I'm not going to be the 50th person to write something about how Richmond is transforming into an exciting food city. I couldn't hope to articulate that point better than some of the professionals that have done so before me. But I will say that I agree whole-heartedly. Richmond has seen a number of excellent restaurants open up and stick around over the past couple of years, and more are on the way. Valerie and I were fortunate enough to eat our anniversary dinner at the latest: Heritage.
Now we actually attended the soft opening on Friday of last week (9/28/2012), but the passed hors d'œuvre were just a preview of the full dinner menu. Let me tell you, the opening menu is full of promise and dishes that seem just right for autumn (particularly the squash soup, risotto, or half chicken). When we dined on Tuesday for the official opening, we sampled a number of courses across all parts of the menu (and plenty of cocktails, too) and found strong cause to return often in the future. Heritage may have just opened, but they really hit a home run with their food, beverage, and service.
Our cab showed up 15 minutes early so we arrived well in advance of our reservation, but that wouldn't have mattered; opening on a Tuesday night meant that the dining room wasn't really full at 6:25 (though it was at about 2/3 capacity by the time we finished up at the bar). We started with a cocktail hour sitting at Mattias' bar and enjoyed what we already knew to be some of the best drinks in town. Mattias Hägglund is one of the owners (along with his sister Emilia Sparatta and her husband Joe - the chef), and we'd experienced his mixology at Comfort and the first spoon. pop-up restaurant. His list of house cocktails for Heritage keeps up the good work with some classic American cocktails and delicious originals. I should also point out that the beer and wine lists look great, too. I may have to make a special return trip just for a pint...
With cocktails in our stomachs we sat down at a table for our dinner and took it in rounds with breaks in between. The menu is split into three sections based on the amount of food - small, medium, and large - and we began with an order of the pork "fries" from the small plates. Made from smoked and shredded pork rolled in potato flour and panko break crumbs, these deep-fried goodies are almost cartoonishly indulgent. But then you dip it in what I can only assume is a house-made barbecue sauce and take a bite, and you just want more. These were a highlight of the meal, even at the opening. We sampled some other dishes from the medium and large plate sections of the menu interspersed with more cocktails. The gnocchi are just right, and they were served with a fascinating onion "butter", apple, bacon, thyme, and parmesan. And the flounder from the large plates has this creative and delicious crust made from brown butter and toasted powdered milk.
Oh yeah - they have dessert, too. "Only three for now" Joe told me, but that's no concern when one of them is the "chocolate cube" with coffee crumble and bourbon dolce de leche. There were actually two cubes on the plate (perfect for sharing, and about 1.5 inches on a side), and the texture was somewhere between ganache and a stiff mousse. Rich, delicous, and the perfect portion size.
I can't finish this little write-up without talking about the space, too. Heritage is in the old Six Burner location, at the corner of Main and Vine, which closed last month before transforming into the current incarnation. It would have been easy to simply change the logo and some table cloths and reopen as is - Six Burner was American fine dining, after all. But in less than a month the new owners transformed the interior into a more open and bright space. New casework, some new paint, and the removal of some of the old seating all help to make the dining room feel a bit more comfortable than its previous incarnation. It wasn't really bad before, but I think the changes are, generally speaking, improvements.
Valerie and I left having enjoyed a terrific meal, and I can't wait to go back. I just might need to get there early so I can get a seat, because I think Heritage is going to be very popular very soon.