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Blue Hill Farm or Lotus of Siam

n
nyawira Nov 10, 2010 07:15 AM

I know that sounds strange! I have one night in NYC and have been reading your board. It would be difficult for me to pass up an outstanding Thai restaurant for my one and only dinner in NYC, especially given the rave reviews Lotus of Siam gets for their Las Vegas restaurant. But, I don't have enough to go on other than a couple of reviews of their soft opening. If this is a no go, then my next preference would be to try farm to table dining in Manhattan. I googled this and found Blue Hill Farm, but don't know if A) this is the real thing, and B) it's delicious and worth it.

What do you all think. Should I stick with Lotus of Siam or should I go to Blue Hill Farm. If I don't go to Lotus of Siam, is there another farm to table restaurant I should consider. I will likely be staying in the theater district or if I can get a boutique hotel somewhere in Soho or surrounding areas. I am familiar with the subway so don't mind travelling to worthwhile dining establishments and money is no object.

Thanks for your ideas.

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Blue Hill
75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

Lotus of Siam
24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

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  1. g
    gutsofsteel Nov 10, 2010 07:23 AM

    I would suggest that you wait until Lotus of Siam has been open longer.

    I'm not a big fan of Blue Hill in Manhattan.

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    Blue Hill
    75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

    Lotus of Siam
    24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

    15 Replies
    1. re: gutsofsteel
      n
      nyawira Nov 10, 2010 09:18 AM

      Thanks for your response. Can you elaborate as to why you are not a big fan of Blue Hill. I'm hoping others will weigh in who have eaten at Lotus of Siam post soft opening....

      -----
      Blue Hill
      75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

      Lotus of Siam
      24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

      1. re: nyawira
        g
        gutsofsteel Nov 10, 2010 12:33 PM

        I find the food bland, uninteresting, not varied, the portions meager, the price inappropriate for what they deliver, both in terms of quantity and quality.

        Have you considered Hearth, Gramercy Tavern, Craft?

        Also, Blue Hill is not called "Blue Hill Farm."

        I love Blue Hill Stone Barns, their restaurant in Westchester. A whole different league.

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        Gramercy Tavern
        42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

        Blue Hill
        75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

        1. re: gutsofsteel
          b
          bworm42 Nov 10, 2010 11:44 PM

          It's interesting that you characterize Blue Hill in Manhattan this way, because those are actually some of the exact problems I have with Craft and Hearth. I think both those restaurants are way overpriced for inconsistently prepared simplistically conceived food, and take themselves far too seriously. Blue Hill in Manhattan has always given me delicious and brightly flavored food, fascinating cocktails, and warm service. I've never done Stone Barns, but I very much look forward to the day.
          I agree that Gramercy Tavern is a great restaurant. I really believe that it delivers on service, flavor, and originality. But to me it stands head and shoulders above the other restaurants you mentioned.
          Not saying you're wrong, but those have been my experiences and I wanted to give another point of view.

          -----
          Gramercy Tavern
          42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

          Blue Hill
          75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

          1. re: bworm42
            n
            nyawira Nov 11, 2010 03:00 AM

            Good to hear your views, bworm42. Thanks...

            1. re: bworm42
              s
              sam1 Nov 11, 2010 05:26 AM

              i have to agree with gutsofsteel...except im not a fan of the food at stone barns either. very bland and boring. and now that they are as successful as they are, its robotic and expensive too.

              hearth is far from revolutionary but the portions are quite large if i recall. i remember leaving absolutely stuffed the several times ive been there.

            2. re: gutsofsteel
              c
              cubanat Nov 18, 2010 10:34 AM

              I find it just the opposite! funny how taste works. I find the one in westchester to be boring and not up to the hype. I find the city one to be better tasting! I do agree that craft or gt my be better for op

            3. re: nyawira
              g
              gutsofsteel Nov 10, 2010 12:35 PM

              I ate at Lotus of Siam already. I did not "review" it because I tend to feel that "reviewing" a place that is so new makes little sense. But I will say that if you are going to try it, you should wait a good while and give them a chance to settle in. They are not ready for prime time. I intend to go back but not any time soon. In retrospect it was foolish of me to go so early on.

