Anthony

January 27, 2018
3853 Route 516
Old Bridge, NJ 08857
  • Opened: 2015
  • Cost: $$$
  • Credit Cards: All Major
  • Alcohol: BYO

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January 27, 2018

Review

An outstanding chef presents seasonal “farm-to-table” fare three days a week at Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, New Jersey.

Chef David Viana (right)

David Viana, born and raised in Elizabeth, NJ, has honed his culinary skills in New Jersey and beyond, working for chefs David Drake, Anthony Bucco, and Michael White, among others, and in prominent kitchens like 11 Madison Park in New York City, and the Michelin-starred Vila Joya on Portugal’s Algarve coast. David’s cooking has earned strong reviews since 2015 when he was Executive Chef of The Kitchen at Grove Station in Jersey City. In 2016, Viana became Executive Chef and Partner, with Neilly Robinson, of Heirloom Kitchen.

Pork Belly @ Heirloom Kitchen

Heirloom Kitchen, a modest space in the shopping center across from the Old Bridge Police Department and municipal offices, serves dinner Friday through  Sunday. During the day, Heirloom is a cooking school and retail store.

There’s not a bad seat in the restaurant – every table has a view of the open kitchen at the center. My wife and I recently snagged a reservation at the chef’s counter – the same kitchen island where Chef Viana and his small team do all the cooking. It was a memorable meal. The burners are just beyond the top of your place setting. You feel the heat shimmering off the pans; you see in real time the quantities of butter that go into the entrees.

Seared Duck Up Close

Viana describes his menus at Heirloom as seasonal “farm-to-table.” Our dishes included grilled octopus with tomatillo and lobster mole, a skate wing with mandarin dashi and fennel miso puree, and a decadent pork belly served with bacon marmalade, peanuts, and a Vietnamese caramel sauce. Viana has a talent for unexpected sweet and savory flavor combinations that complement each other without becoming overpowering, or strange. The contrasting bitter black-charred squash skin and the sweet drizzle of honey in a side dish of roast Kabocha squash is another example.

Kabocha Squash, Apples, Fried Cheese, Honey

The star of the meal for us was a perfectly seared duck breast plated over a coffee “smear,” served with wheat berries, parsnip, dates and granola – a blast of texture to go with the bitter and sweet notes. I’m sure it tasted even better since I had been watching, and smelling, the poultry sizzle slowly, in plenty of butter, for the entire meal.

Viana is a very detail-oriented chef. His plates are carefully composed, right in front of diners’ watchful eyes. Up close, you can also ask questions, which Viana encourages. During the course of our meal, we learned a little about his childhood in Elizabeth, where he “started cooking because he could follow recipes.” Viana told us the prominent rooster tattoo on his left forearm honors the Portuguese ceramic decorations common in his family’s house growing up. He also mentioned some of his favorite Jersey chefs and restaurants – Scott Anderson’s Elements in Princeton, Ehren Ryan’s Common Lot in Millburn.

The kitchen team and servers at Heirloom work seamlessly to deliver attentive, yet unfussy, service. The restaurant is BYO, but offers wines from California’s Domenico Winery.

Among the Jersey chefs and restaurants delivering creative, seasonal  “American” fare in the fine dining category, David Viana and Heirloom Kitchen stand out.

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