October 8, 2012
2903 Lyndale Ave S. Minneapolis, MN | www.heidimpls.com
My friends and family find no surprise in my intention to eat my way through all of the food that the Twin Cities has to offer. Being my new home for just over a year, I’ve had the opportunity to dine at many of the cities’ great fine-dining establishments. Continuing on my quest to sample all that the metro has to offer, I found myself in the unique dining room of Heidi’s in Minneapolis.
Very rarely do I find any personal connection to a chef or restaurant when performing my customary research for these posts. In reviewing the history and experience of Stewart Woodman, chef and co-owner of Heidi’s, I discovered that I had dined at one of his previous employers many years ago, while he was working there as a chef. My first true fine-dining experience was at the illustrious Lespinasse in the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. It was my first coat-and-tie dining experience – and while I was far too young to fully appreciate the food (barely 12 years old) – I do recall one particular mushroom dish that to this day resonates strongly in my food memories.
Chef Steward Woodman boasts an impressive resume outside of Lespinasse. He has worked for various chefs in NYC, including such names as Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges. Named as Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine in 2006, Chef Woodman went on to open Heidi’s – named for his wife and business partner – in 2007. Since opening in 2007, Heidi’s has enjoyed much success and its fair share of local and national accolades.
In celebration of Heidi’s 5th year anniversary, Heidi’s is featuring a special 7-course tasting menu highlighting a lineup of their favorite dishes since opening.
We began our dinner with a pre-tasting menu appetizer, a presentation of foie gras torchon. The foie gras was delectably rich and had just the slightest touch of offal minerality. The accompanying elements introduced varying levels of sweet, tangy, and peppery flavors to help balance the foie gras. We enjoyed this dish very much – a fine start to dinner.
The first course of our tasting gave us the fresh, sweet flavors of shrimp and crab married smartly with the refreshing and creamy nature of cilantro and avocado. Cayenne pepper adds welcomed punches of heat alongside the extra-savory flavors of fish sauce. We enjoyed the flavors of the spring rolls with only minor criticism about the lack of crunch or other textural contrast.
Our next course came in a very interesting presentation. A spoonful of smooth, semi-sweet truffle beet sorbet sits perched atop a small metal bracket. Sticks of potato crisps introduce pockets of saltiness to each bite and a desirable crunch. The yuzu gelee is surprisingly potent despite its size, and lends a very refreshing zing to the dish.
Likely one of the softest preparations of beef tongue I’ve ever had, this was an intensely flavored and delicious dish. The strong beefy flavor of the tongue came through wonderfully, contrasted by a vinegar bite from the noodles and the semi-spicy notes from mustard. The sous-vide preparation of the beef tongue transformed the ingredient into something delightfully unexpected. We did find ourselves looking for a textural contrast in this all-soft dish.
The execution of the fried sea bass in this dish was excellent with a nicely crisped exterior and moist, tender, and flaky flesh within. The mussel foam accentuated the sense of the sea from the dish. Parsley and parsnip puree adds another level of sweetness and a light herb touch.
The next course is a vegetarian dish that tastes surprisingly “meaty”, attributed to the use of porcini mushrooms. The pasta, which is made fresh in house, was cooked to a pleasant al dente and served as the perfect vehicle for the strong flavors in the sauce. Mildly sharp cheese adds a slight bite and richness.
Our most anticipated dish of the evening was this presentation of lamb shank. Soft and tender, the lamb shank possessed strong savory flavors. The mixture of wild rice and napa cabbage balances the fattiness of the protein, while the dressing of the dish in a rich jus further elevates its savoriness. The fried rice paper was an interesting textural element, which contributed bursts of spiciness from cayenne pepper.
The final course of the night was surprisingly simple and delicious. We both remarked that the preparation of the donut reminded us precisely of malasadas, a Portuguese donut variation that is very popular back in our home state of Hawaii. The slightly dense batter of the donut is filled with a sweet Bavarian cream and the warm cardamom milk provides a delightful donut-dipping experience.
We ended our meal with a good understanding of Heidi’s cuisine and Chef Woodman’s approach to food. The special anniversary tasting that highlights select dishes from the past was a unique opportunity for us to catch up on 5 years of Heidi’s. There is also a larger, more seasonal tasting menu for which I certainly intend on returning.
Our experience tonight demonstrated the strength of Chef Woodman’s food and showcased why Heidi’s is worthy of being categorized alongside other Twin Cities’ greats like La Belle Vie or Meritage. The foods throughout the meal, save for a couple of minor criticisms, were executed well and provided us with great flavors. While our meal gave us the occasional glimpse into the creative side of Heidi’s, I am curious to sample a few less-conventional items from the regular menu on my next visit.
2903 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408