Pete Wells Awards Blenheim One Star

Pete Wells Awards Blenheim One Star
Credit: Facebook/BlenheimRestaurant

Although it’s not exactly farm-to-table, Pete Wells enjoyed the Alaskan king crab appetizer.

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells has reviewed chef Ryan Tate’s food before, while he was at Le Restaurant in Tribeca, and liked it so much he gave it two stars. However, this week he judged the chef’s fare at Blenheim in the Meat Packing district, and believed that his intricate dishes were an awkward fit for Morten Sohlberg’s farm-to-table establishment. In fact, Wells found the whole experience of dining at the eatery much in the same vein, and declared, “A tremendous amount of thought and effort has gone into the food, drinks and design, but they don’t always connect.”

The main problem, the critic determined, is that both Tate and Sohlberg have set their sights too high; instead of producing consistently impressive gastronomy, “The same dish can be stunning one night and a contorted mess on another.” One example is the roasted king mushrooms with spaetzle and sauerkraut. The first time Wells ordered it, he found “the mushroom stems had something like the flavor and texture of weisswurst. A German-inspired vegetarian main course with mushrooms standing in for sausages is a fantastic notion.” However, on his next visit, “the stems were watery inside and rubbery outside, like a steamed hot dog wrapped in a balloon.”

Sometimes, Tate’s food is good enough to look past the philosophical dissonance, like an Alaskan king crab appetizer that was so delicious, Wells offered that “this was an appetizer you could go quietly crazy over.” Another is the tile fish and sea urchin entrée, though the critic couldn’t help but quip about how this isn’t exactly the definition of farm-to-table cuisine, “The stream in Schoharie County where tilefish and sea urchin splash around together hasn’t been discovered yet, but at Blenheim they swim happily side by side on one plate.” Still, he maintains that “it would take a crazy person to complain that Alaskan crab and sea urchin are insufficiently farm-to-table when they’re cooked this skillfully.”

Even these highlights, however, weren’t enough to score multiple stars for Blenheim and Tate from Pete Wells. This is not, in the end, due to the scattered culinary philosophy of the restaurant, but instead the fact that to the critic, “The gap between the farm-to-table ethos and Mr. Tate’s style is minor compared with the gulf between the restaurant Blenheim could be and the restaurant that currently sits at 283 West 12th Street.”

Kate Kolenda is the Restaurant and City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @BeefWerky and @theconversant.

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