              -----
              Lotus of Siam
              24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

              1. re: gutsofsteel
                n
                nyawira Nov 10, 2010 04:46 PM

                Thanks much gutsofsteel. My visit to NYC will not be until early December. A month should give them some time, eh? But I do understand what you mean. Soft openings are so often disappointing to the person eating, but hopefully really helpful to the folks cooking....and thanks also for the correction on the name of Blue Hill (my bad). I haven't considered the other three restaurants that you mention, but I certainly will now. Thanks!

                -----
                Blue Hill
                75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

                1. re: nyawira
                  g
                  gutsofsteel Nov 10, 2010 05:40 PM

                  If you have only one meal in NYC, don't make it Lotus of Siam.

                  -----
                  Lotus of Siam
                  24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                  1. re: gutsofsteel
                    s
                    Simon Nov 13, 2010 07:22 AM

                    awww, come on, guts, i'd love to hear your review, even if it's qualified by the fact that they're newly opened...enquiring palates want to know...

                    1. re: Simon
                      g
                      gutsofsteel Nov 13, 2010 11:27 AM

                      Nope - I think it's inapropriate to "review" a place so early on. Also stupid to go so early on but that ship has sailed. I'll go back at some point.

                      1. re: gutsofsteel
                        s
                        Simon Nov 13, 2010 11:48 AM

                        ok, fair enough...personally i see no problem reviewing a place early on...if they took your money, they deserve what they get in terms of word-of-mouth, whether it's good or bad (especially if you kindly remind people that the place is newly opened)...but nice of you to give them the chance to improve...

                        But on a more general note, i'm curious, are their servers/hosts all Thai?

                        1. re: Simon
                          g
                          gutsofsteel Nov 13, 2010 11:52 AM

                          No. And I find that completely irrelevant.

                          1. re: gutsofsteel
                            s
                            Simon Nov 14, 2010 02:11 PM

                            to each their own...but not irrelevant to me...if a restaurant comes to town w/ a rep of being the best Thai food in the US, then i'd like to be able ask the staff things like which variety of fish sauce they are using in the somdam and other specific questions about the dishes...the odds of non-Thai staff being able to answer those questions are woefully low...

                            1. re: Simon
                              g
                              gutsofsteel Nov 14, 2010 03:26 PM

                              You never know until you ask....our (non-Thai) server was quite knowledgeable about the dishes served. And just because a server might be Thai, that means they'll know which variety of fish sauce is in a dish? Besides, they could always find out from the kitchen and let you know...

          2. m
            michelleats Nov 10, 2010 09:32 AM

            Nyawira, I'll have more interesting things to say after I go to Lotus of Siam for the first time, tonight, but just a few preliminary thoughts: Blue Hill focuses on using very good ingredients in fairly simple preparations. It's not going to be mind blowing except where it focuses your attention on the quality of the ingredients. We had "wow" moments eating incredibly fresh greens in a salad and tasting the distinctive freshness of "this morning's farm egg" in early summer this year, but I don't know how this season's menu compares. I wouldn't go to this restaurant if you generally like technically flashy food at a restaurant.

            Kin Shop is another new, Thai-inspired restaurant you might want to consider in the West Village area. It's a Harold Dieterle place and I thought the massaman goat dish we tried there recently was very, very good. Another CH poster recently wrote that he tried several noodle dishes and found them bland or otherwise lacking, though. You can read this thread if you want a few different opinions: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/739911

            I'll try to report back on Lotus after going.

            -----
            Blue Hill
            75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

            Lotus of Siam
            24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

            11 Replies
            1. re: michelleats
              n
              nyawira Nov 10, 2010 09:50 AM

              Greatly appreciate your feedback, michelleats! I look forward to your impressions of Lotus of Siam. Have a yummy evening!! I think I will nix Blue Hill, actually, and wiill look in to Kin Shop.

