A small group of guys from Focal in France showed up one evening a few weeks ago for the annual CEDIA Expo in Denver. We met up with them at our hotel and then went up to the Cherry Creek area for a nice dinner at NoRTH. (see map)
NoRTH (yes, that's how they spell it) is part of the Fox group of upscale restaurants based out of Scottsdale, AZ. North is what they call "modern Italian" cooking with some old world recipes through in for good measure.
There was a group of 10 of us. The concierge at the Loews Hotel we stayed in again this year (which was considerably less tired and much nicer than last year) suggested we make reservations as the place did have a tendency to get busy. The earliest we could get in was 8:30. We arrived in two vehicles around 8:20 and they got us seated right away.
NoRTH is very trendy and upscale in its appearance. Sitting there in a pair of shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, I definitely looked underdressed compared to a lot of the well-dressed people in the place. But, hey, my money spends just as well as theirs - even though I wasn't paying for the meal. There was a nice little bar area that had a lot of glass and metal to it. The main seating area of the restaurant had a lot of art-deco furniture and fixtures and it was also dark throughout the place. But not overly dark where you couldn't see the person across from you.
The menu was definitely a new twist on old Italian favorites. The main pasta entrees were reminiscent of some of the auberge restaurants we ate at in France last year. They had pork, beef, fish, fowl and wild game plates to choose from. Their pasta was a little more on the eclectic side than what you find at most traditional Italian restaurants. Actually, it was pretty fun.
One thing that kept catching my eye was their pizza. There were a number of people who seemed to be getting pizza at the tables around us. One of the Focal guys, Fraser Robertson, said, "Their pizza must be pretty good. I see a lot of them coming out of the kitchen."
Fraser ended up ordering a sausage and caramelized onion pizza. Dominic Baker, the chief engineer for Focal, was seated next to me and he went with the fire roasted steak Delmonico, a thick cut ribeye (Dominic always eats steak when he's in the States). And my colleague, Matthew, who was seated across from me, went with the grilled flank steak. I ended up getting the shrimp fettuccine with small broccoli crowns in a white sauce that featured spicy garlic. Ooooo, I couldn't pass that up.
Before our meal, we feasted on a number of appetizers including meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, calamari, and a large plate of Italian meats and cheeses. It was all so good that I finally had to stop myself or I wouldn't want to eat my main entree.
The wine list was pretty dinky, especially for as upscale a place the NoRTH is. I was pretty surprised to see only about 15 each of white and red wines listed. Someone ordered the wine that evening and we had an '03 Super Tuscan Altesino "Rosso di Altesino" red. It was very tasty.
Our food came out and I was impressed with the shrimp fettuccine. I didn't think the sauce was all that garlic-ky or all that spicy, for that matter. I suppose I should have told our waiter to "step on it" when ordering my meal. But it was still very good.
Fraser said his pizza was "exquisite". Dominic just loved his very rare Delmonico ribeye. (I like meat on the rare side of medium rare, but all the Europeans and Canadians that I've been around love their meat rare.) And Matthew and I traded bites of his flank steak and my fettuccine. He wasn't too enamored with it, but it had a good smoky flavoring to it.
All in all, the people at our table all had a good meal. The wine went very well with everything, even the white cream sauce I had with my fettuccine.
NoRTH is a little upscale for the normal people, but the service and food were very good. I don't know if it would be my first choice for food when we go back to Denver next year, but it was still very good.