Thick, Goopy and Awesome

Just dig in.
Just dig in. // Jennifer Lu

Walking into Heirloom, all my fears are confirmed: The jeans and flannel shirt weren’t sufficient. Hey, it has a collar! Heirloom, a large, dimly lit restaurant with massive windows, exudes refinement and a polite, appropriate amount of warmth. I am nervous.

“Reservation?” the maître d’ asks cheerfully.

“It should be under Stern?”

“Very good,” she replies, with all the pomp of a person twice her years and three times my classiness. “I hope this table in the corner will be OK.”

Actually, it was wonderful! As out of place as I feel in any restaurant other than Subway, the meal was absolutely delightful. The service was fast; the waiter (who didn’t give us his name; weird) was polite and efficient; and the food was delectable.

My first foray into Heirloom’s famous fare was its bread — excellent — served with a horseradish dip — a nice touch. The bread was so good, in fact, that it was hard not to fill up on it. The sophistication of the bread and dip was diminished, somewhat, by the appetizer menu that rested at the bottom of the bread bowl, positively staring into your soul and ordering you to order more just as your hunger is piqued. Thankfully, my stinginess kicked in; crisis averted.

For appetizers, I started with the oddly named “No Cream of Sweet Potato Soup,” a thick, delicious mixture topped with lime, honey, cilantro and spiced peanuts (at a slightly overpriced $10). My roommate, Gordon, who had never tasted kale before, tried the Starlight Farms kale salad, which he described as crisp yet smooth: “A lot like a fine wine, but it’s kale!” It was also a little on the expensive side ($11) — perhaps this was a trend — but it was a sizable salad, complete with hazelnuts, breadcrumbs and ricotta salata.

An appropriate amount of time later, the entrees arrived. My hand-rolled penne ($24) came in a large and nearly overflowing bowl, while Gordon’s wood-roasted salmon ($24; I know, right?) appeared puny and pathetic on its oversized plate. The penne came stuffed with milled tomatoes, garlic, chilies, thyme and quite a lot of walnuts. A frothy, crunchy, garlicy, herby mixture, it was as pleasurable for the palate as it was for the vocabulary. The salmon, too, was quite good, though I can’t reiterate enough how lonely it looked, beached on its small island of quinoa. Nevertheless, the few bites present were remarkably tasty, garnished with radish, Winesap apple (the oddest kind of apple), sugar snaps, pumpkin seeds (ooh, seasonal!) and a carrot ginger vinaigrette.

Dessert arrived just as the restaurant was really filling up. (I guess fancy people eat late?) Anyway, our unnamed server arrived bearing two mason jars filled with sweets. I received the butterscotch pudding, and Gordon sampled the Meyer lemon panna cotta. The pudding was thick, goopy and awesome. It was topped with a small, toasted marshmallow, which stuck to my spoon until pried off with furtive fingers. The pudding itself was like eating a cute, squishy cartoon character — sweet, supple and just a little salty. The lemon shortbread, gelato and curd were also tasty, though a little tart for my taste.

Waiter-man approached with the check and quickly made his escape. Gordon and I remained slumped in our seats, surprisingly full considering the relatively meager portions. Besides, based on the bill in front of us, we deserved to loiter a little.

All in all, Heirloom deserves its sterling reputation. While a tad stuffy and impersonal, it nonetheless provided the food and atmosphere for a fine evening. I left sated, happy and still slightly curious about what the hell a Winesap apple is.

Contact Scott Stern at scott.stern@yale.edu.

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