              -----
              Blue Hill
              75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

              Lotus of Siam
              24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

              1. re: nyawira
                m
                michelleats Nov 11, 2010 05:13 AM

                Might want to read this quickly before overexuberant mods take it away. It's excerpted from www.girleatscity.com, since evidently the mods didn't like the much easier to read summary.

                ---

                .... Reservations were surprisingly not too difficult to score this week, during the soft opening, especially given the very reasonably-priced-for-NYC seven course tasting menu, which rang in at $65 / person and featured quite generously portioned plates. For the soft opening, the restaurant offered only this set menu; on Thursday, November 11, exactly one week after opening, they'll begin offering an a la carte menu, as well.

                Lotus of Siam serves a refined, but not dumbed down, version of Thai cuisine, featuring precisely balanced, nuanced flavors and very high quality ingredients. Despite occasional issues with oversalting, the tasting menu did a good job of highlighting these qualities.

                Let's clear one thing up before we get into the nitty gritty: The food, here, is NOT "Thai spicy", so those of you who only care about this aspect of Thai cuisine can leave the room, now. The rest of us, who appreciate the balance and strong flavors of the cuisine without necessarily having our digestive tracts incinerated from the inside out, will, I think, appreciate this restaurant. Now onto the food.

                (1) Tuna Koi Soy -- diced raw tuna tossed with cilantro, mint, scallion & kaffir lime. This is a gutsy way to begin a tasting menu given that your tastebuds are at their most alert and any flaw in the tuna is magnified tenfold. Here, the tuna was excellent, a high sushi grade whose freshness was enhanced, not obscured by, the restrained application of potentially overpowering flavors.

                Two, three and four were served at the same time and meant to be shared.

                (2) Koong Sarong -- fried shrimp roll wrapped in bacon and spring roll wrapper. This was as good as it sounds! Shrimp were fresh and plump, exploding bacon-tinged juices into our mouths on first bite. Bacon was crisp and, of course, delicious. An impossibly thin, crispy and delicate spring roll wrapper encased all of this goodness without even a hint of sogginess.

                (3) Kao Satay -- grilled chicken satay with cucumber salad and peanut sauce. Not mind blowing, but the chicken was pleasantly juicy and charred from the grill, and not overseasoned. I think the kitchen's restraint in spicing demonstrates some self confidence. Cucumbers were properly crispy and lightly dressed, not too sweet or vinegary. Peanut sauce was completely smooth -- I prefer more textured ground peanut sauce -- but thankfully not overly sweet.

                (4) Nam Kao Tod -- crispy rice with Thai sausage, fresh chili, ginger, peanuts & lime. This was my favorite dish of the evening, probably, a nice juxtaposition of light textures with robust flavors. Nam is a northern Thai sour fermented pork and rice sausage. The few small cubes in this dish were very mild in flavor, carrying far less pungent a punch than their Bangkok street vendor counterparts. They also seemed to have a firmer consistency than I remember them having in Thailand. Peanuts were nicely toasted. Crispy rice stayed perfectly crispy for the 10-15 minutes it took for us to finish the dish.

                (5)(a) Tom Kha Hed -- spicy coconut milk soup with oyster, maitake and shimeji mushrooms. The broth was a bit oversalted, but flavors were otherwise nicely balanced. Mushrooms were all very tender and fresh, with nice bite.

                (5)(b) Tom Yum Koong -- spicy sour soup with head on prawn, lime, lemongrass & cilantro. This soup was wonderful in every way, with a bold, pungent, elegantly seasoned broth. Prawns (two) were absolutely delicious, tender and sweet as only very high quality seafood can be. I could easily eat five bowls of this soup for dinner.

                (6)(a) Laarb Issan -- warm minced beef salad with red onion, roasted chili, kaffir lime & scallion. This might've been the only dish of the evening I didn't really love. The beef was high quality and tender -- clearly made from a very good cut of meat -- but it was oversalted and I found it a little monotonous after a while. I would have appreciated more of an acidic note and perhaps something crispy in the dish like toasted, ground rice. It may partly have been a matter of portion size. The dish served was a disconcertingly large pile of meat, without much of a textural break other than the green cabbage and cucumbers served on the side.

