Ever since I first heard about North 53 pretty much every review I read was exceptionally positive. But, I mean, how often are the expectations you have for something actually met? That’s not to say that often the outcome isn’t still good (or sometimes better than imagined), but it’s more often than not different than expected. Well, North 53 was everything I wanted it to be, and then some.
When you enter North 53 it feels like you have been transported from Edmonton to some wonderfully trendy restaurant in New York. The restaurant itself is long and narrow, with a gorgeous, large wooden bar taking up a generous amount of space (necessary to make the delicious and imaginative cocktails) and a beautiful, black honeycomb-esqe feature wall at the back. When I arrived with my dining companions, my mom and Lauren, at about 6:45, the restaurant was mostly full. Throughout the evening there were a few tables sitting empty, but my guess is it had more to do with a matter of timing reservations, as our dinner took almost 3 hours, than anything else. When we were seated we were presented the cockatil menu, wine list and the tasting menu. It was a hard decision to pick just one cocktail, as the list was quite extensive, but finally after a while we each chose one. I decided on the Amaretto Tangy ($13) which was made with baker’s (gin, I think), lemon and topped with a pear, walnut and goat cheese foam. I could actually taste the pear and goat cheese in the foam, which was kind of strange, but wonderful all at the same time. The drink was different than anything I have ever tasted before, but I really enjoyed it. My mom decided on the Witch’s Fizz ($13) which was made with gin, Strega, Chartreuse, rosemary honey syrup and egg white. She said it was absolutely delicious (and from the sip I had, I would agree, it had a wonderful rosemary flavour). Lauren was tempted with an off menu cocktail, a Pisco Sour, which is a sweet and tart South American cocktail. She said it was really good, but not quite as good as one she had had in Portland. (I’ll add that to the list of yet another reason why I need to go to Portland!) We decided to order a bunch of small plates off of the a la carte menu and share them, which seemed like the best way to try as much as possible. Everything on the menu looked so good, however, so it was hard to choose, but we ended up narrowing it down to a handful of different main dishes and a couple of desserts. We started with the Cappellacci ($14) filled with ricotta and black kale, finished with hazelnuts, peccorino and butter. This is, hands down, the best preparation of kale I have ever had. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the flavours worked so beautifully together. I would order this again in a heart beat. Lamb tartar ($16) with egg yolk, bone marrow, chestnuts and sunchokes, was up next. The lamb was melt in your mouth delicious. For some reason I was surprised that the raw lamb actually tasted like lamb (don’t ask me why) but it was a much more subtle flavour that it’s cooked counterpart. Purple Potato with Onion ($12), 5 ways. I seem to recall that the 5 different preparations were roasted, crisped, puréed, charred and pickled. Onion and potato go together as well as peanut butter and jam in my book, so I thought this dish was a match made in heaven. Aerated Parsnip Soup ($11) made with rye whiskey with bosc pear, and topped with puffed wild rice. This was such an interesting dish. The soup had such a wonderful light and airy texture, unlike anything I’ve had before. I think I would actually call it more of a foam than a soup. I would not usually go out of my way to order parsnips, but this soup is absolutely worth trying out. Carrots ($10), 3 ways, caraway seeds, black garlic and watercress. As I have said a couple of times before, this is perhaps the most beautiful plate of food I have ever seen. Who knew carrots could look so beautiful and taste so darn good? I especially loved the roasted carrots… so sweet and tender. Beef Short Ribs ($17) , licorice root, sour cream, romaine, and horseradish. The beef was delicious and ridiculously tender. It was complimented by a luxurious horseradish and sour cream sauce and lightly grilled romaine. Although, I have to mention that my dad has been grilling romaine for years… so he might still have you beat on that one, North 53. 🙂 Sockeye Salmon ($18) with northern bean, crème fraiche and juniper. The salmon had a wonderfully crisp skin and was served quite rare. I really enjoyed it, however the “rareness” was a little off-putting for my mom, since she isn’t a raw seafood fan. I can’t speak to the beans, as I just can’t stomach beans, however Lauren loved them. This dish also had a wonderful presentation, as it was brought to the table covered with a glass dome, full of smoke. The dome was then lifted, wafting the smoke into the air, revealing the food. We shared 2 different desserts. The first was an Apple dessert ($10) with an apple ice cream, on freeze dried brown butter, apple curd, topped with coins of compressed apple and an apple fritter. This dessert was amazing. I could have eaten about 3 servings of it myself. The ice cream was so intensely flavoured and the doughnut was warm and crisp. This wasn’t some Timmy’s bake from frozen type thing, this was a real deal, fried to golden brown perfection type doughnut. Yum.The Soured Yogurt ($10) dessert was made up of a bunch of different delicious yogurt components: chamomile ice cream, meringue like crisps and the floral notes of bee pollen and elderflower. This dessert was so light and refreshing. The perfect way to end our meal.We paired our desserts with a Calvados Flight (2 for $14). We chose the Orchard, which was a mix of calvados, spiced apple shrub, lemon and egg white, and the Honeymoon, which was a combination of calvados, benedictine, cointreau and lemon. Calvados is a apple brandy from Normandy. It is slightly sweet, spicy, and has a nice bite to it. I’d call it Autumn in a glass. I think I could get into Calvados.Our meal was outstanding. Hands down one of the very best best meals I have had eating out. Ever. Anywhere. Every morsel was delicious. Every plate had such attention to detail; nothing was out of place, everything was there for a reason. The only thing I can complain about is that it made me feel like the things I cook are so incredibly clunky compared to the beautiful plates presented at North 53.
Dinner was also so much fun. It was an event. The plates would come out usually 2 at a time, giving us a chance to really admire and savour everything on the plate. There was no rush; we were given time to enjoy and experience every part of the meal. It was such a wonderful, memorable meal and I am so glad I got to share this experience with a family “girls night out”.
The night was made even more special, though, as I got to meet the lovely Karlynn, of The Kitchen Magpie, who was dining with the equally wonderful Jennie, of Yelp Edmonton. It’s always so fun to meet fellow Edmonton food lovers; especially when you kind of feel like you already know them after following them on Twitter and/or reading their blog… 🙂If you are a lover of food (a foodie, if you will) then you need to get your butt in gear and make a reservation for North 53. This place is a local gem and a true testament to the passion of the owner and chef (both only 21!). I can’t wait to go back and see what else North 53 has in store for me. Thank you for such a deliciously memorable meal.