garlic sauce for mopping.

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Superb trout and its roe, buttermilk, and borage. This was a standout.

Yet it is this unassuming twosome who has brought the corner restaurant to fruition. They brought Blenheim Hill Farm back to life in 2010, promising to restore the fertile land at the foot of the Catskills and bring animal life back to its pastures. Icelandic sheep, Hereford beef cattle, free-range chickens, rabbits, heritage breed pigs, and bees are some of the farm’s current residents. A computerized hydroponic greenhouse houses lettuces, beans, tomatoes, herbs, and other produce. Chef Justin Hilbert, a graduate of Johnson & Wales as well as Mugaritz in Spain and wd-50 and Gwynnett St in NY, visits the farm as often as he can, sampling the crops from which he creates his seasonal dishes. His menu is inspired not just due to his own innate creativity and passion, but also due to the inspiration he finds on the farm. The menu at Blenheim Restaurant changes daily, entirely dependent on the the seasonal ingredients found on the farm. If it is not the highest quality, it will not be placed before you by one of the restaurant’s many knowledgable, highly trained staff.

Chef Justin’s brilliantly executed dishes are subtle but inventive, flavorful but not overpowering. Ingredients are masterfully paired in a sensible yet creative manner, plates are not overly fussy, and proteins and produce alike are cooked to perfection. Chef Justin is not only responsible for execution in the kitchen and making sure that each member of his team is in tandem with each other and with the ideation behind each dish, but he also has to remain in constant contact with the happenings of the farm. He balances himself effortlessly between kitchen life and that of forager.

The restaurant’s dairy deserves an article on its own. As one who shies away from dairy in home cooking and tries to avoid it on restaurant menus, I put my trust in Hilbert completely, and am quite thrilled that I did. If not, I would have missed out on the homemade butter, the buttermilk on the trout dish, the fiddlehead ferns cooked in goats butter, and the utterly exquisite crab imperial. I could have been quite satisfied to sample each dish on the menu, but I suppose this is all in good time, as I most certainly will return time and again to see what exceptional dishes Chef Justin has on offer.

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