A neighborhood known for its rising population of postgraduates, Murray Hill has become known mostly for the bars that accommodate its singles community. But Hill and Bay, a restaurant that seeks to reinvent traditional American cuisine with fresh ingredients, opened in early October with the goal of revamping this culinary wasteland. Unfortunately, it falls flat.
Sandwiched between Murray Hill and the Kips Bay area, Hill and Bay is enhanced by upholstered maroon booth seats and softly lit candles. In addition to the eclectic variety of alcohol on display at the bar, the menu welcomes all types of food lovers. But customers have to empty their wallets for these selections—a standard meal costs $40 per person.
Although the menu accommodates different palates, the selections are limited to unimpressive and ordinary-sounding dishes. After ordering the appetizer of spicy spinach meatball sliders and the entrée of grilled filet mignon, potatoes gratin, and sautéed kale, I felt unsatisfied with the humdrum options that were foisted upon me.
When the date-sized sliders arrived, I was surprised to find a pair of small, mediocre meatballs nestled between two overbearing buns. Held together with knotted twine on a white plate, the sandwiches offered tender and savory meatballs that were deadened by the tasteless buns. At $4 per slider, the dish made me yearn for the cheaper sliders of The Meatball Shop, which are both more flavorful and more affordable.
During the half-hour before my entrée arrived, I prayed that the next dish would outdo the appetizer. But the filet mignon was overpowered by the potato gratin. Occupying only a third of the plate, the filet was exactly medium-rare and tenderized to my liking, but it was bland and required additional steak sauce for some kick. The salty side of kale failed to complement the main dish and only drove me to drink ample amounts of water.
Luckily, the potato gratin did not fail to impress. A cheesy aroma radiated from the slice of gratin, even though I saved that side for last. The potatoes’ exterior was crunchy and crispy, while the interior remained soft and slightly gooey because of the rich cheese. Although it fulfilled its purpose as a side, it could have stood well as a dish on its own.
There is no question that Hill and Bay uses fresh ingredients. With its young clientele, the restaurant seeks to unite the community for casual conversation. But its price tag would repel any college student. With an immense goal of upholding the restaurant experience in the midst of the neighborhood’s bars, Hill and Bay has much more to improve before it can overcome its environs.
Hill and Bay is located at 581 Second Ave., between 31st and 32nd streets.