(516) 686-6633, Glen Head
Kent Monkan, one of the Island’s most gifted and underrated chefs, provides simple, rustic eating at his new Heirloom Tavern in Glen Head. Although his menu lacks culinary pyrotechnics, it does deliver dynamic flavors at largely affordable prices. Aside from its bite-sized bar plates ($6), its fare is full bodied and generously portioned.
Monkan’s current venture at the Glen Head Railroad Station, where Fork & Vine had been, is a cozy, convivial venue with a vintage dark wood bar up front illuminated by pale yellow drop lighting. Its narrow, mirrored dining room, with snug seating, candles, paper-over-cloth tables, leather banquettes and black industrial ceiling, was understandably packed during a visit in the early going. Unfortunately at such times its mellow, upbeat milieu is often derailed by the clamor of piercing noise (absorbent fabric over the hard surfaces could be useful).
Monkan, best known for his efforts at The Brass Rail in Locust Valley, an exceptional restaurant he has operated for some years, calls his new digs an American gastropub. The first sign here is a good one. It’s his warm, crusty, rough-hewn peasant bread. The menu choices feature a batch of small plates ($12), bar plates ($6), salads ($8) and soups ($7), traditional starters, entrées ($15 to $33) and dessert ($8).
Most, not all, of the bar plates are trifles and barely sufficient for four diners to get more than a tiny bite of each. Yet they did serve as a tease that encouraged us to order more substantial dishes. Only a portion of plump, rustic veal meatballs offered easy sharing, yet the pork cheek steamed bun boasted a perfect ratio of meat to bun and the rarely encountered crisp, browned chicken fried steak slider was true to its Southern roots. Two more generously portioned soups, a snappy seafood gumbo and a thick, tasty, substantive black and white bean purée, hit the spot.
Among the small plates, four soft buttery Wagyu beef skewers were boosted by their sesame and spicy grilled surfaces and the thumb-sized sweet and sour veal short ribs yielded plenty of meat.
The only main course sampled was a soup bowl-sized serving of fettuccine lobster carbonara ($24) studded with gobs of bacon, peas, arugula and plenty of lobster shards. Its parmesan cream sauce was rich without being overwhelming.
The last bites were among the best. A gooey, deeply chocolate mash of flourless chocolate cake, chocolate sauce and vanilla gelato and another soup bowl-sized portion, this one of banana nut bread circled by caramelized bananas and drenched in spiced rum and melting vanilla gelato.
Photos by Stephen Lang