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Chestnut Hill Restaurant Review: Chef Al Paris' Heirloom

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Deepwater halibut persillade. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)
At Chestnut Hill’s Heirloom, chef Al Paris parlays a collection of quintessentially American recipes, some a century old. So it’s good he knows a thing or two in the kitchen.

Raised on Germantown Avenue, Paris has been immersed in the restaurant industry since 1969, a journey that’s included stints at various esteemed kitchens in Philadelphia, including Mantra Asian Pub and Zanzibar Blue. A significant stay in California wine country inspired the décor for Heirloom, a 44-seat bistro with rustic touches like burlap curtains, mason-jar chandeliers, a hand-stacked wall of Pennsylvania bluestone, and a 12-seat communal table made from a butcher block.

Paris’ obsession with turn-of-the-century cooking was obvious the second the warm baskets of pocket buns hit our cinnamon-colored table. Seasonality abounds on the menu. During summer, creamy, plump burrata crowns a tricolored cherry-tomato plate. In the colder months, it’s layered atop a firm fried green tomato and paired with roasted peppers, charred Vidalia and capers.

The chef’s fondness for Berkshire pork was embodied in our melt-in-your-mouth pig cheeks, coupled with candied pork belly and petite sides of apple strudel and sweet-potato gratin. The American redfish—over jumbo lump crabmeat and accented with tomato-cider fond and an airy parsnip cake—offered the ideal balance of vibrancy and density.

Paris makes it a point to come around to every table. The uncomplicated gesture suits his buoyancy, and it makes you feel like an old friend on your first visit. But it’s the food that’ll keep you coming back.

8705 Germantown Ave., Chestnut Hill; (215) 242-2700, heirloomdining.com.

Read more about Heirloom in February 2013‘s Best BYOBs feature.

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