The West Side of Providence leaves little to be desired in its culinary offerings: from the classic Italian of Federal Hill, to the smattering of new cuisine on Broadway, the West Side rarely disappoints. North, a cozy, unique food spot located in Memorial Square, near the likes of The Avery and E&O Tap, is no exception to this happy rule.
North produces Asian-inspired cuisine that strongly recalls the style of the Momofuku restaurants in New York, which makes sense since James Mark, one of the three owners of North, worked there. The restaurant is exceptionally snug, fitting several booths, standalone tables, and a icy bar all within a space no bigger than your average hotel room. Yet never do you feel overcrowded or overwhelmed, and from the time the doors open at 5:30 p.m., you are surrounded by excitable chatter and pleasant company; everyone is there to enjoy a good meal.
With a menu that changes regularly, North always has something new to try. Mark and staff focus on sourcing local poultry, meats, vegetables, and of course, this being the Ocean State, seafood. Calling to its Asian roots, North always has a few noodle options on the menu, including its notorious Hot Flavor Sesame noodles — but we’ll get to that.
To start off my meal, I ordered a take on the Old Fashioned made with rye and orange bitters from the artfully composed cocktail list; with drink in hand, we moved on to the food side of the menu. North offers mainly small plates that nonetheless are still a good size for sharing. To start, we ordered Tiny Ham Biscuits served with a carrot mustard. The biscuits were flaky and buttery, but not overly heavy, and the ham was juicy and pleasantly salty. The carrot mustard really finished it off, with the bite of the mustard seed balanced by the sweetness of the carrot. The plate came with three biscuits for $6 and, despite being one of the cheaper menu options, did not slack on flavor or presentation.
Next, we tried the raw and grilled asparagus plate, served with pea greens and leeks. For some, this dish was a little too “earthy,” but after the richness of the ham biscuits, I loved the crisp lightness of this dish. The grilled asparagus was smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, while the raw asparagus was shaved and nicely complemented by an the asparagus/chickpea dressing. If you like kale, arugula, or cilantro, this dish should suit you just fine.
Having covered our small-plate needs, we moved on to the Grilled Scallion and Chicken Ramen. This noodle bowl was served with pickled chile, wakame (seaweed), kimchi, egg, and radish. By far, the best element of this dish was the noodle itself. The noodles were fresh, flavorful, and not overcooked. The chicken was also tasty, as it was actually a chicken sausage and not just grilled chicken parts, as I had surmised. The dish was slightly under-seasoned and could have used a pinch of salt, but overall, the flavors were very good and the noodles and broth were a warm welcome on a rainy Providence evening.
We finished off our meal with North’s signature Hot Flavor Sesame Noodles. Not for the faint of heart, these noodles are hot, hot, hot – but they’re also really tasty. Served with pickled greens, broccoli, garlic, and chili, the dish is thick, flavorful, and very spicy. The broccoli is grilled and delicious, and particularly tasty when eaten in the same bite as the noodle (it cuts down the spice, too!). If you don’t like food that makes you sweat then you may want to pass on this dish, but if you can handle the heat, definitely grab an order of these bad boys from the kitchen.
If the occasional need for salt is the only criticism for a restaurant, then I’d say that joint is doing pretty good. For an interesting meal that experiments with new flavors in a fun environment, definitely check out North. The dishes are thoughtful and thought-provoking, and the food leaves a strong impression — pleasant on the palate, positive on the brain.