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My wife & I finally made it out to Heirloom Kitchen on Sunday. It's not exactly around the corner from us, but was well worth the trip. I highly recommend this restaurant. This was one of the best overall dining experiences we have had in NJ. It felt like we were at a friend's home, with an amazing open kitchen. From owner Neilly's professionalism, to the relaxed unrushed atmosphere, to Cynthia (one of the best waitresses in NJ), to chef/'artist' David Viana, to the fantastic Atlantic Records/Motown music, we had an amazing experience. Our waitress Cynthia was fantastic. She was a lot of fun, and described each dish with such detail and enthusiasm that you would think she was chef David's sous chef. She also patiently wrote down the preparations of each dish for me so I can describe them :-) Chef David is a true artist. He puts so much thought into each component of every dish. He is so friendly and approachable too. We shared some wine with him, and talked to him for several minutes. He told us that we looked familiar, and it turned out that he used to work at Table 8 (a great restaurant in Montclair which has been closed for several years. The owner Dimitri went on to later open De Novo at the Belleville Ave. train station in Montclair). He also knew some other owners and waiters and waitresses that we knew. What a small world. A great way to experience the meal is to sit at the chef's counter, where you can watch chef David cook and interact with him, as well as ask him any cooking questions, which he will gladly answer. We did not sit at the chef's table, but requested and received a great round table for 4 with a lazy Susan. We had a nice view of the open kitchen from there (plus there is a mirror over the oven that reflects everything being cooked. Ok. Now onto the amazing food :-)
We started off with an Amuse of fresh strawberry salsa with a pumpkin seed streusel made with Hauser Hill farm strawberries with mint, cilantro, and basil. The streusel was made with ginger, sugar, & flour. It was very refreshing and had a nice crunch to it.
For appetizers we had the 'food dance worthy' scallop dumplings which consisted of caramelized onions with diced dayboat scallops in a super thin and light wonton skin. The dish also contained woodear mushrooms, pea tendrils, crispy wonton strips, with alfalfa sprouts on top. It was topped with a frothy coconut broth (consisting of coconut milk, red chili flakes, & gluten free soy). This appetizer was just ethereal. All of the components worked amazingly well together.
We also had a very tasty lamb tartar, which consisted of finely diced lamb top round seasoned with chef Dave's BBQ spice blend (dried porcini,cayenne, paprika, chili powder, and brown sugar), cured egg yolk that was cured for 10 hours, and buried in paprika, salt, & sugar. It also included a Spanish fingerling salad with smoked fingerling potatoes, shallots, marcona almonds, and house garlic oil. It came with homemade light & crispy crackers that were a perfect vehicle for the lamb tartar.
For entrees I had the superb duck breast. I have read many reviews where everyone was praising the duck breast, & saying that it was the best duck breast they have ever had. I can see why now. The duck breast is slow rendered for 30 minutes on the skin side, so the fat melts away leaving a crispy crusty skin. The dish also contained roasted heirloom carrots with pistachio crumble, trumpet royale mushrooms, and potato puree. It had a scallion sauce and red wine reduction. It was cooked perfectly medium rare with a light crispy & crunchy skin. The pistachio crumble also added some depth to the dish.
My wife had the melt in your mouth surf & turf consisting of a 5 ounce filet mignon cooked rare to medium rare, with shrimp croquettes (wild caught shrimp from South Carolina, with citrus juice, fresh herbs, & panko), farro with smoked South Jersey Beefsteak tomato, roasted green and Goldbar zucchini, and the most incredible romesco sauce that was made with Spanish style bread sauce with red peppers and sherry vinegar.
Needless to say, we booked another reservation in August before we left :-) It is worth the long trip along the Garden State 'Parking Lot'.
I also wanted to add the restaurant is only open for business from Friday through Sunday. During the week they have cooking classes and also sell cooking items for retail.
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