I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
I had made reservations for North 54, but it hardly appeared necessary. Few people elect Monday night as their weekly escape. What a dichotomy of decors from Cimos to North 54, from tight and cramped to roomy and inviting. Right from the entrance, you have a choice between diving into the eating area or chilaxing in barcaloungers with a glass of wine. There’s also a bar and an intimidating array of spirits. As the minutes ticked away alone at a table set for four, waiting for my sister and brother-in-law, the waitress offered the day’s press as distraction. That’s a point in favor of service. My family finally arrived minutes past fashionable. I offered a passing joke to my brother-in-law regarding his decision to wear jeans; he countered at the observation that I was still wearing my work’s name tag. Slick.
Trendy ethnic music fell like a light drizzle from unseen speakers. A modest wedding party snapped photos behind us. It was comfortable but not ostentatious. The decor matched that from my memory from when I last visited North 54, including its dominating central tree. My sister went Greek on the menu, opening up with a half bottle of red wine. I drank coke with no ice, which was continuously refilled through the experience. The prices read slightly higher than Cimos, with the most expensive dish, usually a steak, at 40$, 10$ over Cimos’. However, the pasta dishes and appetizers were virtually identical, albeit with more tantalizing variety. My rumbling gut demanded copious amounts of animal protein after weeks of hummus, risotto, and homemade naan bread. It was like my colon was out gallivanting brazenly about town with all my credit cards, ringing up huge charges on hotel rooms, hookers, and blow and it needed to be brought down a rung or two, put in its place and forced to process a half-pound of top grade cow flesh. The appetizer was the size of a full meal. Beef Medallions (with wild berry chutney, Dijon with crostini) sounded like I was eating solid money. My family shared a plate of crispy calamari tossed in a sweet chili citrus glaze. I’ve never been a fan of calamari, but was willing to make an exception for this.
As I stated in a previous entry, it’s becoming tradition that if duck is offered on a menu, I order it. My main was Brome Lake duck breast with date orange glaze and truffle risotto. And unlike Chambar, Brome Lake duck is recognizable name. My brother-in-law ordered the lobster ravioli with basil and caramelized onions in a rich roasted garlic tomato sauce while my sister opted for the tenderloin truffle tagliolini with seared beef, caramelized shallots, truffle oil and grana padano cheese. Yes, that sounds like a lot of truffle. With such expensive ingredients, I’m surprised they don’t glaze my duck with the bile of a newborn worm from Arrakis…
…Anyone? Anyone? No?
Okay, the point I’m making is that it sounds expensive. I’ve also read the story of how Gordon Ramsay chewed out a contestant on Masterchef for using truffle oil, even though I’ve seen him use it himself in a meal. In defense, he used two drops, which might have been what the chef used here. All I could gleam was the astounding flavor. Like I said in my Savoy review, and later recently with Chambar (although I ate there after North 54), I’ve never really experienced lackluster duck. I would never want to prepare it at home; how could I measure up? Although I would rate North 54’s plate as inferior to both Chambar’s and Savoy’s, that would be like trying to find the inferior sports car maker from Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsche. And in the range of fowl experiences, Twisted Cork’s duck was under North 54, and considering that I’m weighing North 54’s culinary quality next to one of London’s and one of Vancouver’s best reviewed restaurants, I still consider North 54’s contender a solid bet. Continuing with the car metaphor, it would be like running a race between the aforementioned supercar companies and then throwing in a Gumpart Apollo and then being shocked when the small racer keeps up (and depending on the model, far surpassing).
My sister praised her plate, and after sampling it, I can agree. We ended the experience with a triumvirate of desserts. You see, this is what happens when you thoroughly enjoy your time in a restaurant; you want to stay and order more food. There is an argument about the balance of good service and food versus pricing. North 54 was more expensive per plate than Cimos but after frustration and distraction at Cimos, I just wanted to be out of there, avoiding what was certainly a pleasant dessert course. With North 54, we looked for a reason to remain and soak in the comfortable yet elegant atmosphere. Rating these final dishes, I would grade my sister’s sticky toffee pudding ahead of my cheesecake, and thus ranking North 54’s dessert as superior to its overpriced clone at Vancouver’s Gotham Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar.
In contrast, and seemingly as a rebuttal to my review of Cimos, North 54 impressed me more than my expectations, and it’s a damn shame that Cimos has managed to milk its publicity, riding its ill-deserved reputation as the best reviewed restaurant in Prince George. It’s only the best reviewed because it’s larger and seats more people. North 54 was previously mentioned as being a great restaurant to take your wife, fiancée, girlfriend, or potential prospect you REALLY wanted to impress. So to the women out there that read this (both of you), that is your litmus test…not that you should actually lick anything—okay, let me try another metaphor. It’s your barometer in how you measure a man. Taking you out to Cimos indicates that he took no effort in researching a nice place to eat. He simply followed the wake of blind praise and assumed without enquiry that it was the place to go. North 54 is the indicator of quality—that lightning bolt that should shudder in your soul, telling you that someone put some actual thought in their decision. Don’t do what I did and take my date to The Keg and then pay for part of the meal with a coupon.
Yes, I did that. In defense, that was over ten years ago. If such an opportunity would arise again (shocked I would be), I would elect North 54…unless shockingly enough, there could be someplace better in town. This is only my second restaurant in this phase 2 coverage.
OVERALL: 8.6 out of 10