When last I mentioned Chef Jeff Jarrett and the North End Restaurant and Wine Bar in Hudson, Ohio, it was during this year's Taste of Hudson event. Just as with my idea at the 2010 Taste of Akron, instead of trying to do the impossible and eat the food from every single one of the vendors, I singled out three or four restaurants on which I hadn't done any type of formal review and sampled their food as a pre-cursor to an official visit and review. Chef Jarrett's food at the Labor Day festival had really impressed me and my companions and I decided that today would be the day for my unannounced visit. Since Chef Jarrett obviously knew what I looked like, I wasn't sure how long my visit would remain anonymous, but I figured I'd at least give it the college try.
The North End Restaurant and Wine Bar was located at 7542 Darrow Road, Hudson, OH 44236 and can be reached at 330-656-1238. Parking was located in a fairly large lot just outside of the building. From Darrow Road (aka State Route 91), the sign for the restaurant was clearly visible on the west side of the road:
And here was a shot of the entrance:
It should be noted that the market portion of the facility opened earlier in the day, 11 AM every day except for Sundays and Mondays. While the website lists lunch hours, I can assure you that only dinner is currently being served starting at 5 PM on the days that they are already open. I had stopped in one other time to try them for lunch only to discover that while the doors were open, the only item being sold was retail wine and beer. Tonight I decided to stop in at around 5:30 PM on a Wednesday evening. Fortunately, while there was a scheduled wine tasting later in the evening, the number of patrons here for dinner was small.
After being seated, my server left me with the menu:
An interesting thing to note on the menu was that Italian bread was available for $3. I've heard of restaurants that only serve bread upon request or have started charging for the service, but the North End was the first restaurant where I've actually come across this policy. I thought about ordering some of the bread to accompany my meal, but by the time my entree arrived today, I knew that I would be too full to appreciate it. Next time, for sure.
As usual, I decided to go with multiple courses in order to see how well played out the menu was. For my appetizer, I started out with the Crispy Pork Belly:
The fanned slices of ultra-tender pork belly had been plated atop kimchee that had been pureed and then brushed onto the plate. Sitting next to the pork was an arugula salad with a brunoise of red onion, plums, and fresh peaches and dressed with a light citrus vinaigrette. I first tasted the kimchee shmear and was rewarded with a wonderful spicy and sour flavor with a bit of spice aggressiveness towards the front of my mouth. When I combined a bit of the pork, salad, and kimchee puree, I was pleased to discover crunchy (from the seared outer edge of the pork belly), creamy, sweet, spicy, and tangy.
While I thought the salad by itself could use a touch more salt, when everything was combined together and eaten as one forkful, this was an amazingly rich and complex dish. I would have never pictured myself being a lover of pork belly, but Chef Jarrett's take on it was delicious and satisfying. For those concerned about spice levels, I should mention that the heat from the kimchee was quite mild and unless you have a complete aversion to anything spicy, you really will enjoy the playfulness of the dish.
For my second taste of the evening, I settled on a cup of the Soup du Jour, which in today's case was the Lobster Bisque:
When this small cup of happiness first arrived at my table, I was completely taken with its terra cotta color and intense seafood aroma. As I dug into the viscous liquid, I noticed that not only was the lobster completely infused into the soup, but there were additional bits of lobster floating throughout as well. Upon tasting my first spoonful, I was again presented with sweet, salty, tangy, creamy, and spicy, but a different spicy. This time the spice hit me gently in the back of the throat, a sure sign that cayenne chili powder had been used to give this bisque some zip. I found myself eating spoon after spoon of this delicious course until sadly, I reached the bottom of the cup. I'm actually thankful that the bisque only came in the smaller "cup" size as had a bowl of this been placed in front of me, I probably would've licked the damn thing clean and been too full for my entrée afterward.
Speaking of entrées, tonight I decided to try the North End Chicken:
Consisting of an Airline cut chicken breast seared to a wonderful golden brown, it rested on top of shredded dark meat from the chicken, goat cheese dumplings, and various cuts of regular and Dragon carrots. All of which had been enhanced by a pan sauce finished with butter and drizzled with a touch of white truffle oil. I decided to try the sauce first and work my way up to the chicken breast. The sauce was exactly what I expected it to be and I could taste the richness from the butter and the slight zip from the fresh herbs that the chefs had thrown in right at the end before plating. What delighted me was the almost earthy headiness that could only come from a drizzle of the white truffle oil.
The goat cheese dumplings were only slightly tart and were completely tender without at all being mushy. The least successful part of the dish, the carrots, were a tad undercooked. Actually, the smallish coins of carrots underneath the chicken were okay since they were small, but when I cut a piece from the larger varieties lining the sides of the plate, I was surprised to find that they still had a bit of their raw flavor and crunch.
The chicken itself, as you can see from this shot, was incredibly moist and juicy:
While the breast meat was great, I think I enjoyed the scattered shredded dark meat even more. Either way, I really savored this dish and with all of the components going on, I was happy to see that everything was perfectly seasoned ... which was a good thing since nary a salt nor pepper shaker could be found at any of the tables in the restaurant. By the time I finished my entrée, it was roughly 6:30 PM, approximately an hour after I had first arrived and about a half-hour before the beginning of the wine tasting. When my server approached me about dessert, I politely declined and asked for both the check and Chef Jarrett if he wasn't in the weeds.
Moments later, Chef Jarrett appeared from the kitchen, looked at me and exclaimed, "You were supposed to tell me when you were coming!" I laughed and responded, "No, no. It doesn't work like that." In the end, tonight had turned out to be a completely anonymous visit and I'm glad I had a chance to review the food as if it was meant for any other regular diner. Chef Jarrett and I talked for a few minutes before he had to return to the kitchen to finish preparations for the impending wine tasting.
With tax, my meal tonight came to slightly under $32, which for the three very tasty courses I enjoyed this evening, I felt was well worth the price. Having finally had a chance to eat a proper meal inside the actual restaurant, I am quite excited about returning for many more in the future. If you haven't had a chance to try out the chef's inventive and tasty menu, I would suggest you stop by and give them a chance soon. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
[Ed. Note: I contacted Chef Jarrett to let him know when this review would be published on the blog (he asked me to let him know when the review would go live) and he informed me that he has officially turned in his notice at North End Restaurant in order to pursue his own place. As information becomes available to me of the chef's future endeavors, gentle reader, I will be more than happy to pass along these details to you. And, of course, when North End replaces Chef Jarrett with a new chef, you can expect a re-review of the food.]