The concept of this place is Japanese minimalism at its finest. No host. One bar. One offering. Hand rolls. Okay, so they have other things, but not many. It’s really intended to be all about the hand rolls and let me just say, mission accomplished. And not the George W. Bush bullshit kind of accomplished that leads to a twenty-year war and occupancy. I mean done and done. Fresh fish. Crispy kelp. Booyah!
So here’s how it works; when you enter, walk to the outer corral and wait in the queue for a spot at the bar (maybe peruse a menu on the wall while you’re there). Once the number of seats at the bar opens for your party, you sit down and order either a set meal (e.g. 3pc, 5pc, etc.) or you can go a la carte. I went with the six piecer and there wasn’t a single miss. Toro, salmon, yellowtail, crab, bay scallop and lobster. All on point and priced pretty darn reasonably for Manhattan.
I know a lot of people swear by this farm-to-table paragon of the Midwest, including James Beard, but I gotta say, just because you source your grub from a farm doesn’t give you an automatic pass to the promised land. That’s only the first step. That’d be like invading a country in the Middle East and claiming “mission accomplished” before ever establishing any semblance of security or control over the region. And it’s steps 2 through 10 that Heartland can’t seem to figure out. So many misses abound at this place, starting with the crowd at the bar as you enter. So casual, you’d think you were at a pub, but round the corner and you’re in an atmosphere clearly intended to be seen as an upscale dining experience. And I don’t want to break Heartland’s heart, but they don’t do either end of the spectrum well.
My escabeche appetizer was crazy fishy, over salty and borderline inedible, the rosemary dessert wasn’t even worth the calories and the only thing that was even remotely worth chewing was my entrée, some fish with bacon in the preparation- but having to pull the ole bacon trump card just to get a nod isn’t exactly my idea of culinary mastery. That said, if you want to know what is, head to Spoon & Stable. It’s worth the drive… Even from Chicago.