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Blue Hill at Stone Barns- bar dining review

I've wanted to get to BHSB but my husband's balked at the price of the fixed price tasting menus they offer in the dining room ($108, $148, $208). I emailed about the menu they offer in the bar and found out that along with the above mentioned tasting menus, they offer a 3 course menu for $58, plus some assorted bar snacks (charcuterie, cheese, etc.). So after this long week, we decided to go check out the 3 course menu.

The bar is very nice-- dark, a little swanky, but pretty casual (i.e., my husband was fine in a button down, whereas they recommend jackets for men in the dining room), and with a very friendly bartender. They have about 10-12 seats at the bar and 2 or 3 (low) seating areas (couches, armchairs) by the fireplace. If you're planning on ordering more than snacks, definitely sit at the bar so you're not hunching over to eat. At a bit after 5 on Friday, there was another couple at the bar, and a group of about six at one of the low tables by the fireplace. It's hushed but not graveyard quiet.

They offer a good variety of wines BTG ranging from just $10 up, which was pleasantly surprising. I had a glass of very nice sauvignon blanc. My husband was transfixed by the two page beer list, which ranges from about $6+++. They offer some nice local beers (Capt. Lawrence, Kelso, etc.), along with some rare beers and larger size bottles. He had a dunkel from NJ that he proclaimed almost as good as what he drank in Germany.

We went for the three course meal, feeling like we deserved a nice treat after being cooped up so long after the hurricane. They offer two choices for each course and my husband and I each got the opposite so we tried all six things. What followed was WELL worth the price and definitely makes me want to return for the full experience in the dining room.

They bring out a flurry of complimentary (I guess they are really built into the price) bites-- baby vegetables skewered on a little "fence," crisp veggie chips with herbed goat cheese, kale and potato chips (with sage leaves somehow threaded *through* the chips) pinned on a decorative tree, one bite mushroom burgers on a bed of sesame seeds, and foie gras encased of thin shards of chocolate and studded with sea salt. Everything is so artfully composed and presented-- color us impressed and our meal hadn't even officially started.

They then brought out bread, accompanied by luscious butter, celery salt, and carrot salt. The bread was crusty and warm, but for me, really just a vehicle for the amazing butter. Our first courses arrived. My husband had three hand made ravioli-- one was (braised?) beef, the other two were different vegetable ravioli, with a light mushroom broth poured on top. I had the farm fresh egg, which came with a thin wisp of cured meat (I can't remember what exactly) and tender mushrooms and an earthy green sauce.

For the second course, my husband got the pork, which came with Jerusalem artichokes and other veggies. The pork was perfectly pink, so flavorful. I got the lamb, which came in two preparations-- sliced, medium rare, so tender, and almost like a lamb belly (does that exist? It looked like pork belly but it was lamb) with a crisp, pleasantly salty crust on top. Mine was served on top of a potato puree.

For dessert, my husband ordered coffee and I ordered an herbal infusion-- rose hips. The tea and coffee menu comes with a little map of the different herbs they grow in the garden, so most of the herbal infusions and teas come from their garden. The impressive honey container held fragrant honey from their bees. My husband got the chocolate dessert, which came with a fudgy slice of chocolate and hazelnut confection with a beautiful quenelle of vanilla ice cream. My dessert was a delicate squash souffle that quivered and sighed as you cut it, with a cookie crust, with salted squash seeds and pumpkin (I think?) ice cream on the side.

At last they brought out little end of the meal treats-- a ripe pear (we think) split on an apple corer (apple corer included) with little treats tucked within the slices-- 4 little truffles, dried pear, and sunflower seed brittle.

We were so floored by this amazing meal. I can't believe that we've lived 15 minutes from this restaurant for six years and haven't been here yet.

Yes, it was pricey for a meal not eaten at a proper table (~$150 before tip). But the quality of food we experienced was beyond anything I've had, and I personally can do without the formality of dining room service. We both felt very relaxed and I think that let us focus on the food above all else.

