Feb 202011

Cuisine: American, Fine-Dining
Restaurant Features: Bar, Farm-Direct, Locally Sourced, Market, Tasting Menu
Location: St Paul, MN (Lowertown)
Address: 289 East 5th Street St Paul, MN 55101 651-699-3536
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 5:00pm  last seatingat 9:30pm
Links: Heartland Restaurant Website * Heartland on Facebook * Google Map
Atmosphere: Heartland is now located in Lowertown St Paul, in a large warehouse-style building overlooking the St Paul Farmer’s Market.  The space is divided into two levels, the upper level has two dining spaces, the lower level is the home of the Farm Direct Market where you can buy local and regionally sourced produce and meats.

The dining space is a wide and open, with extra tall ceilings.  Most tables are spaced far enough apart that you never feel crowded even on a busy night (which it always is at Heartland).

Menu: The theme of Heartland is that it is Midwestern Cuisine, with all items being locally sourced.  For this reason, the menu is always changing.

Here is an example of the menu: (actual menu from February 11, 2011)

Fauna Tasting Menu: 1st course Bison Liver with Caramelized Onions, 2nd Wild Boar Roast over Barley,  3rd Spiced Duck Egg Pot-de-Creme

Flora Tasting Menu: 1st Frisee with Walnut Croutons, 2nd Golden Potato Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms, 3rd Chocolate Peca Tart with Honey Cherry Ice Cream

Small Plate options include Squash-Root Vegetable Cream Soup, Braised Bison in Broth, Chick Pea Salad, Cress with Caramelized Pearl Onions, Pork Cracklings with Fingerling Potatoes, Pork Rillettes with Blue Cornbread, Duck Breast Prosciutto, Wild Boar Liver Terrine with Nuts and Fruits, and Smoked Roast Bison.

Large Plates include Walleye with Mashed Sunchokes, Chicken Breast with Potato Puree and Crimini Mushrooms, Pheasant Breast with Weinkraut, Cassoulet with Kielbasa, Bison and Duck Leg, Lamb Chops with Fingerling Potatoes and Apple Cider Kraut, and Bison Ribeye with Turnips.

Side Plates that are offered include Roasted beets, Sunchokes, Sweet & Sour Cabbage, and Red Potatoes with Smoked Chili Pepper Aioli. $8

Cheese and Pastry plates include the midwestern Artisan Cheese Sampler with Fruit Chutney and Crackers, Spiced Duck Egg Pot De Creme with Cumin Cookie, Pear-Pumpkinseed Tart with Hazelnut, and the Chocolate Pecan Tart with Chestnut Honey-Cherry Ice Cream.

Price guide: Cheese & Pastry Plates $10-14 Small Plates $10-16  Large Plates $ 24-34  Tasting Menu $30/40

What we ordered: We started with cocktails and wine.  I ordered a bottle of Green & Red, a lovely red zin which I drank almost completely to myself.  I was celebrating my birthday!

One of my companions ordered the Norwegian Ginger, a very fresh and spicy drink made with real ginger root.  It was strong and delicious!

Another companion ordered a Dirty Martini, a classic.

Shortly after we ordered one of the wait staff came around with a basket of rolls, offering a choice of either Semolina Buckwheat or Sourdough.  I tried the wheat, which was crusty on the outside, soft and slightly warm inside.

Before the starter course we were brought these complimentary small plates with a potato crisps, hummus and chopped root vegetables with a sprig of cilantro.  Very good, I could have eaten many of these ;)

There were many appetizing choices on the menu this night but I decided to go with the Fauna Tasting Menu (3 courses for $40), which one of my companions also ordered. The first course was bison liver in sweet & sour chicken consomme broth with caramelized onions, and Mangalitsa pork bacon.  When I ordered the tasting menu I didn’t realize it included liver, which I had not been a fan of in the past.  One bite of this creation by Lenny Russo and I quickly changed my mind! The texture of the liver was very tender and it lacked the irony flavor that you find with beef liver.  The caramelized onions gave it a sweetness and the bacon gave it a smokey crunch.  It is true, bacon makes everything better! My companion who also ordered this declared it the best liver and onions ever made.

The main course was the Roasted Wild Boar.  The meat was tender and lean, three slices served over cooked barley in a blackberry walnut glace de viande.  The sauce was a rich but sweet, boiled down from the meat stock, blackberries and walnuts,with a hint of sherry.  This was good but wasn’t very exciting.

The dessert course was a black-pepper spiced duck egg pot de ceme with a cumin cookie and passion fruit puree.  This rich, velvety custard made from duck egg had a smooth, creamy texture reminding me more of a pudding than a custard.  It had a hint of vanilla and the black pepper it was spiced with, topped with crunchy glazed pecans.  I enjoyed it very much! The cumin cookie was a little strange, but I did like the passion fruit curd, a sweet mix of beaten egg yolks, fruit and sugar.  The server brought out complimentary flutes of sweet champagne with our dessert in celebration of my birthday.  That was a very nice touch!

For the main course one of my companions ordered the Bison Ribeye which came with a winter squash fondant, turnips and foie gras butter.  This steak was lean and delicious, slightly more tendinous than beef ribeye but rich in flavor, especially with the foie gras butter melting over the top.

Another companion ordered the Walleye with mashed sunchokes, mushrooms and a crayfish cream sauce.  This was one of the highlights of our meal at Heartland that evening.  The walleye had been flown in that same day from Lake of the Woods so it was fresh as can be.  The mushrooms were delicious and extremely flavorful from the herbs and wine they were sauteed in, the mashed sunchokes were also a nice change of pace from the usual potato.  The dish was accompanied by a crayfish cream sauce.

Service:  We had made reservations for pur Friday night visit a few weeks ahead of time, as it is very difficult to get in without a reservation on the weekend.  It was late enough at night that we were able to park on the street without paying.  The hostess was pleasant upon our arrival and brought us right to our table after offering to check our coats.  When ordering drinks we were given the option of premium bottled water, or choose from a select list of cocktails and beverages.  Our server was attentive and helpful with ordering, and food was appropriately paced for each course.  The complimentary champagne was a great touch.

Overall Impression: I had been wanting to try Heartland for a few years now and I am glad I finally did.  I love that everything is locally sourced; Chef Lenny Russo truly does a beautiful job of highlighting foods that are native to our region and presenting them in a unique way.

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