                (6)(b) Som Thum -- green papaya salad with chili, lime, peanuts and tomato. I liked this simple, woman's dish, usually made by women and for other women in Thailand. This version was a harmoniously composed sweet, sour, salty and pungent concoction, a good break from the meat laarb -- actually, the two dishes were best eaten side by side -- but not particularly memorable.

                (7)(a) Soft Shell Crab "Drunken Noodle" Pad Kra Pao -- crispy soft shell crab with flat rice noodle & fresh chili, Thai basil sauce. Soft shell crab was expertly fried and very light. It was presented, slightly askew, over rice noodles that some might consider too soft. I liked the textural contrast of the crispy crab with soft, almost creamy noodles, though.

                (7)(b) Seabass King Sot -- steamed seabass with ginger sauce, napa cabbage, black mushroom, celery & scallion. Very fresh seabass, pleasantly firm and meaty in texture though a wee bit overcooked, stood up to the assault of flavors with finesse. Ginger notes were strong, but not overwhelming. Portion sizes for both soft shell crab and seabass were thankfully small, given that this was the final savory course of the evening.

                [We did not order the third main course option, which was Khao Soi Shortrib -- northern Thai egg noodles with braised shortrib, coconut curry sauce, pickled mustard green.

                ]

                (8) "Thai dessert" (not pictured... we forgot to take one!). In our case, this was a sweet soup (common in Thailand and much of the rest of Asia) with lightly salted coconut milk ice cream, sweet water chestnuts encased in glutinous rice, young coconut strips. My dining companion adored this dish because, as he put it, "you can eat a lot of it without filling up". I thought the dish was pleasant for the genre, but this is not the type of dessert that really moves me. Also, I was far too full to really enjoy it. I will say that the salted coconut milk ice cream was a nice touch, perhaps referencing the way that juices are often served lightly salted in Thailand.

                Early reviews of Lotus of Siam have really been all over the place. Just to add my two cents to the opinion piggy bank: Though our meal was too safe to be mind blowing, I thought it was genuinely delicious, consistently well executed and good enough to make me want more. Much more. In fact, I've already made reservations for next week to try the a la carte menu. That is perhaps the clearest distillation of how I feel about this restaurant.

                -----
                Lotus of Siam
                24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: michelleats
                  m
                  michelleats Nov 18, 2010 07:40 AM

                  Another visit, another dinner. This time, I went with a dining companion and ordered a la carte: a squid salad appetizer and grilled prawn entree. The squid salad was excellent and included a generous portion of tender squid tossed with scallions, red onion, romaine and spicy nuoc cham. The entree was a bit less successful. Presentation was almost postmodern, with five large prawns presented with no adornment at all (except two dipping sauces served on the side), on a large, white plate. Alas, the prawns were oversalted, slightly overcooked and not as fresh, plump and juicy as their brethren, which my SO and I had eaten in a soup on the previous visit.

                  Both dishes paired pleasantly with half bottle of semi-sweet Mosel riesling the sommelier helped us pick. We also chose to have after-dinner drinks, since the restaurant offers only two desserts (sticky rice and the same soupy, coconut ice cream concoction I'd had with the tasting menu on the last visit). Neither appealed.

                  The real dampener on this dinner was that my dining companion and I left under slightly uncomfortable circumstances. As we were enjoying our after dinner cocktails at the table, wait staff threw down a check without our asking for it -- and then brought all the change to my male dining companion, whom they assumed had paid for dinner. Two strikes. When we didn't evacuate immediately after paying, the host came over to ask us to leave so other diners could have our table. We were at the table for approximately two hours. Three strikes on service.

                  http://www.girleatscity.com/

                  1. re: michelleats
                    n
                    nyawira Nov 18, 2010 10:28 AM

                    Oh. Not good! Yikes. Thanks for sharing.

