I have fond memories of preparing pickled herring with my grandmother. The process took about five days but the rewards were many.
Chef Joncarl Lachman, who grew up in Darby and owns a Chicago restaurant, decided to come home. At his restaurant Noord, pickled herring is one of the highlights of his Northern European menu. He is of Dutch descent and includes dishes from Belgium as well. Finally, a little-known cuisine made its way to South Philly.
The airy room seats about 40. Although the tables are covered with white cloths, Noord has a friendly, casual feel. Lachman enjoys greeting his guests and making his way around the room.
We brought a bottle of Ratzenberger 2010 Bacharacher Riesling Kabinett that would drink well with Lachman’s fare.
Edward and I nibbled on warm, thin slices of homemade dark brown and marble rye bread, which we slathered with butter.
Dinner began with Holland sliders “Broodjes haring” ($9), chopped chicken and duck liver ($11) and grilled head-on prawns ($12).
Since it is impossible to get schmaltz herrings anywhere, Lachman orders them from Iceland. They are cut into bite-size portions and packed in gallon-size jars. Lachman then works his magic, adding white wine, vinegar, sugar, dill, coriander seed, salt and pepper — his version of an escobeche. He sets them on mini-potato rolls and tops them with pickled onions and cucumbers.
Lachman achieved the perfect consistency with his pate. The pate-packed jar arrived on a long slate slab and included slices of warm grilled baguette, a portion of fried liver coated in seasoned crumbs, pickled cauliflower and a dollop of whole grain mustard. With this in life, nothing is bad. The contrast of textures and flavors hit the mark.
Don’t miss the grilled prawns. The sauce alone should win an award. Lachman said it is prepared with lemon juice, butter, pickling juice, coriander, chives, dill and cream. The sauce, which was properly emulsified, had a light, rosy hue from the sweet prawns’ juice. I marveled in the flavor and devoured every bit of the sauce.
I had to try the shellfish waterzooi ($28), the great national dish of Belgium. I have made chicken waterzooi but the fish version was new to me. It is prepared with cream and beaten egg, and if the egg curdles, the sauce is ruined. Lachman’s sauce was exquisitely prepared. A big, white bowl was brimming with mussels, clams, shrimp, prawns and tossed with sliced carrots, tiny potatoes, leeks, onions and whole baby purple and yellow carrots. I thought there were too many carrots in this version, which imparted a slightly sweet flavor, but no mind. This is Dutch and Belgium fare at its finest — each fish was perfectly cooked.
“Konijn in het Zuur” ($26) is the Dutch version of the classic French duck confit but Lachman substituted a meaty rabbit leg. It was nestled in a large bowl surrounded by bits of smoked sausage, baby turnips and lardoons, which added a smoky, fatty flavor. Rabbit is a lean meat but Lachman had a way of keeping it moist, fresh and not a bit overcooked.
Desserts ($9) truly topped off our dinner at Noord. A slice of dense, moist almond cake topped with whipped cream, a hefty portion of warm chocolate brioche bread pudding and French press coffee for two ($5) just about painted the lily. Lachman makes the sweets, but the almond cake is his grandmother’s recipe and the pudding came from Chef Anne Rosenzweig, whom he worked with in New York. During dessert, Lachman pours guests complimentary glasses of Prosecco.
Our experience at Noord was about as perfect as you can get. Each dish was seasoned properly, and the service was excellent as well (His waitress left Chicago to work with him in Philly).
Lachman said he is so happy to be in South Philly. He and his staff have achieved the right balance of service without being intrusive.
“I enjoy meeting people,” he said. “I like to make a personal connection with my guests.”
Four tips of the toque to Noord.
1046 Tasker St.
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Through the years, I have enjoyed a number of memorable meals, many in South Philadelphia restaurants. When I reviewed Tre Scalini, 1915 E. Passyunk Ave., and found the fare so uncommonly delicious, a friend told me, “Now we will never get a reservation.”