Scenario: A creative and talented chef takes over the kitchen in a hip, popular bar-and-eatery known for its overachieving bistro fare. Does the imaginative chef continue to pump out the establishment's beloved classics? Or does he branch out into new territory?

Scenario: A creative and talented chef takes over the kitchen in a hip, popular bar-and-eatery known for its overachieving bistro fare. Does the imaginative chef continue to pump out the establishment's beloved classics? Or does he branch out into new territory?

When the chef is Matthew Heaggans and the place is the Rossi, the answers are "yes" and "yes."

"Itinerant" is one more label you could pin on Heaggans, who follows another terrific chef at the Rossi, Andrew Smith (Smith left to open Salt & Pine). In just a few years, Heaggans' compelling cooking has emanated from a food truck, dive bar, rock club and, most recently, the Flatiron Bar and Diner. This openness to new adventures is reflected in Heaggans' culinary influences.

While enjoying the tastefully curated music inside the still-chic, brick-and-chocolate-brown confines of the Rossi and perusing Heaggans' menu additions - they're the focus of this review, and are primarily under "bar snacks" and "entrées" - knocking back some wine (such as versatile Chateau de Campuget rosé) or bells-and-whistles cocktails ($10) is highly advised.

If you "come on down" for the Price is Right, you'll sip a delicious collision between a Manhattan, old fashioned and mint julep garnished with house-made candied ginger. For something less bitter and less brawny, try the grapefruit-flavored Ruby Gimlet or the citrusy, tequila-and-Campari-fueled North of Paloma.

These go swimmingly with the Crispy Chickpeas ($4). Served spilling out of a cone that might double as a party hat, the earthy legumes lightened by lemon - a lively acidity typifies Heaggans' dishes - have a perfectly brittle, non-oily texture all too rare with this snack. Adjectives such as nutty, creamy, fiery and fresh coalesce in another excellent deal of a meal-starter: the Spicy Sichuan Cucumber Salad ($4).

If you seek heartier vegetarian fare, more botanical heat and another terrific value, you can't beat the wonderful Jerked King Mushrooms ($9 for a "small"). Smoky, grilled, spicy and "meaty" mushroom planks are matched with a cooling, stiff risotto made with goat cheese and firm, sweet peas. The attractive plating incorporates a tangle of pea tendrils.

Heaggans' striking Confit Cod ($17) also juxtaposes earthiness with elegance. A substantial hunk of delicate, succulent, snow-white fish balances on the raft of a crisp, grilled rice cake placed atop a pool of fruity, brothy, Vietnamese-influenced and cleverly conceived "carrot nuoc cham." More root vegetables - chopped, seared parsnips - reinforce the mildly funky notes of the sauce.

Mexico is the inspiration for the excellent Turkey Mole ($15). Its zesty, rich and nuanced sauce recalls the real Oaxacan deal, but the falling-off-the-bone meat offers a twist: confit of wing. Al dente white beans provide ballast, another sauce vehicle and another twist.

More fall-away meat and witty invention distinguish Heaggans' riff on Bo Ssam, an elaborate Korean dish. I loved the spicy and smoky, seared pork shank used instead of traditional pork belly; the pickled cauliflower and apples; fluffy Chinese buns; forceful house kimchi, and playful composition.

But $33 for this admittedly labor-intensive preparation seems a bit expensive. And I wish the grit that likewise compromised a creamy-yet-bold and otherwise terrific Little Gem Salad ($5) had been thoroughly rinsed off the Bo Ssam's lettuce leaves (used as sandwich wraps).

Like all smart chefs, Heaggans is drawn to narratives that liven the dining experience. Those aforementioned peccadilloes dissipated as I dug into his huge, reimagined but still comforting-as-a-hug, "Cookies and Milk" ($8) - milk pudding (think tapioca, but beautifully smooth) partnered with luscious whipped cream and puffy, homemade amaretti light on almond flavor.

With so many new winners like these, I'm eager to discover what other directions this restless chef will steer the Rossi toward - or where he lands next.