To curious skeptics (such as myself), I highly recommend trying the three course menu at the bar. We'll definitely be returning!

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  1. Very nice review, ice-cream. Sounds like a lovely evening.

    1. Thank you for the lovely review......, you have definitely created a new dining option for me! I Have always have been apprehisive going to bhsb.....but, now you make it sound so inviting....I will definitely have to reconsider....especially with my pastry chef husband!!

      1. Thank you for this great review! I am one of the naysayers - the dining room is so expensive and the last time was not worth it. But the bar experience you describe sounds great! Do they take reservations at the bar? Thanks!

          1. Glad that you found the review helpful! Wincountrygirl, they do not take reservations for the bar area, but it was not crowded when we arrived or when we left. However, last week may not be representative of a typical Friday night because of the storm. To me, BHSB seems like a destination, plan-way-way-ahead restaurant for the most part, whereas the bar area seems like it would attract more spontaneous locals. Liza 219, that squash souffle was something special and I think a pastry chef would definitely approve! I would love to recreate it at home.

            1. Agree with the review. Arrived thinking that I could only order the 3 course bar menu, but found out that you could also order the 5,8 or 12 course menu. Went with the 8 course menu and it was well worth the money. Food was excellent and the service at the bar was impeccable.

              1. The other thread reminded me that I never posted about my meal in the main dining room for comparison. A friend and I treated ourselves for our December birthdays. I'm really glad we tried it, but I would never return for a meal in the main dining room-- color me unimpressed.

                My personal opinion-- the atmosphere wasn't my style (too formal/stuffy and lots of business dinners going on, it seemed), the service was indifferent, and it didn't feel particularly special for the most expensive meal I've eaten in my life.

                The food was wonderful, but the 5 course meal was simply too much food for me and I had to leave most of my dessert behind.

                I'm glad I tried it because I always would have wondered, but I will definitely be sticking with the more affordable and less formal (yet equally delicious) 3 course meal at the cozy bar.

                Oh, it was also a Friday this time (and no hurricane), and the bar was much more crowded and a bit noisy, but it was also later (9 pm).

                2 Replies
                1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                  ice cream - If my thread is the other thread you were referring to I hope I didn't make my post sound as if we don't like the main dining room because we actually LOVE the main dining room and think the service is quite spectacular. I just wanted people to know there was the bar option for those less formal (if you choose) times.

                  1. re: Spiritchaser

                    Yes, it was clear you were referring to the bar room, but that thread reminded me of my experience in the main dining room, so I thought I'd post my comparison between the bar and the main dining room here on my original post.

                    Our visit, given the timing, must have coincided with a lot of company holiday parties (who I assume were spending lots more on their dinners & drinks than us). The servers were running around the room tending to the large parties, and we felt like they couldn't be bothered with us. As I said, the food impressed, but I'd much rather go back and have a more relaxed dinner at the bar.

                2. Went back Friday to celebrate an occasion with my husband. Another excellent meal. Im adding a photo of the menu.

                   
                  1. ice cream - how long did the meal take (time serving/eating)? thanks...

                    1. Sounds like you had a lovely experience. My husband and I ate here 10/14 and we were greatly disappointed . First our total bill was for $600.00 this included a tip,tax,$45.bottle of wine and glass of house Chad ($26.00) meal for 2 $$396.00 2 coffees $4.00 each.
                      There were many courses yes but the amout of food was "barely"-any one course was Brussell Sprouts 5 tiny sprouts for each. Another was veggies platter 1broccoli Floret 1 cauliflower Floret,1 radish. another veggie maybe it was a baby squash, this was a course? We did get a course with 1 piece of bread with butter a egg I think a humming bird egg it was so small. At the end of the evening The Emperor had no Clothes and we had hardly any food. Could have gone to the finest Steak House in Manhattan and had steak and lobster for less money and walk out full!

