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Heidi's opens tomorrow, but we already dined there

Heidi and Stewart Woodman are opening Heidi's 2.0 on 1/1/11
Heidi and Stewart Woodman are opening Heidi's 2.0 on 1/1/11

Last February, Heidi's was claimed by fire just hours after chef and owner Stewart Woodman was named one of the Top 20 Chefs in the Midwest by the James Beard Foundation. Luckily for Twin Cities food lovers, the Woodmans weren't about to let a little thing like a restaurant gutted by fire get them down. In August, they announced the location of a new home for the restaurant: the space formerly occupied by Vera's Coffeehouse on Lyndale Avenue. They will fling open the doors on Tuesday January 11, hoping to capitalize on the auspicious symbolism of a 1/11/11 birthday.

The Hot Dish was invited to take a sneak peek at the new restaurant at a press preview dinner on Sunday night. Read on for a look at what to expect from Heidi's redux.

Patrons can watch the culinary magic happen in the open kitchen
Patrons can watch the culinary magic happen in the open kitchen
Mo Perry

The new space is intimate without feeling cramped, and features an open kitchen, viewable from both the bar and the dining room, where diners can watch the chefs at work in their gleaming white uniforms (it's easy to pick out Stewart Woodman in his blacks).

Servers wander the dining room with baskets of bread
Servers wander the dining room with baskets of bread
Mo Perry

Choose from among three types of bread to enjoy before your meal. Choices include a double folded baguette, which tastes like a buttery croissant; a drier bread stick made with chestnut flour; and the simply sliced whole wheat bread, perfect with a slathering of whipped butter.

Mini scallop "juicy bun" with crispy garlic and thyme
Mini scallop "juicy bun" with crispy garlic and thyme
Mo Perry

The menu includes an hors d'oeuvres category full of invitingly priced nibbles to whet your appetite. We tried the scallop, a tender bauble atop a pillow of ravioli ($3), and the caviar cone, local caviar nestled into a puree of potato, wasabi, and creme fraiche, wrapped in an adorable phyllo cone and served with a sliver of grapefruit ($9). Both were exquisite, but the caviar cone is a downright revelation--a tiny, delicate explosion of flavor.

Beets 2.0: beets and feta, carrot buttons and pickled shallot sauce
Beets 2.0: beets and feta, carrot buttons and pickled shallot sauce
Mo Perry

Apart from the Foie Two Way and Shefzilla Surprise, both of which are set at market price, nothing on the appetizer menu tops $10. We tried the oyster bake--baked oysters, grainy mustard sauce, and a delicate mache and frisee salad ($8)--and the beets 2.0, artful mini sandwiches of feta and beets with a brightness that pleased both the eye and the palate ($8).

Seared duck breast and coffee pecan pancake, scallion foam, and lingonberry sauce
Seared duck breast and coffee pecan pancake, scallion foam, and lingonberry sauce
Mo Perry

Staying true to his pledge to offer "four-star food at two-star prices," Woodman doesn't have a single entree priced over $20 on the menu. We feasted on the seared duck breast, an indulgent combination of juicy, fatty, pink meat atop a lightly sweet pancake of coffee and pecan, beautifully presented with dollops of tangy lingonberry sauce ($17), and the lamb shank, anise-scented lamb with melt-on-your-tongue cardamom-spiced jasmine rice and a striking smear of arugula sauce that pulled the whole thing together with just the right amount of bite ($20). We enjoyed a shared side of black truffle pappardelle with our entrees, a simple, flavorful treat that gets all the oomph it needs from butter, chives, and truffles ($9), as well as a glass of Monastrell wine ($9), recommended by our server, which perfectly complemented both the lamb and the duck with its full, lush finish.

Nitro chocolate mousse with roasted marshmallow, peanut butter bliss, and honey
Nitro chocolate mousse with roasted marshmallow, peanut butter bliss, and honey
Mo Perry

Don't expect to find any flourless chocolate torte or cheesecake on this dessert menu. How about some sweet potato beignets with bourbon rice pudding ($7) or nitro chocolate mousse ($9) instead? Or choose from the generous selection of dessert wines, ports, sherries, and cocktails that seem tailor made for post-meal imbibing (like the vanilla cocoa with vanilla vodka, Licor 43, Godiva White Chocolate, cream, salt, and micro-planed pistachios for $9).

This white tangle of branches is the centerpiece of the new restaurant
This white tangle of branches is the centerpiece of the new restaurant
Mo Perry

The decor of the new space is generally muted with touches of whimsy, like the white tree at the center of the dining room and the dangling, red, beaded costume-jewelry chandeliers that slowly evoke a sense of being in a gentle wonderland as the food, wine, service, and ambiance conspire to make you think you must be dreaming.

Heidi's opens to the public tomorrow, 1/11/11, and is now accepting reservations.


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