Monday, June 17, 2013

Heist Brewery - NoDa

Because I’m generally intrigued by repurposed buildings, I have been looking forward to checking out Heist Brewery, located in an old cotton mill on North Davidson Street, for a while. The online menu also seemed ambitious and different, so I was excited when I finally managed to get over there this past weekend.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that despite the fact that we were visiting a brewpub, I was in a "pound grape" type of mood and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir. However, I did get to sample the two beers BFTB ordered, so I don’t feel like I offended the beer gods too much. The first thing I noticed was that unlike most of the local breweries in the Charlotte area, Heist’s beers don't have “punny” names or interesting labels. Everything features the same, block style Heist logo and rather than names, you simply order by type of beer. On paper, the "Premium Light Lager" is described as very sweet, very light, and with a little bit of bite. Although I would agree with each of those characterizations, they didn't add up to anything... good. All I could taste when I took a sip of the Premium Light Lager was yeast. It was like drinking raw bread dough. BFTB didn't even finish the glass (although he claims that he liked it) and next ordered a "Krystalweizen," Heist's summer hefeweizen.  It tasted a lot better than the lager -much less yeasty, not as sweet, and had a bit more body to it. However, a lot better than terrible still isn’t great. If the two choices we tried were at all close to a representative sample to the liquids brewed at Heist, I was not impressed.

(clockwise from top left): Six Cheese Pimento &
Crab Dip, Steak & Papaya Martini, Heist Brewery logo, Forked Up Ahi
As for food, I was in heaven when I saw the menu… So. Much. Cheese. Of the seven “Dips & Things” options, four of them were cheese-based (Oven Roasted Beer Cheese, 6 Cheese Pimento & Sherried Crab Dip, Duck Quesadilla, and Spinach & Artichoke Dip). We shared the crab dip (and played “identify the six cheeses!”) while we figured out what other things we wanted to order. I expected the dip to be very mayonnaise-y, so I was very glad when I discovered that it consisted of relatively big pieces of crab meat mixed into a smooth blend of cheeses. It was cooked and served in a triangular bowl, which was perfect because the cheese in the corners of the bowl got slightly browned and crusty. While the parmesan flatbread that served as a dipping vessel was a very nice complement to the cheesy crab blend, it was also tasty as a standalone item. The flatbread itself kind of reminded me of a warmed, flatter version of garlic naan bread with a little cheese melted on top.  Using my super sleuthing skills (read: I was a big creeper and attempted to sneakily spy on every other patron’s food as it was being brought out to their tables) I saw that a lot of the dips seemed to be served with the same, or similarly-looking flatbread. I also used my powers of deduction and assumed that something similar is also used as a base for the nine pizza-style flatbreads listed on the menu. This place was a flatbread-a-palooza. After doing a little more investigating, I discovered that a lot goes into making the breads and rolls used at Heist. Interesting ingredients (e.g.- root beer and blue cheese) are combined with the dough, which is then cooked in a wood-fired oven.  If I had to think of one complaint about the crab dip, it would be that I expected to find a few more pimentos or some other kind of pepper in the “pimento” dip.  However, I’m really reaching for something to whine about here. Overall, this dip was great and will be on my re-order list.  

close-up of the Forked Up Ahi mid-dip (left), Forked
Up Ahi from the side (bottom right), clean plate
(and absurd amount of utensils) club! (top right)
Eventually we settled on splitting a couple of small plates -the Steak & Papaya Martini and the Forked-Up Ahi.  Much like the beer menu, the food menu at Heist should be interpreted literally. The five individual bites of Forked-Up Ahi were served on little forks raised at a 45-ish degree angle.  The fish itself was lightly seared (my pictures make the coloring look very strange, but the tuna itself was a nice, fresh-looking pink), coated in black sesame seeds, and speared onto the fork tines with a wad of neon green seaweed salad.  The description says that there is also candied ginger and a “wasabi-soy mist” involved in the dish. While I don’t remember tasting any ginger, there was a faint, light, wasabi taste in either the fish or the accompanying soy sauce-based dip. Cramming the whole fish/seaweed wad into the dip and getting a nice coat of sauce made for a very nice (and large) bite. Although this method of plating (“forking” sounds a little questionable…) was nice, the forks were propped up in holes drilled into a vertical, acrylic arc. While cool to look at, the arc was very top heavy and fell onto its side (into the flatbread) the first time we went in for a bite (to be fair, our very friendly and helpful waitress informed us that we should be careful). Regardless, the tuna was tasty, but probably not a must-order for next time.

Although they were my least favorite selection, I still enjoyed the Steak and Papaya Martinis. Served in three small, ceramic bowls nestled in a wooden block, the martinis consisted of small pieces of charred porterhouse tail mixed with papaya salsa and a cucumber-chile infused broccoli slaw. For me, the refreshing slaw/salsa blend was the star of this dish. The steak reminded me of the pork (yes, pork) pieces you find mixed into Pork Fried Rice from a cheap Chinese food restaurant. They were small, questionably chewy, and bland in flavor. The slaw, however, was appropriately dressed (not swimming, but not dry either) and provided some well-needed textural balance to the dish. Overall, I would avoid the Steak and Papaya Martinis in the future –they weren’t worth either the calories or the effort involved in chewing the meat.

Although this isn’t a dealbreaker, the more I think about it, the serving plates/blocks/plastic sculpture-like food-holders/etc. were bulky to the point that they made the whole meal seem awkward to eat. The falling food combined with the oversized servingware made us have to creatively move each item from plate to plate in order to fit everything on our small table. I kept thinking about how this would be a real problem for a person with food-touching issues (e.g. my best friend Lorea, whose food-touching aversion is so intense that my dad was inspired to write a Thanksgiving-themed haiku about it last holiday season). Fortunately for me, I’m not opposed to commingled foodstuffs and this was a non-issue. 

All in all, I enjoyed the food, but not the beer, at Heist Brewery. I'd give the complete package a 6.5/10. I won’t be running back anytime soon, but I would happily make a return visit to try some of their other dishes (and maybe give some of their other beers a shot).

Heist Brewery on Urbanspoon

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