              2. re: michelleats
                b
                brooklyndude Nov 10, 2010 06:03 PM

                i wouldn't say the preparations at blue hill are simple. they aren't edgy and they don't use things like foie but i think the food is ambitious and more sophisticated than it appears. they don't use a lot of salt, and i would guess they use less stock and butter than other places.

                1. re: brooklyndude
                  g
                  gutsofsteel Nov 10, 2010 06:08 PM

                  To each his own. I find the food utterly dull, overpriced, and stingy.

                  1. re: gutsofsteel
                    s
                    Simon Nov 13, 2010 07:25 AM

                    i've only been to Blue Hill once, a long time ago...while the meal was pleasant enough w/ no major glitches, it was also forgettable...and despite living nearby for several years afterward, it never occured to me to return...

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                    Blue Hill
                    75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

                  2. re: brooklyndude
                    m
                    michelleats Nov 10, 2010 08:43 PM

                    There are dishes I've tried, there, that make me think you might be right about the low-key sophistication, Brooklyndude. But I also think that many restaurants of the same genre in California (like JoLe and Sol Bar) do a better job of representing this kind of cuisine.

                    For the record I haven't eaten at that many farm to table restaurants in NYC. Blue Hill is far better than the ones I have tried like Market Table and The Green Table. If you (or anyone else) has suggestions about other places to try, I think both the OP and I would welcome them.

                    -----
                    Blue Hill
                    75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

                    The Green Table
                    75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                    Market Table
                    54 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014

                    1. re: michelleats
                      j
                      JeremyEG Nov 11, 2010 05:17 AM

                      I really enjoy Blue Hill but agree that the preparations are not 'flashy.' While probably not a special occasion restaurant, I think Franny's in Brooklyn is an awesome choice for fresh and ingredient-driven food. They list their farms and occasionally have some ingredients from far away (including some from Italy), but of their menu is fresh and extremely seasonal. I realize this should be posted on the Brooklyn board but I wanted to mention it while we're we're talking farm-to-table.

                      How is Green Table since they expanded?

                      JeremyEG
                      homecooklocavore.com

                      1. re: JeremyEG
                        m
                        michelleats Nov 11, 2010 05:27 AM

                        You make beautiful food, Jeremy! I haven't been to Franny's, but I'll do a quick search of the site to see what you've written about the place...

                        I don't think I've been to Green Table since expansion. The last time we went, about a year ago I think, our food was badly oversalted and almost inedible. It's a shame because I have had very pleasant meals, there, in the past. I'm just not moved to go back anytime soon.

                        Franny's huh? Thanks for the tip!

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                        The Green Table
                        75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                        1. re: michelleats
                          v
                          vicktoire Nov 11, 2010 12:27 PM

                          What about Telepan? http://www.telepan-ny.com/dinner.html. It's on the Upper West (72 West 69th, just east of Columbus), so not in your mentioned neighborhoods but very accessible by train (1 to 66th, B/C to 72nd). I have never been disappointed by a savory dish there (I've never had a bad dessert but some are certainly better than others) and Bill Telepan has been doing the locavore thing since before the term was coined. The House Smoked Trout starter there is so very lovely.

                          I have a reservation at LOS for the 19th... am taking a very large party and am admittedly nervous about how the evening will go down. I will report back.

                          -----
                          Telepan
                          72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023

                2. u
                  UES Mayor Nov 19, 2010 02:28 AM

                  My experiece of Blue Hill: ok food but not enough to make me try for a 2nd time. Nice place to carry on a conversation but I certainly expected more but was dissappointed by the ho hum food.

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                  Blue Hill
                  75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: UES Mayor
                    n
                    nyawira Nov 19, 2010 11:20 AM

                    Thanks, UES Mayor. I have actually settled on Craft restaurant as has been suggested by another poster. From the reviews of Lotus of Siam, that is definitely out for now. And Blue Hill sounds great, but Craft sounds better with nice ambience and a little bit closer to my hotel.

                    -----
                    Blue Hill
                    75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

                    Lotus of Siam
                    24 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003

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