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Henry's End - major disappointment

  • p

My girlfriend and I had dinner at Henry's End tonight, largely because of so many positive comments on this board, but our experience did not live up to our expectations in the least.
To begin with, we were not offered water at any part of our meal; we had a half carafe of an okay Riesling but I would think a round of waters would be the first thing to come to the table.
We only ordered entrees, as we were under a time constraint. She had the softshell crab in basil butter, which was actually the best part of the meal, relatively speaking, but not mind-blowing. I ordered the veal scalloppine with morels, which I figured (again, based upon the glowing things I'd heard about this place) would be a delicious evocation of springtime cuisine. Instead, I got a paltry 3 ounces of veal and some poorly cleaned (i.e. gritty) morels, in a heavy, flour-thickened Marsala sauce that completely smothered any nuance of flavor from either the veal or the morel mushrooms. This was accompanied by a small plate of steamed broccoli and undercooked rice, that seemed to be the standard accompaniment to any and all entrees, and preceded by an uninspired salad of chopped Romaine lettuce in some sort of vinaigrette.
The waitress, who appeared to be training that night, was competent (except for the forgotten water) and friendly, and we did not penalize her when calculating the tip, but we both felt the food was mediocre at best, similar to what one might be served at a budget wedding reception.
I do not like to be so negative, but I wonder if anyone else here shares my assessment - I ask only because so many of you seem to like this place so much.

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  1. Funny you did not like it. I went Saturday night after hearing all the great things and thought it was not great also. We had the house salad, which they can keep. We had the crabcake appetizer which was all filler, not great. I had the soft sell crabs in the garlic butter and found it to be extremely salty. My wife had a halibut special which was decent, but not great. As for service it was unprofessional, but not bad. Was it an off night?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Irving
      Bill in Dumbo

      Food ratings aside- I am shocked at how 2 replys categorized the service as unprofessional. Henry's End has some of the best waiters in the borough. If you are not entertained when Bonnie calls you darling, or exclaims "Alright!" in response to your order, then I suggest finding a stodgy restaurant elsewhere. By the way, the Ozark ribs are great, as well as the Tortilla shrimp.

      1. re: Bill in Dumbo

        bonnie's ecclectic personality aside, we've had bad service (not from her.) when i lived in the neighborhood, we went more. moved within brooklyn and went back twice..not so impressed. but one evening we invited friends and the waiter was uber-flamboyant and it was all about HIM HIM HIM and it was so completely overwhelming that we never went back. we barely got in a table conversation..he was a one man (not good) circus.

        1. re: Bill in Dumbo

          When I was there the service was not great. I was there for the first time. The waiters did not know what was going on. They were bringing us food that was suppposed to go to other tables. The waiter were tripping over me during the whole meal. We were near the kitchen, so I got bunked into a million times. If you want great food, service and ambiance, with tables spaced apart so you can breath go to Tempo.

          1. re: Irving

            Hey, I can see it happening and wont argue with you that it did. I do want to say that you're correct that H.End is a different environment for dining than Tempo (where I'm also a regular). Henry's End is more of a "Cheers" kind of place for food, where they get to know your name and, even when you come for the first time, they joke around. Jostling, loud waitress, an uneven decor -- all part of the "good time" type of place for us, which fits a need in our lives. But I have to say that it's also a place where I think the food (that's what it's about, bottom line) is very good. I'd put their game menu, their soft shells (usually), their fried chicken, their ribs and many other dishes up there with any other place around any day. Not so much the salads and sides. But I like the wine list, the beer list and the desserts. Yes, I've had times where they werent so great... but I've had that at al di la, Tempo, and most other places as well. I've been going for over 20 years so you can take that as a recommendation or not. We dont need to agree.

            By the way, not that it has anything to do with anything, but I just wanted to give an aside about your use of Tempo as reference point. The owners of both places are good friends and can be found eating at each others' place. Just ask Michael E. (Tempo owner/greeter) or Robert (Tempo owner/sommalier) what they think about H.End. You should try it again. But only if you're in the mood for that kind of place.

            1. re: Steve R.

              Mark ( owner & Executive Chef at HENRY'S END ) highly recommends TEMPO.

              Everyone's needs in a restaurant are different. There are so many good restaurants around, I'm sure you will have better experiences.

          2. re: Bill in Dumbo

            I haven't sat in Bonnie's section the past several times I've been to H.E., but you're right, nothing beats the "Alright!" Except perhaps the shrimp with andouille sausage....

        2. j

          I, too, was really disappointed. My husband and I went in February; he's a huge game meat fan and we were eager to try their game menu. I can't even remember what we had, but I remember thinking that the food was overpriced, the atmosphere was terrible, and the preparation, sides and plating were Culinary School 101-- boring and bland.

