North Restaurant

Last night we went to North in Cherry Creek at the behest of some friends. We met our friends and their two kids for an early dinner that ended up stretching for about three hours. The impetus was their half price wine on Monday nights deal, however we made up for the savings in quantity.

Upon arrival, I was instantly blinded by the unfortunate angle of the sun into the foyer, but soon found our friends and joined them at a sleek booth near the bustling kitchen. We asked our waiter for a white wine suggestion that wasn't too acidic and wasn't Chardonnay, as the list was heavily Italian and didn't have many familiar vintners. He immediately suggested the most expensive white wine on the list ($59) that was in fact a Chardonnay. Last time we ask his opinion on that subject.

We settled on an '05 Groth Sauvignon Blanc ($38 - but remember all the wine is 1/2 off so suddenly it's a smokin' hot deal) and were quite satisfied. By the time we shut up long enough to order starters, we were ready for some red wine and ordered (our first) bottle of '04 Mauro Molino Nebbiolo ($52 pre discount). It was just right for the evening; a bit light, not too complex, but the right amount of flavor to keep you interested and not overwhelm your food.

The starters showed up and we dug in. A tossed caprese-esque salad and the fried calamari were both good choices. The tomato and mozzarella salad came tossed with smoky grilled bread, super fresh basil, and an eye opening drizzle of rich, aged basalmic vinegar that brought all of the flavors together. The calamari was served essentially in a salad of fresh spinich and arugula in a citrusy dressing, topped with grilled lemons (which later were eaten by one of the kids - yum!).

We split salads (which I didn't even know you could do!). Our caesar showed up without anchovies (despite my husband's specific request that his have some) and it took until he was nearly finished before a small bowl of them arrived. The salad was perfectly dressed, by which I mean not drowning in dressing, but a very light coating on each leaf. The greens were crisp and refreshing.

For entrees, I ordered the fresh fish of the day, which was some sort of Canadian snapper (which I hope to God was sustainably harvested - I'm fairly certain our waiter didn't have a clue. He tried telling me that the sea bass was Canadian, too). I should know better than to order something that had been described by the waiter as 'a bit oily', as that's really not my kind of fish, but he swayed me when he said how nicely the fish flaked. He also had steered me away from the sea bass, saying it wasn't a very successful dish. The fish came and I realized that my waiter needed a lesson in what 'flakiness' means when referring to fish. It was well prepared and very flavorful, but as I said, not my cup of tea. It was served over a bed of mushroom orzo, which was positively heavenly. The pasta was slick with a lemony oil and was peppered with rich, earthy mushrooms. I frankly could have had that and the fennel shavings atop the fish and been perfectly satisfied.

Our dining companions also had the fish and seemed to enjoy it (their plates were clean, anyway). My husband ordered the shrimp fettuccini. It was meant to be served with broccolini and a spicy garlic sugo. It came instead with broccoli and a very light sauce (which was not very spicy, nor very similar to what the waiter had described this sugo to be, nor did it taste as though many hours cooking effort had gone into it). Now, I'm the kind of person that gets extremely frustrated having an ingredient substituted without being told first. Broccolini and broccoli are damn different. If you're changing the dish because you're out of something, TELL ME. But frankly I don't think my husband gave a hoot (or perhaps even noticed). The dish was good, but for $21, I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed.

Overall, North was pretty good. It's a great location and has fabulous ambience. I think it's kind of expensive for decent but unremarkable food, and the service is average and not terribly knowledgable. But all that said, it was a really fun evening and the 1/2 price wine didn't hurt a bit.

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