2903 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-3512, heidismpls.com
Finally, someone figured out what to do with fine dining since the economic meltdown of 2008. In the years since, we have endured the quirkiness of too many chefs-as-waiters, experienced the gamut from hyper-global to macro-local, and suffered many a novel restaurant “concept” that seemed more like the safest shortcut to a diner’s pocket. Heidi’s demonstrates that there is no substitution for knowledge, hard work, and beyond-fair pricing paired with a catalytic marketing strategy. To dine at Heidi’s is to remember all that is pleasurable about dining; its foundations are built on the solid ground of thoughtful service and flawless cooking technique.
Retooled for 2011, the service standards at Heidi’s are among the best in the Twin Cities right now. Our waiter was attentive without being clingy, and the very presence of a sommelier notes a commitment to the wine program, which offers clever selections that heighten each paired course. The service staff playbook should be the envy of others—soft in step and knowledgeable in preparation (our waiter even knew the cooking temperatures and durations). And the staff employed the appropriate silver and glassware—a touch all too often forgotten these days. Imagine my tears of joy at seeing a notched fish knife reset for the salmon dish.
The clearly written menu offers an appropriate amount of choices, portions, and price points. From the hors d’oeuvres menu, the caviar is a journey worth taking. If Fabergé made food, it would look like this delicate savory ice cream cone. The fish roe is squeaky clean, unlike the aquarium-gravel flavor common to local caviar. The roe texture snaps with brine, livening up the rich, earthy cream filling, finishing with bright grapefruit aroma—a plush play on muted tones of salt, fat, and citrus balanced in a flourless crunchy cone. It’s so well constructed that, when paired with the Alois Lageder pinot grigio, it “evokes the fifth sense” that Chef Stewart Woodman says is his aim in creation. I was eating local fish eggs, but a northern Atlantic vacation was what I tasted.
Ever wanted to eat tongue? Heidi’s is the place to start. Risking eight quarters (yes, it costs a whopping $2) for the tenderest, melt-in-your-mouth beef is a safe bet on trying something new.
The Shefzilla Surprise, a nightly “chef’s choice” from the appetizer menu, is a bit of performance art mixed with a good amount of trust. On one night, the offering was a coconut sauce as cozy as a cashmere sweater enrobing delicate coral-colored shrimp “noodles.” Upon probing the parenthetical, I learned that it was shrimp stock that had evolved into those noodles—a delicious labor of love. The braised pork “steak”(sans beef), cooked in pancetta, rolled, and sauced, was a warming delight, and the top touch of plum mousse was sexy sweet. The rich and fruity quenelle ratcheted this dish up from good to stunning, and the play on temperatures was fun and interactive.
Not being a big fan of tofu, I was shocked down to my carnivore bones that this was my favorite dish of the entrees tasted. Imagine the best cannoli you’ve ever eaten, and that will put you somewhat near the savory craftsmanship and flavor profile of this dish. Trying this tofu is like eating fresh pasta for the first time: “Oooooh, this is what it’s supposed to taste like.” What starts as hand-shucked soybeans receives classic Japanese fermentation treatment, becoming something silky and sublime. I savored it with Hirsch Gruner Veltliner #1, arguably the coolest wine pairing.
Just then, that thing happened—the thing that all diners are chasing and that Heidi’s seems to have in hand: the moment when a meal becomes an experience to remember. I surveyed the room and saw everyone else having the same experience. One diner clapped as the dome was lifted off her Shefzilla Surprise, and another oohed and ahhed over the pineapple dessert. Meanwhile, tables were being cleared and reset with elegant Shlotz Vesal glasses, and I wondered: If you weren’t looking for it, might you miss the precision and intelligence of this restaurant?
Truth be told, I am not wooed by Woodman’s umbraging alter ego, Shefzilla. In fact, I had frank talks with Woodman prior to my night at Heidi’s. I intrusively poked and prodded to find the merit behind the big mouth. Why was there a noticeable lack of acidity in the menu? “Fuller. Bigger. Mouthfeel. Sweeter and sultry fats,” Woodman informed me. Why the uneatable charred orange garnish on the beautiful salmon cassoulet? “Because I like the aromatics,” he said as we continued discussing and debating, which seems to be an integral part of this really great restaurant experience.
Marianne’s rating: 91.5 See Heidi’s RestaurantRater score at mspmag.com.
3 Great Plates ...
1. Black Truffle Pappardelle No ordinary side dish, this big, fat, ribbony fresh pasta is scented with black truffle. Move over mash, we've met a better starchy match.
2 Foie Two Ways You get crisp, salty sear on one hand and sweet, creamy, cool terrine on the other. Pair with the Feuillate Brut Champagne.
3 Pineapple Napoleon A one-way ticket to an early spring afternoon. The vibrant basil extract punches up a traditional tropical banana-pineapple flavor combination.