Heartland, Hiedi's, or Ngon's Entrees?
My folks are coming into town from Portland, Maine, for two nights. Our second night we're going to Alma.
Question is: where to the first night?
I've narrowed it down to three:
1. Heartland. Never been, I'm intrigued by the "Midwestern-ness" of it, but I've heard the goods don't justify the price. True?
2. Heidi's (I realize I've spelled it wrong up top). Went here in the old manifestation, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but not the new building.
3. Ngon. A favorite stand-by for the wife and I, but my parents likely wouldn't get anything off the "traditional" menu, and we've never had the pricier entrees. They like steak and scallop dishes just as much as they like Alma-style cooking, and I like that we wouldn't have to make reservations here, and that it's a stand-by for us (to show them where we go), but, again, we've never had the entrees. Here, or one of the two above?
What say you kind folks?
Went to Hiedi's on Tuesday. We arrived a half-hour early and sat out on the patio for a drink. My dad was a little non-plussed with the color of his ordered gin and tonic, which looked like a Manhattan on account of the house-made tonic, which he described as "weird." I thought it was good, and a pretty cool touch. Forty-five minutes later, and subsequent to the seatings of two parties who had arrived after us, I had to ask about our table, and was promptly seated. Didn't really care for that. The service thereafter, however, was clearly well-trained. Woodman was in the house, constantly referenced by our server as chef ("I love what Chef is doing with the halibut tonight...."), which struck me as a little cultish but oh well. The food was fantastic. Lamb shank, six-spiced, was a show of proper execution and flavoring. A dish to remind you why you might go to a restaurant---I can't cook lamb shanks like this, and I've tried. Duck breast with roasted fennel and cippolinis perfectly executed, as was the trio of appetizers we got: smokin' ravioli, which my dad proclaimed as "superb," the foie terrine and the pappardelle with truffles. The space is great, seating more than comfortably spaced (though I might prefer a little dimming somehow of the light shouting in from the open kitchen, which produced too stark a contrast with the dining room, it seemed to me), the wait-staff is very well-orchestrated in its delivery of things, though the times between dishes stretched to the slightly enervating. We declined dessert for this reason. It was about 9:30 by the time we finished entrees (7:30 reservation.). Overall: would go again in a heartbeat, hoping for a tad quicker pace.
Next night: Alma.
Our server here had the wide-eyed look of the soon-to-be tsunami victim, and seemed surprised by our even being there, requesting of her various things which we desired to eat or drink. It baffled in the way that everyone says it baffles who is not himself from Minnesota and is prepared for the state by a person whose origins are also not of the state but has heard tell of the Minnesota shell which, it is said, one must crack to get at the genuine person beneath. If it is said that one from this great state would love to tell you about their house but probably will not tell you where it is, for fear of you coming over, this woman seemed now to find herself in the position of people being in her house, with no idea how they got there. No small talk, no nonsense, a little passive-aggressive whose passivity is a sort of shield or spacer. But, we weren't there for her, we were there for the food, which did not disappoint. Outstanding: parmesan flan, bison carpaccio (best amalgamation of the night), slow-cooked trout, orrechiette with spicy lamb ragu; lemon shaker pie. Merely good: spring pea and asparagus soup (not very expressive of the season, in fact), the roasted duck with smoked mushrooms (Heidi's was superior). My wife and I went with the three courses, and my parents with two a'la carte; intuitively they gave us all our first dish, then skipped my parents for the second, and then delivered everyone's final dish. This was as it should be, of course, but with the waits between courses again stretching to the room-scanning, (as in, are those our dishes on the counter now?), it was a bit of a mis-step. This may have been caused by our server having, as I saw it, six full four-tops. With the average table getting about 12 dishes, that's 72 dishes she's responsible for, not to mention the wine orders. I see no reason why she has that many tables. Other mis-step, which was surprising given the pedigree of the place, was that the plates were not warmed, which made for quickly cooling entrees. My first bite of trout was room-temp.
But, outstanding, impressive food.
Between the two, I think I'd be more inclined to go back to Heidi's sooner. Maybe it's because it feels a bit more casual but the food is superb, at lower prices. Alma feels like a once every four months type place. The menu is more involved, but so is the pocketbook.
Anyways--both these places had us thankful to be in such a great food environment, and very happy to be a part of this community.
I agree with Kevin. Heartland and Ngon are solid choices, but Heidi's is head and shoulders above both of them. (I'd pick Heidi's over Alma too.)
But if you're already going to Alma, do you want two highest end meals? I'd consider Ngon because it is something a little different (and different from what's in Portland as well).
re: bob s
re: bob s
I think bob's point is a good one-- one "posh American" dinner might be enough for the trip. If that's not the case, then sure, Heidi's is probably a good call (I've never been, and never will go, but people certainly agree that the food is good). But otherwise, I think Ngon is a solid choice.