For my birthday and Mother's Day my son and his wife gave me dinner at my choice of restaurants. As I was to be laid up for a while following hip surgery, I asked them if we could roll my birthday and Mother's Day gift into one and they suggested going to Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, NJ. My son recommended that we sit at the chef's counter for dinner which would afford us a view of the meal preparation and interaction with the chefs.
Neilly Robinson is the founder/partner/general manager of Heirloom Kitchen. Neilly is an accomplished baker and prepares breads daily for the dining room. Neilly's partner and Heirloom's executive chef is David Viana. The menu for this restaurant is driven by seasonal ingredients by a chef who gives his interpretation of American cooking. Chef Viana is a 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist.
We were lucky to get a reservation the Sunday before my surgery. Chef Viana is on a culinary tour and guest chef Ron Santello was at the helm along with Chef Kathleen. The restaurant wasn't too busy that evening and we had a wonderful seat at the corner next to the kitchen pass. My son ordered me an Agua Fresca of the Day ($6) which was made with fresh strawberries, mint and a dash of gin (remember hip surgery was in three days). It was a little tart from the strawberries, had a nice effervescence from the sparkling water and was most refreshing. The kitchen sent out an amuse bouche of fried beet chip topped goat cheese, delicious.
For appetizers we had mussels in a coconut broth, on a bed of mashed potatoes with orange segments, macadamia nut and kimchi vinaigrette ($15). The mussels were fabulous. It was a nice change from the norm. The presentation was lovely and the coconut broth as very flavorful; a delicious a dish. For the second appetizer we had the curried soft shell crab with celery root, chopped peanuts with a chili and Vietnamese caramel sauce ($16). The crabs were nice and crunchy, the sauce really enhanced the crabs and the plate was decorated nicely with micro greens, some I've never even heard of.
My son knew what his entree would be as soon as we had the reservation. He was dying to have the duck breast served with sweet sesame polenta, duck confit, carrots, sugar and snap peas, topped with some duck breast wrapped in cabbage and duck jus ($37). He absolutely loved the it. He had it the previous time he and his wife came and it didn't disappoint. My dinner selection was Halibut with crispy crab, asparagus, with truffle gribiche and pickled morel mushrooms ($38). The presentation and combination of flavors were wonderful. The fish was moist and buttery in texture. The accompaniments brought the dish to the next level. We also had two side orders, as if we hadn't enough food. We order two side dishes which were heavenly. We had the roasted baby bok chop with cashew pesto, crispy shallots and sesame seeds ($9). Since having baby bok choy at a local restaurant in Belmar, I've come to enjoy this vegetable. The preparation was different with the cashew pesto, the crispy shallots gave the dish texture and a bit of crunch along with the sesame seeds. The other side dish we had was rainbow potatoes with Caputo Brothers curds, herbs and lemon ($10). The potatoes were over the top! Roasted and then a drizzle of the curds made these potatoes something you would want to eat alone. Who would ever think of drizzling mozzarella curd over hot roasted potatoes, not me.
Of course, you couldn't end a meal at Heirloom Kitchen without having dessert. As full as we were, we made room for the decadent dark chocolate panna cotta with mango, passion fruit, black sesame seed and cremeux ($12).
The richness of the chocolate panna cotta was intense, the mango and passion fruit reductions decorated the plate. The fruit flavors help cut through the richness of the chocolate. We also ordered the peaches and shortcake with osmanthus (I had to look this up, it's a tea), goji berry, sweet rice and jasmine ($12); it was sublime.
Price wise, Heirloom is no more expensive than other upscale restaurants I've been to in my local neighborhood or Manhattan. The execution, presentation and quality of the food is outstanding. It's amazing to think that right here in New Jersey there were three chefs named as a James Beard award semifinalist in the Mid-Atlantic region. I for one can't wait to bring my husband here for his birthday in August.
A former teacher, shop-a-holic, empty-nester redefining quick, family approved dinners.