Heritage Food and Wine is the newest entry into Omaha’s dining scene, opening in December 2014 in the former Zin Room space at the Hotel Deco. With a staff made up of vets from mainstays of the Omaha dining scene like Hiro 88, The Boiler Room, Grey Plume, Dante’s and V. Mertz, the culinary chops are sure to attract fans of these restaurants. We had the opportunity to attend the soft opening back in December and while we found the experience quite disappointing due to some major service screw ups, we decided to give it another try after they had the opportunity to iron out some of the wrinkles.
The real star of both of our visits was the beverage program, with the cocktails absolutely fantastic, with interesting creative flavors, sharp presentations and a very nice variety. There is a menu which will change with seasonal availability, a classics section and a house standards section. We tried a number of the cocktails from each section and found all of them to be consistently good. Our favorites were the “Building An Empire” and “A Day with Harriet.” The Building An Empire was an absolute hit and one that we hope they move off the seasonal menu to the permanent menu, as its interesting combination of honey, leeks and ginger gives the drink a rich aroma that changes as the drink warms. The Day with Harriet was a very striking drink, served nearly crystal clear, the creole shrub and peach bitters giving a crisp fruity tartness that was very refreshing.
Heritage also offers an extensive wine cellar and has a certified sommelier on staff in GM Chris Walter to assist diners in finding the perfect wine to pair with your meal. The large wine cellar is prominently featured in the main dining room giving a very elegant upscale feeling to the space. The main dining area has high open ceilings and large cylindrical lighting fixtures giving the space a wide open modern feeling. The lighting tends to be on the dim side with small puddles of warm light sprinkled about the dining area, making Heritage a good place for a romantic dinner. An upper mezzanine gives them an area for large parties or overflow when the main room gets full.
One of the new trends in dining is serving dishes family style without the traditional course order, allowing the diners to share plates and make the experience more social. In both of the restaurants we have experienced this, Heritage and Jose Andre’s Bazaar Meat in Las Vegas, the dishes come out as they are completed by the kitchen, giving the experience a bit of a randomness that differentiates it from the classic coursed dining experience. Eschewing the traditional categories, the menu at Heritage reflects this philosophy as the menu is divided up into separate categories, Coop, Pasture, Sea, Garden and Cave, with each category reflecting the origins of the type of food. While this gives the dinner the ability to have a varied dining experience, we found that it can lead to some awkward moments when a side comes out after an entree, leaving the patron with an experience that can feel unpolished.
Our first dish we tried was the Foie Gras. The foie comes served cold, placed on top of a milk jam reminiscent of caramel sauce. Real maraschino cherries (not the fake colored red ones) placed around the plate gave a complimentary tart bite to balance out the richness of the foie. Accompanying the foie were housemade biscuits. The biscuits are made with lard, giving them a nice flavor, but they were not as flaky and tender as we expected.
The Grilled Endive Salad was by far our favorite savory dish that we tried, the varied textures and flavors all were spot on, and the dish left us wanting more. The smoky grilled endives served as base for a delicious combination of dried apple chips, yogurt vinaigrette, and blue cheese croquettes. The Blue cheese croquettes were amazing, the hot melted blue cheese was tangy and creamy, like some kind of fantastic adult fried cheese sticks. If it would have been possible, we would have ordered and eaten an entire bowl of these. The sweet dried apple chips and smooth yogurt vinaigrette added to the tartness of the blue cheese and provided a range of textures with each bite.
The Bone Marrow is a dish that we tried on both visits, as the kitchen had made changes to the recipe in between times. Served in a hot cast iron dish, rye and challah bread, caramelized onions and fresh parsley is soaked in the bone marrow. Similar to a traditional stuffing you might find served at Thanksgiving, the marrow gives a deep beefy richness, while fresh parsley gives the dish a nice herbaceous aroma. Fresh house made crackers had a great flavor and a nice crisp crunch that stood up well to the dipping. Overall we felt the flavors were good, the dish still missed the mark as it felt a bit heavy and dense, especially when compared with other bone marrow dishes we have had. This style of bone marrow may be a bit more approachable to folks as it does hide the marrow in the dish and isn’t quite as in your face as a roasted bare bone.
Our final entree was the Duck Breast. The beautifully cooked duck breast comes swimming in a pool of creamed kale and Gruyere cheese. Served a perfect medium rare, the duck was fork tender, a dusting of espresso powder giving a nice bitter note that enhanced the fattiness of the duck and the creamy nuttiness of the Gruyere. Normally we are not big fans of kale, but Mr. Nom found the creamed kale to be quite tasty. This dish was very well executed and one we would recommend to anyone dining at Heritage.
We finished with the Baked Alaska (aka the Baked Nebraska as the staff calls it,) a delicious looking mound of goodness. Carrot cake is topped with a caraway ice cream and encased in a meringue that was beautifully torched. The carrot cake was firm, reminiscent of a carrot bar and provided a solid base for the ice cream. The caraway ice cream had a creaminess with a slight spicy flavor that hinted at an anise flavor which kept the ice cream from being overly sweet. We received from our server, Angela (who is also the assistant manager and sommelier in training), 2 glasses of complimentary sherry, which had aspects of date and raisin, which played well with the carrot cake.
Heritage Food And Wine
Atmosphere: 3.5/5 -The main dining room is warm and inviting, the lighting setting a romantic mood. The upstairs mezzanine feels a little unpolished and industrial but would be good for a big party. Overall it feels a little more casual than places like V. Mertz or the Boiler Room, but still ritzy enough for a nice romantic date night.
Service: 4/5 – Angela our server was attentive, very knowledgeable and personable and other servers stopped by to ensure that the meal was going well. This was a significant difference from our experience at the soft opening, but I would expect that those issues have been resolved. Plan on spending a bit of time for dinner, as the pacing between dishes seemed a bit long. If it had been a bit quicker we likely would have ordered another course.
Taste: 3.5/5 – The duck and the endive dishes were fantastic with flavor and texture combinations that engaged the diner. There were a couple of misses with the bone marrow and the house biscuits but overall the dishes were very good.
Value: 3/5 – Portions were nice sized and the cocktail prices seemed in line with the quality of the drinks.
Overall: 3.5/5 – With a bar program like this, Heritage is worth visiting for the cocktails alone, and when you add in the good food, Heritage is a solid addition to the Omaha dining scene.
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