          For what they charged, I'd rather go to Five Front or Tempo--or saved my money and just gotten an exotic burger at Pete's Waterfront Ale House.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JessicaSophia

            I agree with the places you mentioned. Tempo and Five Front have terrific food and great service. Also Twelfth St. Bar and Grill, owned by Five Front has terrific food and service. I also love Waterfront Ale Houses burger, and all there food is very good.

          2. I'm so glad that someone finally spoke up. My honey and I tried this place a couple of years ago after reading great chowhound reviews and we found it to be mediocre at best. I just have never been able to understand all the hype. I think because it is in Brooklyn Heights which doesn't have many good restaurants it gets undeserved praise.

            1. Well, you always have to look at the actual number of posters (:FLEUR) behind the many glowing reviews.

              I went once several years ago and wasn't impressed, and since the place isn't in my neighborhood I haven't found sufficient reason to return.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Sir Gawain
                Marion Morgenthal

                Count me as another poster that has had good things to say about Henry's End. Some of their food is good, much is very good, and we've had the occasional great meal. They have a wide-ranging menu, which takes some navigating to match to your specific taste. The room is crowded but friendly, and any time there has been an issue with any of the food, they have bent over backward to remedy the situation. I don't know if Monday nights are a low point, but our experiences have generally been very, very positive.

                1. re: Marion Morgenthal

                  I know... and Steve R. likes Henry's End too. But still that's three people, and an awful lot of posts - if you see what I'm saying.

                  But hey, I always defend Patois too. Just not so often.

                  1. re: Sir Gawain

                    OK, if you really want to take a poll, count me in as a Henry's End supporter. It's a drive for us to get there, so I guess you would call it a destination restaurant. We've found the food consistantly good and the service very warm. And we are always amazed how they can get such quality and variety out of that tiny cooking area (I wouldn't even call it a kitchen). Yes, is is cramped and somewhat pricey, but I think that Brooklyn (not just Brooklyn Heights) should be thankful this place still exists after so many years.

              2. I like the restaurant, and always enjoy my meals there. It is crowded and cramped, you're right about the salad and, the sides may be boring. But, I also see the positives - an interesting menu, good service (in my experience) good wine list and an affordable neighborhood place. I'm not sure I'd make it a destination, but I have a friend from Miami who tries to eat there when he's in town.

                3 Replies
                1. re: MichaelZ

                  Agreed...I had one really nice meal there with my husband a few months ago to check out the game menu. The salad thing is quaint because its free and I can count on less than one hand how many nice restaurants do THAT anymore...but nothing to write home about. Our entrees that night where excellent as was the game pate. And the service was top notch that night.

                  I wouldnt call it a destination restaurant, just a nice place to grab a meal if you're in the neighborhood. Maybe all the hype has given people too high expectations.

                  1. re: Nehna

                    Do you really think the cost of the 'free' salad isn't factored into the price of your dinner?

                    1. re: tyler

                      I found the prices pretty reasonable for the quality of the food, so hard to say. It's not like that basic salad costs them much to make. I just think its a nice old fashioned sort of touch.

                2. r

                  Based on the last couple of times I visited Henry's End, I agree with your assessment- It seems they've fallen into a phase of extremely uninspired and tired, going through the motions service- I don't know if they lost a chef, or what. Last time I went was over a year ago. But, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, they served a cuisine that was hearty and delicate at the same time. It was a sure thing, with excellent wine choices and sauces that really enhanced the ingredients.

                  Then one time, I ordered fried chicken that was mealy and dry- attributed to an off night, returned maybe once, maybe twice more to similar results, then never returned again.

                  1. I've only been there twice and was not impressed either. The food was good, but not amazing, and the room seemed incredibly dingy (missing ceiling tiles, etc). I'd rather go next door to Noodle Pudding for consistently great food and a better atmosphere.

                    1. I'm sorry you had a bad experience at HENRY'S END. Any restaurant can have an off night. We go there a few times a month and have never been disappointed, although there are some things which are definitely better than others.

                      I think the complementary salad is a very nice touch.I agree that their side dishes need work, as does their uninspired dessert menu.

                      1. We were a group of 4 at dinner at HE tonight. Every dish was really good. The apps Caribbean shrimp, pecan crusted and tortilla crusted shrimp were excellent. The salads were very good. The main dishes, steak au poivre was perfect, duck in hoisin ginger glaze amazing,halibut with lobster and roasted couscous also excellent, and the chicken with pears in blue cheese sauce was amazing. The service was good. We were at Bonnie's table. The desserts were nice too.
                        The bill was especially nice. Very reasonable for food of that quality.

