Kent Monkan has doubled-down on gastropubs.
Heirloom Tavern is the newest from the chef who polished The Brass Rail in Locust Valley. It's situated in the compact former home of fork & vine and, before that, On3, at the Glen Head railroad station.
When the bar fills, reaching your table may require elbow-to-elbow navigation. Mirrors make the joint seem a bit larger, but you'd have to add smoke to complete the effect. Still, the refurbished restaurant is brighter and warmer than any of its predecessors.
The spotlight is on Monkan's clever creations and adaptations, which build on the full-flavored, unpretentious fare he sent out at his original Heirloom, which resided on Forest Avenue before The Brass Rail; and the departed Panama Hatties of Huntington Station, where he was chef de cuisine.
Basically, you can eat very well following the Huntington native around Long Island.
That starts with his gilding of a Roman classic, pasta alla carbonara. He enriches fettuccine with tender lobster meat, arugula and peas, as well as bacon and "Parmesan cream." It's delicious. Coming close is strozzapreti Bolognese, the "priest stranglers" similar to stretched-out cavatelli, in a savory meat sauce.
Monkan also stars with a juicy Berkshire pork chop, finished in sherry vinegar sauce; and a Painted Hills strip steak au poivre, with both tenderness and bite. The pan-roasted duck breast, accented with Grand Marnier; and crab-crusted black bass, glistening from citrus beurre blanc, are nearly their equals.
Before you get to these main courses, however, consider Monkan's small plates, salads and sandwiches. Tempura-style bay scallops, nutty, sweet and crisp, arrive with spicy aioli and garlic sauce. Endive salad becomes a staple courtesy of bacon, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and a Port wine vinaigrette. Roasted beets find their now-familiar partner, goat cheese, and spiced almonds, lavender honey and balsamic vinegar, for a satisfying alternative. You can come here for a generous meatball hero, too.
Lesser dishes: prettily yin-yang but underseasoned black-and-white bean soup; a chewy chicken-fried steak slider; bland smoked chicken quesadilla; and overdone skewers of Wagyu beef with barbecue sauce.
After all this eating and imbibing, Monkan ups the ante with a terrific individual flourless chocolate cake with vanilla gelato and chocolate sauce. White chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust is a lush runner-up. Trailing are less-than-airy beignets; and a curious bacon-bread pudding that's more like an over-orchestrated breakfast treat. But the cinnamon gelato and caramel sauce are excellent.
And so's Heirloom Tavern.