Finally made it to Bliss (in Sunnyside, on the corner of 46th [Bliss] Street and Skillman Ave.)
It's an unusual restaurant for the neighborhood--a slightly upscale yet homey bistro-like place, serving French and American food 'with a twist'. (At least that's how I would describe it if I were their publicist).
We had a special appetizer: "lobster roll with warm potato salad". The lobster roll was much the sort of thing you might find in Maine, except this version was about the size of half a Twinkie and cost $9. It tasted good from the first bite to the..uh..second. The warm potato salad was made of those bland-yet-pretty blue potatoes and small pieces of bacon, and tasted mealy and damp. I think the dressing could have been a little perkier.
We also got a salad of endive, frisee, stilton, walnuts and bacon. It seemed to have been assembled in a ring mold as it came in the shape of a disk. The greens lay on top while the other ingredients were segregated at the bottom of the disk in a sort of chopped hash. The presentation was a little fussy and odd, but it tasted fine, once you mixed it together.
The entrees were both disappointments. Penne with goat cheese was not well-integrated. The cheese congealed into a few large gooey clumps, while the other ingredients (whole, raw cherry tomatoes, pale-tasting sticks of squash, bits of bacon and sage, flabby pasta) sat in an oily film, not interacting with each other.
The short rib special--three Flintstones-sized slabs--were beautifully burnished and impressive, but tasted washed out, as though they had been braised in water or some other diluting liquid. And they contained huge globs of fat. Unlike pork or duck fat, I don't think beef fat is very appetizing on its own, and really should have been mostly rendered out of the meat during the braising process. The ribs were served on a bed of swiss chard, which tasted good, but was stringy, tough, and unwieldy to eat. Maybe they should have chopped it into smaller pieces.
Dessert was probably the high point. A substantial cube of bread pudding with fennel seed, sour cherries and pine nuts. Warm and moist within, browned and crispy on top, with an interesting combination of flavors. I could imagine returning to Bliss just for this dish.
The space is attractive and refreshingly un-cramped (they could easily fit in a few more tables, and it's nice that they haven't). Service is attentive, but disorganized, and our waiter was chilly and abrupt that night, which probably isn't good for a restaurant that's trying to be homey and neighborhoodsy and is otherwise very warm and inviting.
This place clearly has some culinary ambitions (one of the specials was lobster poached in beurre blanc), but some of the dishes seem like interesting concepts that aren't executed thoroughly or with enough consideration for how they actually taste.
It's not a fair comparison, but I couldn't help thinking, as the $100+ check arrived, of how many superb cheeseburgers could have been enjoyed at Donovan's in Woodside for the same amount of money (quite a few).
I'm curious to see how they evolve and (hopefully) improve.