No. 6 — Chef Joseph's at the Connoisseur Room
In the category of new restaurant venue that has revitalized a chef’s talents, Chef Joseph’s definitely wins this year’s award. But what chef wouldn’t shine in this clubby, brick-and-mahogany throwback to the mid-century glory days of executive dining? A sleek granite bar behind a brass rail might just inspire you to lounge on a crushed-velvet banquette and enjoy a three-martini lunch. When Joseph Heidenreich’s former employer Agio closed last August, this onetime up-and-coming culinary wizard quickly found a new showcase for his talents, reminding local diners he’s still got plenty of tricks hidden under his toque. Now he’s plating up such dainty jewels as puff pastry empanadas plump with duck and goat cheese and lacquered in a scarlet tomato jam, and crispy stuffed artichoke hearts budding in a pool of red-pepper jelly.
These are the kind of fine touches Heidenreich was known for when he made a splash at Circle Centre’s California Cafe in the mid-’90s, and they have already made customers clamor for owner John Mays to open the restaurant and lounge for dinner Thursday through Saturday. With live music, wine events, and cabaret nights, Chef Joseph’s has restored a bit of the joie de vivre and formality that has been lost in contemporary dining. Think about the last time you dressed up for lunch or made dinner your entire evening’s entertainment. Then head here.
>> SIMILAR TASTES
For the sheer luxury of hotel dining, stop in for a martini and a plate of Dover sole at Turner’s at the Canterbury Hotel (123 S. Illinois St., 634-3000, canter buryhotel.com) > Dine by a stately fireplace with arched windows overlooking Delaware Street at The Villa Inn Restaurant (1456 N. Delaware St., 916-8500, thevillainn.com) > Or
linger over a beggar’s purse or pecan-crusted chicken salad at Kelties (110 S. Union St., Westfield, 867-3525, kelties.com).
>> SIDE STORY: The Cassoulet at Chef Joseph’s
A decadent cassoulet with plenty of locally sourced comestibles came about during a bourbon-tasting in the main bar that was attended by Andy Cochran of Smoking Goose. Chef Joseph Heidenreich consulted with him on the subject of cassoulet and came away with this recipe for a spin on the classic French white-bean dish, with duck confit, bacon from Smoking Goose, and smoked Viking Lamb sausages.
Photos by Tony Valainis.
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.