                      26 Replies
                      1. re: Peogy

                        Sorry to hear about your experience. Did you dine at the bar or in the dining room? To clarify, we have only done the abbreviated bar menu at the bar, which is a bit less than $60 each, if I recall correctly. The one time I ate in the dining room I was underwhelmed. I have not been to the bar at BH in quite some time. My husband and I tried going about a month ago but there was a 3-4 hour wait. I realized it was because it was a Saturday-- we'd never before been on a Saturday.

                        1. re: Peogy

                          That was our experience dining there as well. We spent a fortune and the food was meh. We did not eat at the bar. Friends wanted us to go with them recently and we opted out. Too much money for too little.

                          1. re: Peogy

                            I tend to agree. Going out to the garden and plucking a vegetable and putting it on a plate is not my idea of providing a fine dining experience. I almost think it is an emperors new clothes thing. Farm to table is not a unique idea these days.

                            1. re: DGresh

                              Exactly. I've had better "farm to table" at North and Bailey's Backyard. The last time we were there we were asked by our server if there was anything they should avoid giving us in our meals or anyting we particularly wanted. I said I'd love chocolate for my dessert. I got a plate of what looked like fruit - and the one piece of disguised chocolate that looked like some kind of berry jam was just awful. There was one thing I did like - they were tomato "sliders" but they were tiny and I think we each got one. It was an appetizer served family style.

                              1. re: wincountrygirl

                                Wow, sorry to read about some negative experiences about Blue Hill at Stone Barns. This venue is my very favorite restaurant anywhere and all four of my visits (including one just a few months ago) have been nothing short of magical. Such a picturesque setting, among the best service I have ever received and some of the very best food I have ever consumed; as good or better than the multi Michelin starred venues I have frequented.

                                While this is not a place to go to expecting to leave uncomfortably stuffed a la a steakhouse dinner, I have certainly never left hungry, but always satisfied. The tiny "courses" or "appetizers" as some are referring to them (i.e. the tomato slider - sometimes a beet slider of what not depending on the season) are not actual courses but part of a long series of canapes. I love this part of the meal; such a vast array of different treats arriving in rapid succession to whet one's appetite. By far BHSB has the largest series of canapes anywhere I have dined - as well as the best and most creative. Afterwards come a long series of significantly larger (actual courses) with nice gaps between for conversation and sipping on wine.

                                This is also not the place to expect modernist techniques or massive amounts of different ingredients combined. It is about high quality ingredients served at the peak of freshness. That said beyond the canapes I have never been served merely plain vegetables, fish, meat etc, but composed dishes that were perfectly cooked and had delicious sauces and/or accompaniments. Some of the dishes are really fun and playful such as the make your own lobster tacos on one occasion that arrived on a beautiful platter. Some of the courses are beautifully presented such as an egg yolk course sitting atop celery root died with squid ink and been painted onto the plate. Other courses are unusual/striking such as roasted bone marrow (still in the bone) served with chopped up pieces of heart on top on a funky serving piece. Sure some dishes are more simplistic and only feature a couple of ingredients (a carrot "steak"), but that is because they are exquisite and meant to be highlighted on their own accord. Be it the vegetables, meats, seafood, homemade bread, homemade cheese, homemade butter - it is remarkable how nearly every course we have received there has been delicious.

                                As for service, when I commented how much I loved the homemade hot sauce that came with the aforementioned taco course, our server surprised me later in the evening with a bottle of the hot sauce as a gift. For me the service here is the perfect blend of polished, yet relaxed and personable - and they do such an adept job at personalizing the menu and one's dining experience unlike any other restaurant I have frequented (only Eleven Madison Park in NYC and Grace in Chicago come close). Sometimes they would even serve my wife and I different courses at the same time as they would learn our preferences and aversions.

                                While expensive, I have always felt I have received a good value and the meal has always been so leisurely that it is a whole evening's worth of entertainment. Since we love the grounds so much we often extend our visit with before and/or after dinner cocktails in the beautiful bar area as well as attend some of the activities on the farm such as the foraging class on our most recent visit. If I lived in New York I would dine here seasonally, but since I am in Chicago it is only a rare treat; I can't wait to return next year. So many fond memories of this place.

