April 15, 2014

RAVE REVIEW | The Heights Café and Grill

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The first thing that came to mind when I made a reservation at the Heights Café and Grill to entertain my parents was what the view of Cayuga Lake was going to look like. Well, the restaurant is actually located on Hanshaw Road and lacks said view, but those with acrophobia need not fear one of Ithaca’s best dining experiences.

Although the restaurant classifies itself as a casual, contemporary atmosphere, the dining ambiance is definitely on the finer side. The restaurant offers Mediterranean-inspired American cuisine, which was made apparent when our waiter presented us with homemade hummus, pitas and a loaf of olive infused bread. The drink menu was full of craft beers, an extensive selection of wine and other cocktails, which our waiter was more than knowledgeable about.

After glancing at the menu for the first time, I knew that this meal was going to be a treat. Not only were the entrée options unique, but mom and dad were definitely going to be picking up the bill. For some reason, my eyes gravitated to the bottom of the menu, which offered a lava cake soufflé, and needed to be ordered with the main course. I knew at this point I was going to be pining for chocolaty goodness throughout the course of the meal, and planned my other orders accordingly.

I ultimately decided to get the grilled flank steak ($32), which was served with paprika potato wedges, red cabbage slaw, roasted peppers and onions covered in a mole sauce. I wanted to order a steak, and after hearing about the Heights’ signature hand-cut steak, which was over 40 ounces of New York strip, I knew that my stomach would not have been able to handle that much food. I was also delighted to learn that my steak came with a salad of my choice — Caesar or House; I chose the former.

For those of you who do not know me — and I’m sure that’s the majority of my audience — Caesar salad is always my favorite appetizer, and the Heights absolutely nailed it. The criteria I use for judging a Caesar salad is typically measured by crisp romaine lettuce, an even coating of dressing on the leaves, tasty croutons and a nice helping of anchovies. This salad met all of my expectations, and the fact that I took the time to outline how great it was should really tell you something.

My main course was tasty, but honestly not what I had expected. After hearing about how tender the Heights signature steak was, I was hoping for something similar, but had a different beast in front of me with my sliced skirt steak. The presentation was very nice, with the steak sliced over the potato wedges soaked in mole sauce. The steak, prepared medium rare, was delicious, but in the future I will order the mole sauce on the side (or a different steak), because if you are not a fan of the sauce, this dish is not for you. The helping was more than generous, and I brought the remainder I had home; the sliced steak, which was able to marinate in the sauce even longer was more than perfect for a late night steak sandwich. I did enjoy the steak, but am not necessarily rushing to order it again, as others at the restaurant raved about how good the signature steak truly was.

Finally, it was time for dessert, which became the focal point of my meal. My dad ordered the profiteroles, which were three in total with French vanilla ice cream and a chocolate sauce drizzled on top. However, all that mattered to me was my soufflé, which lived up to my expectations. The menu described it as “a decadent chocolate dessert,” and that is exactly what it was. I was delighted to also be served a scoop of the French vanilla ice cream on top in addition to a separate slice of what appeared to be flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sauce speckled on top. I finished my meal with a cup of coffee, which came with every fix-in imaginable — homemade whipped cream, cream and everyone’s favorite rock candy on a stick.

Overall, my meal at the Heights was delicious. I 100 percent cannot wait to go back in the future with my parents, or perhaps some other benefactor who wishes to sponsor my dining experiences. Whether it was the fresh baked bread, the hummus, the Caesar salad or the coffee, the Heights perfected all of the details that flawlessly complemented the overall experience — the main entrees, presentation and service.  I am looking forward to my next trip, but if there is one thing I will take away from this meal, it would be to not settle for the flank steak.