Since the parents became native Philadelphians, they've wasted no time diving right into the restaurant scene. Although my dad is currently taking a "concentric circle" dining approach- eating at restaurants starting as close as possible to their Rittenhouse condo and moving outwards from there- I recently convinced him to take a nice walk down to Passyunk Avenue with me. His half-Finnish heritage made Noord, the new-ish Scandinavian restaurant, a good choice.
The owner, Joncarl Lachman, has a very noticeable presence in the dining room, checking in on patrons and even pouring water. He showed us to a small two-seater smack in the middle of the restaurant- a longer, narrow room that seats 35. Nice weather allowed wide-open windows and a nice breeze, though the noise levels did get a bit high with the outside traffic and inside BYOers.
We were treated to a big hunk of house-baked barley bread and soft butter chock full of roasted garlic. The haphazard shape gave it an uneven char and required some slightly awkward ripping, but we were glad to get our hands dirty. Dense and ever so slightly sweet, this crusty loaf is a good enough reason to pop in.
The menu has plenty of options and had us stymied for quite some time. Almost every entree was a contender, but unfortunately there were just two of us and decisions must be made. And honestly, the menu is VERY approachable. It really isn't all herring and lingonberries.
However, we did start with a couple of rather "traditional" appetizers. The bitterballen ($10) are advertised as fried pork meatballs, but forget ground meat. A thick, crispy, hush-puppy-like outside gave way to a creamy, nutmeg-scented pulled pork filling. A sharp, grainy mustard sauce and a few sprigs of baby lettuce finished the plate. These aren't IKEA's Swedish meatballs by a long shot.
My dad has an affinity for pickled herring, so the Holland Sliders ($9) were an easy choice. Lachman sources his herring from the local purveyor Samuels & Son, already packed in a wine sauce. Here, the fish is served simply on fluffy potato rolls with a sweet, crunchy bread and butter pickle. A little plain for my taste- I try not to order things at restaurants that I could make at home.
For the main course, we compromised and decided to split one fish dish (seafood makes up half of the options) and the braised pork shank ($23), a dish I would expect to see at Cochon. A huge piece of slow-cooked, super tender, bone-in pork is nestled in a pile of firm brown beans and cider-braised collards. Comfort food at its finest, with pieces of a potent vinegar-infused apple gastrique revitalizing our tastebuds from time to time. Lachman told us that this was standard dinner fare growing up in South Philly, separating his family's identity from that of their lasagna and meatball-eating Italian neighbors.
Choosing a fish was difficult- they all sound amazing- but we settled on the stuffed rainbow trout ($25), complete with head and tail. The flaky white meat was easily accessible under the thin skin, complemented by artichokes and sweet onions layered between the fillets. Braised collard greens made another appearance here, but the best part by far was the dill and white wine broth. The creamy concoction really showcased every flavor, soaking up essence of fish, sweetness from the onion, and just an overall richness without being overpoweringly buttery. This fish and that bread and I'm all set.
The best part of the experience, apart from the delicious food and casual four mile round trip stroll from Center City, was the interaction with Lachman. He is the definition of friendly, with a genuine smile, warm laugh, and engaging personality. Even though he was constantly attending to other diners, checking on food before send-out, and generally running the show, he took a few minutes to chat with us without seeming at all in a hurry to rush off to something else. It truly made the dining experience memorable.
1046 Tasker St. (corner of 11th and Tasker)