                            2. re: Peogy

                              I was speaking to someone I know who is part of Danny Meyer's empire, and when we got to talking about Blue Hill at Stone Barns, my comment about the meal was the following, "Here's a carrot. Enjoy." "Here's an egg. Enjoy." Basically, for me in terms of BHSB, the emperor has no clothes.

                              1. re: roxlet

                                I could NOT agree MORE!

                                that's perfect.
                                Here is a carrot indeed.
                                "but we grow our OWN carrot!"

                                (yawn)

                                1. re: weedy

                                  And don't forget the little lambs staring at you as you drive up!

                                  1. re: wincountrygirl

                                    With the size portion they dole out per plate- those lambs will live to a ripe old age!

                                    1. re: Peogy

                                      It is becoming hard to take some of these posts seriously; obviously some have a hidden agenda. As anyone who has actually dined at Blue Hill at Stone Barns can attest, aside from during the canapes there are not just plain vegetables served as a course and the total meal consists of a substantial quantity of food.

                                      1. re: Gonzo70

                                        No hidden agenda here, just my opinion. I think it is not worth the money and the food is not great and the pretention is high. And the jokes were funny ;-)

                                        1. re: wincountrygirl

                                          I've hesitated writing a review of my experience there, which was an incredible disappointment. In fact, to add insult to injury, it was a 6-hour, $1K+ disappointment. Thank goodness for great dining companions.

                                            1. re: wincountrygirl

                                              5. It was really over $1500 with drinks and before tip. Before our dessert course, we were each offered a cheese plate. I swear there was barely a shaving of each of 3 cheeses and less than half a teaspoon of accompaniments. It added $90 to our bill ($18/plate).

                                              1. re: foodiemom10583

                                                Whoa. I find this all to be kind of insulting.

                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  I didn't even mention when the Abercrombie and Fitch busboy took away my bread plate literally five seconds after I finished buttering the new piece of bread I placed on it.

                                                  We were all looking so forward to plays on whatever the "featured ingredient" would be for the night (when they were still doing that). It was the end of June. I thought, tomatoes? Strawberries? Maybe even ramps? No. It was the egg. Something they have every day, all year round. There was egg sauce with the fish. There was a poached egg. There was egg pasta with grated egg. There was egg, egg, egg, and egg with egg. Maybe he had been watching too much Monty Python.

                                          1. re: Gonzo70

                                            "As anyone who has actually dined at Blue Hill at Stone Barns can attest, aside from during the canapes there are not just plain vegetables served as a course...."

                                            I'm sorry, Gonzo, but that's not accurate. In the formal dining room, we were presented with single raw baby vegetables that were impaled on what I swear were pigeon spikes. They were served with a couple of different salts on the side, but they were as plain as plain could be. There was a sufficient amount to be more than a canape. I think it was a riff on a salad course.

                                            1. re: foodiemom10583

                                              LOL, that is one of their signature canap├ęs. They have had that every time I have dined there - the vegetables on the spikes vary month-to-month. It is not an actual course, just one of many pre dinner small plates that is served. Nearly all of the actual courses are composed dishes.

                                              1. re: Gonzo70

                                                Lol? If anything, it was crudite with a side of salt served on pigeon spikes. Every time I've seen pigeon spikes, they've been covered in guano. What a way to whet one's appetite.

                                                I barely remember any of the composed courses except for the fact that everything but dessert and one red meat course was eggcentric ("Would you like some unborn egg grated on your egg pasta?"). Overall, our table was bored with the food and kept hoping that the next course would be the one we'd never forget. That course never came.

                                                You certainly don't have to answer this, Gonzo, but are you paying OOP for these BHSB meals?

                                                1. re: foodiemom10583

                                                  Yes, paid out of pocket for all four dinners there. My wife and I live in Chicago but come to New York about two times a year for vacation. While BHSB is very expensive (when we did the kitchen table - no longer offered - it was the second most expensive meal we have ever had) we factor in value when assessing our overall experience at a restaurant and have always felt as though BHSB was a good value.