                        1. The chef for many, many years Joey has been replaced at HE. This has led to a sort of malaise falling over the place. Also one of the long time waiters has left. It will take a while for the fall out to settle.

                          1. I went once with my husband based on rave reviews from friends and found it extremely disappointing. The host was really friendly and warm and while we were waiting for a table, we were anticipating a great meal from the way the place was packed and the host so inviting. I had an overcooked, dry grilled salmon (I requested Med-rare) that came with some funky-tasting pea flan (tasted old) and morels that hadn't been cleaned properly. I wouldn't have been so disappointed if the bill hadn't been $140 for two apps, two tiny glasses of wine and two main courses. For that, I'd rather go into the city to eat somewhere with better quality dishes and ingredients....where the chef respects the food he/she is cooking.

                            1. We had dinner there twice in the past few weeks and it was just fine. I have been going there since I was a girl, when I went with my parents. I can honestly say I have never had a meal there that wasn't good.

                              HENRY'S END is not Le Bernardin, not a Michelin 3 Star restaurant. It is good, very good , American food well prepared at very reasonable prices.

                              The Game Festival starts September 29. It is a wonderful opportunity for those of us who love Game like Venison,Pheasant,Wild Boar etc to dine on very well prepared dishes in a neighborhood place, and at a very reasonable price.

                              To the OP : With appetizers at $7-$13 and main dished at $15.95-$23.95, desserts at $7.50 it would be pretty much impossible to run up a bill of $140 for a two course dinner for 2.

                              1. I was not expecting Le Bernadin, nor was I expecting a Michelin 3 Star restaurant. I want simple, well-executed dishes that are reasonably priced with good ingredients. Don't get me wrong. The vibe of the place was really great and we did have a good time particularly because the host was so nice and warm. However, when the food is poorly done and we have to pay upwards of $140 for it (i can show you the bill if you think that i am pathetic enough to LIE about it), then I get a little disappointed. It sounds like though from the previous posts, they have hired a new chef since my experience there.

                                1. Henry's End is a good spot - by Brooklyn Hieghts standards. I will never understand how a nieghborhood full of $3M brownstones can be so devoid of good restaurants. It makes no sense. (I lived in Dumbo for 4 years, now on State St/Clinton) Henry's End should make any Chowhound's list of top 5 spots in BK Hieghts (not saying much). But no respectible 'Hound would put it in Brooklyn's top 5. Me, I've dined there probably 8 times over the past 4 years, and I would agree that the quality (of both the food and the service) varies, for sure.

                                  For the $, I prefer to take a car service (round trip) to Park Slope or Fort Greene, than to gamble with my $ at Henry's End.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kvn

                                    I consider myself a "respectible 'Hound" and, if you check my home page here you'll find Henry's End in my top 5. I guess we just disagree. I go very regularly (will be there this Friday evening again) & think that the game menu in season is one of the great meals in Bklyn, while the soft shells in season is up there with any other preparation. I wouldnt criticize other hounds for not saying "top 5", as there are quite a few very good places in Bklyn now to choose from, but I very much consider it a "respectible" choice alongside just about any other.

                                  2. HENRY'S END Game Festival starts on September 29 .Brooklyn Game lovers can have a chance to try some delicious game dishes.

                                    HE has very good food at reasonable prices in a local neighborhood restaurant.

                                    1. I LOVE Henry's End. I have found the informal approach to service combined with great staples of the menu and the ever changing wild game menu, a complete delight.
                                      I have lived in the neighborhood for more than ten years. I've discovered something, sometimes when you go out to eat, you don't want to just bring friends, but you also want to visit friends, even it they do happen to work at Henry's End. And although I believe it is geared for the locals the food and wine stacks up to any I have had through out the world. Yes I have had better but I have never had a more comfortable ,memorable meal in my life. Lighten up around the service and as for the food, I'm sure every place has a bad night but the rule is you will get yummy food and get served by the best. I don't work there or have any affiliation, I now live in Ireland and wish I could find a restaurant that comes close to Henry's End. Go relax, enjoy and if you are wearing a tux of feel like you are, don't go there.

                                      Henry's End
                                      44 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

                                      1. Always had good service -- one of the more congenial restaurants I know.

                                        Agree that veg and rice accompaniments are dated and right out of the cruise ship playbook, but I find it sort of charming.

                                        Agree food is uneven, but enjoy the variety. Have had good experiences with Steak Diane, Duck with Honey and Ginger, Blackened Lamb. And I, too, am a big fan of the tortilla shrimp. But above all...

                                        ...THE FRIED CHICKEN IS OFF THE CHARTS. LOCK THREAD!