By Sam Gugino
Joncarl Lachman, tentatively greets my wife and me as we enter (“Sam, party of two?”) at the designated time for our reservation on a Saturday evening. “I love it when I get it right,” exclaimed the chef and co-owner of Noord, the corner storefront restaurant at 11th and Tasker Streets, in the East Passyunk foodie corridor.
Noord looks like so many other storefront BYOBs we have seen for decades. Original tin ceilings. Simple, spare decor, dominated on one side by massive ductwork under which is mixed media art from Bob Moysan, Lachman’s restaurant and life partner. Tall and narrow windows on two sides give a good view of the street scene.
The cuisine is mostly Dutch and Northern European, though their was a Belgian classic special, waterzooi, whose price ($32) I had to ask for. (Despite this, none of the other specials’ prices were forthcoming. I still don’t get why so many restaurants refuse or forget to address this basic aspect of service.)
The food at Noord is rich and hearty and the servings generous. So, consider sharing, especially the smorrebrod, a changing open-faced sandwich board (actually slate) of house smoked seafood. On this occasion, it was silver dollar sized slices of scallops topped with tiny red roe. Whitefish, which would have been great on a Sunday morning bagel. And salmon that was described as cooked and smoked but more the former than the latter. All on chewy country bread and atop nicely mixed greens and tangy homemade pickles. The presentation was kind of a jumble but a colorful and delicious one.
Bitterballen are Dutch fried pork meatballs seasoned with nutmeg. Comforting on a cold night, though the mustard was a bit skimpy and the accompanying salad was not dressed.
One of those evening specials was a strange combination of superbly fried whitefish and snert, a tasty, rib-sticking Dutch split pea soup with sausage that was thick enough to be a puree. So, the dish didn’t look as weird as it sounded.
Konijn in het Zuur is a vinegar braised rabbit leg swimming in a creamy mélange of silky cabbage, smoked sausage and baby turnips. Not much meat on the rabbit but the broth/sauce, seasoned with coriander and caraway, was sufficiently delightful and copious by itself.
For dessert, the cranberry bread pudding had a holiday spice component that hit all the right notes. Less enjoyable was an almond cake, which suffered from a heavy hand on the almond extract. Coffee, made in a press pot, was strong and plentiful.
PSM (Price of Specials Malfunction) aside, service was efficient and friendly, sometimes too friendly, perhaps because our waitress had time on her hands in a half-full restaurant.
Assuming we have a winter at all, the next few months would be a good time to visit Noord for food that will not only gird you against chill factors but also provide a Dutch treat of flavors you won’t get elsewhere.
Noord, 1046 Tasker St,
Philadelphia, (267) 909-9704,
Wed – Thurs, 5 – 10 pm;
Fri – Sat, 5 – 10:30 pm;
Sunday, 11am – 2pm, 5 – 9 pm
Reservations and credit cards accepted.
Appetizers, $9 – $24; Entrees,$21 – $32.
Yes, beers. The Netherlands does make beer, but neighboring Belgium produces some of the world’s greatest beers. Saison or farmhouse-style beers were originally laid down in winter to be drunk in summer. So they had to be sturdy enough to go the distance. Dupont Saison has a funky nose that reminds me of English farmhouse ciders. But it’s surprisingly light and clean tasting. Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, a Belgian-style beer made in Cooperstown, N.Y., has a crisp start followed by malt sweetness balanced with gentle but firm bitterness. These are great beers for lighter foods, especially seafood.
Trappist beers are brewed only by monks in one of five monasteries. Chimay, the best known, has four styles. Chimay Red (aka Première) is a dubbel, dark, full-bodied with a sweet, fruity aroma that went well with heartier dishes like the rabbit and pork meatballs. Westmalle Tripel is, as you might guess, stronger (9.5 percent alcohol vs 7 percent for the Chimey Red). However, it is beautifully balanced and complex, and well-designed to stand up to the multitude of flavors on Noord’s menu.
Loosened restrictions by the state cartel should make Belgian beers more available. Mine came from the Old Philly Ale House, 565 N 20th Street, 215-563-1665. You could also try the Trolley Car Diner Deli.
Chestnut Hill resident Sam Gugino is a former Philadelphia Daily News restaurant critic and Wine Spectator Magazine columnist.