                                                  By the way, I do not believe the vegetables you are referencing are served on actual pigeon spikes; to me they were presented as appearing like a fence with a different vegetable sitting on the fence posts. I just Googled "vegetables on a fence" and "Blue Hill at Stone Barns" and several references came up - it appears as though they have been serving this for many years - two examples linked below:
                                                  1) http://gastronomyblog.com/2009/09/30/...
                                                  2) http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2008/0...

                                                  I am really surprised with your experience; I do not recall any repetitiveness across any of our visits but a nice array of different foods (vegetables, eggs, grains, shellfish, regular fish and meats). Most of the courses have been creative, playful and thoughtful with an occasional plain course to highlight a particularly fresh/delicious ingredient. Even when we dined there approximately three months apart we were shocked at how the menu we were served was almost 100% changed - not just tweaks here and there - but about 17 of 20 or so courses (counting the canapes) were completely different.

                                                  1. re: Gonzo70

                                                    Having lived in a couple of NYC apartments, my husband and I had the exact same reaction when "vegetables on a fence" came to the table: Pigeon spikes. Maybe they're not the kind you get at Home Depot, but the type that were on the window ledges of the 100-year old building we lived in on Waverly Place back in the day.

                                                    I am very happy that you and your wife are really enjoying your meals there. With regards to BHSB making constant changes to the menu, that is something I will never experience as I will never go back to the formal dining room. It turned me off even more when I kept checking back to see when the "featured" ingredient would be changed. For the remainder of the summer following our visit and even into the fall, the ingredient never changed. What a letdown for people who were really expecting to enjoy the seasonality of the dishes.

                                                    There are so many great restaurants in New York. Though you seem very content with BHSB, you may also want to try some up-and-coming places with young, brilliant chefs, lovely FOH, and charming servers.

                                                    1. re: foodiemom10583

                                                      We certainly do not dine exclusively at BHSB while visiting New York. We also love EMP - so that and BHSB tend to be the venues we repeat, but other than those we try out some new venues each visit. Curious what your favorites are?

                                                      1. re: Gonzo70

                                                        Lately, I've been in a New American mode, so I've really enjoyed The Marshal, Ichabod's, and Riverpark (though that one is less casual, but the warm service sapped any unnecessary pretense from the dining experience). I have a fondness for Louro because of the intense flavors and the fact that the chef is always there looking for honest feedback. Gramercy Tavern is also a favorite for dinner when friends are visiting from out of town.

                                                        If you don't mind something very casual and waiting for a table, go to Russ and Daughters Cafe on Orchard St. It is literally a slice of old New York and lives up to the hype. I was a little sad that the knishes are nuked, but if you wait until the scalding heat cools down, they are still pretty tasty. The fish is all pretty phenomenal.

                                                        I have a dozen more to list, but these come to mind first.

                                                    2. re: Gonzo70

                                                      I absolutely respect that you love the place. But I took a look at the serious eats picture and description of the raw veggie presentation, and just couldn't keep myself from rolling my eyes a bit at "I was enamored by the impossibly sweet yellow Husk tomatoes." Tomatoes in summer are delicious, no question. But I have trouble believing that their fresh out of the garden cherry tomatoes are that much different than mine. I would just feel a bit like a sucker if presented with such a dish and was expected to be "blown away".

                                                      ETA I have eaten here; it was a long long time ago (within the first couple years after they opened) so my experience is not terribly relevant other than that I gave them two chances and felt that I was not getting my money's worth, in either food *or* service, which was lacking both times.

                                              2. re: Gonzo70

                                                my agenda is clear:

                                                I am opposed to boring food.

                                                what's yours?

                                                no one said that "here's a carrot" was a real thing.
                                                it's that that expressed their ATTITUDE perfectly. and with humour.

