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ITHACA, NY — Hello rack of lamb and duck breast, goodbye gnocchi and meatballs—The Heights Restaurant and H Bar has revamped its menu for the spring season.
“We just totally went in a whole different direction, which is awesome. We brought back some items that we haven’t done in a very long time,” said owner James Larounis.
While the dinner menu typically undergoes seasonal and four nightly additions (“They’re not specials because everything is special,”) Larounis decided to go for a full-on overhaul this spring, revamping around 80 percent of the menu to shake up the staples.
Because this is The Heights, not only has the dinner menu seen some shifts, but so have the bar and lunch menus, with new cocktail lists coming soon.
One of the more popular starter additions is the Vietnamese pancake with duck confit, bean sprouts, scallions and a citrus hoisin sauce. While the dish may sound more like Ithaca Farmers Market fare, it is a welcome departure from the norm in Cayuga Heights.
Recipe testing for the changes began months in advance. “It’s a process we start talking about in February, and we start working on it in March,” Larounis said.
The nightly additions and specialty dinners are typically a testing ground to try new ideas and see what sticks.
For instance, an apricot gremolata that the Heights introduced at their South African wine dinner in January makes another appearance, switching from a za’atar spiced lamb shoulder chop to rack of lamb.
The new lamb dish is grilled over an open fire, accompanied by honey roasted eggplant, candied acorn squash and apricot gremolata (also available on the bar menu) and a mint chimichurri.
The different flavors are singular layers unto themselves, but also blend and complement each other, a signature Heights characteristic.
“Everything should be an orchestrated taste in your mouth, your tastebuds should go nuts when you eat our food,” said Larounis. “We tantalize tastebuds here, that’s what we do.”
Like many Ithaca restaurants, The Heights looks to more local ingredients when the weather begins to warm. Diners can look forward to dandelions, ramps, and fiddlehead ferns coming up.
As of the end of April, Larounis is adding on asparagus and mushrooms, and different varieties of microgreens delivered from a farm near Canandaigua.
Larounis credits a collaborative atmosphere in the kitchen as the main source of innovation.
“I throw ideas out and they take it and they go with it. It’s a collaborative effort and it has to be that way,” Larounis said. “If it’s not a collaborative effort it doesn’t work. It can’t be one person running the show.”
Executive Director Mike Blaney contributed to this Dining Partner Content.