                                                Example:
                                                One of my favourite little starters/amuses is the sea urchin and lardo crostini at Marea.
                                                It explodes with the fresh ocean, salty, flavour of the urchin and also the smoky porky unctuousness of the lardo, on crunchy bread. It's near perfection in a few bites.

                                                And it's creative, inventive, exciting, memorable, worth TALKING about:
                                                and yet, it still by any REASONABLE definition 'honours the ingredients', but without building them a shrine and being afraid, or unwilling, to play with them in any way.

                                                Yes, you could serve a beautiful piece of urchin "just as it is".
                                                I could do that myself.
                                                But that's ultimately not MY idea of what I want to go to a restaurant and drop a large packet of money to experience.

                                    2. Yes it sounds as if you had a wonderful dining experience . Well since 2012 they changed the Menu for 2014. We ((2) ate at BHSB on a Sunday evening had 8:00 reservation which I had made 60days in advance. Our waiter told us there was no menu choices only if we wanted to have wine pairing with the PeckingEtc menu we knew that was about $150.PP extra so we said No and found a $45.00 bottle of wine to order. I don't think there was a less expensive on the 30+page wine list there wasn't even a glass of wine for $10.on that list. My glass of HOUSE Chard at the bar lounge was $26.00! Again I agree presentation of all was Lovely but we had NO-goat cheese,burgers,chocolate ,ravioli,pork,fudgy anything . We did get a WISP (great description ) of meat with our Hummming bird size egg course it was like a 2inch piece of bacon. Yes the bread and butter course was wonderful but only 1 slice of bread and a teaspoon size of butter. Also we were taken into the kitchen for the egg &bread course potion which was a treat for us,my husband always wanted to see a restaurant kitchen at work. I think we were supposed to meet the head chef at this point but he never came over it was after 9 by this time so I think he had left . We were served a smaller than snack size cube of Lamb and a slightly larger piece of I think Chicken that tasted like overdone poached then crusted and fried.
                                      But we feel the insult was we were charged $4.00 each for the worst cup of coffee but it came with scalded milk I think skim because when added to the cup the color change was hardly noticeable. Imagine paying &198.00 PP without beverage and being charged for a cup of coffee! This is why my first review was so negative.
                                      I saw a episode of the Sara Molten show where she visited this farm it did look grand and they do good work for the farm and land . She pulled out a carrot (Huge) with creative knife work the kitchen must get at least 10 pieces from one of these to put on that spiked fence. Since they only serve one carrot PP that's 10 servings per carrot. OUTRAGEOUS I say!!!! This will be my last comment on this place

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Peogy

                                        I think BHSB might have jumped the shark.

                                        1. re: Peogy

                                          Again, to be clear, in my original post, I am referring to the BAR MENU (3 courses for about $60) served only at the bar.

                                          I have not been in the last year, but I was pleased with the value of the bar menu all three times I had it and I plan to return for it. The one time I went for the five course meal (no longer offered) in the dining room I was not as pleased. Tasting menus are wasted on me because I get full too quickly.

                                          I love farm to table food and I think the BAR MENU is playful and fun (again, with respect to the MUCH SMALLER amount of money being paid) and pays tribute to the ingredients. For example, their "single udder butter" from a cow named Sunshine (true story) sounded ridiculous and twee, but it was seriously the best butter I've ever eaten. However, I'm conflicted, as others have said, about the inaccessibility to the public of the restaurant's mission in terms of the price and preciousness of the long version tasting menu. The times I've vacationed in California (specifically San Francisco and Sonoma/Healdsburg) I was shocked at how normal and seamlessly integrated farm-to-table is there without the self-congratulatory attitude. BHSB has some catching up to do in that regard.

                                          1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                            Yes, we were just in West Marin (Point Reyes Station area) and you've put it perfectly. It's *normal* there, friendly and accessible.

                                            1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                              You did it the right way, IEALOIC. We should've gone the bar dining route. I've had lots of great farm-to-table dining experiences since then that had little or no pretense and were a fraction of the price. Those experiences really made me question how BHSB's formal dining room can function with a straight face.