Our good friend Mark recently took a job in Madison, and we’ve been working to get together and catch up for awhile. The stars finally aligned and we drove down on Tuesday to meet up with him (sans his lovely wife Kerry, sadly) for dinner at 43 North, just a block from the Capitol.
It was a cold, rainy, Seattle-in-January type evening, so it was easy enough to find a parking spot near the restaurant. The chef at 43 North was nominated for a Best Chef Midwest James Beard Award, so we were looking forward to the meal as well as the company!
We started with a few appetizers, a salad, a squash and hen egg salad medley, pork rillettes, and lobster bisque. All were delicious, though the conversation overshadowed the offerings. It was great to hear about the changes and events taking place in Mark and Kerry and their sons’ lives and to chat a bit about the bakeshop and our winter plans.
Our entrees arrived and while overall the dishes were excellent, the plates had a few off flavors or textures that just kept them below an “exceptional” status. Mark’s salmon was flavorful, flaky, and pretty much perfect, but the vegetable medley served alongside it, a combination of cauliflower and brussel sprouts, didn’t seem cooked through (though we weren’t quite sure if that was the intent or not). Justin’s Waygu Strip Loin was perfectly cooked, but the char on the exterior had an overpowering smoky flavor. My game hen with sweet potato gnocchi and mushrooms was fantastic – no faults.
Dessert offerings faired similarly. Justin’s cheesecake with a housemade nutella was the winner of the evening, Mark and I both choose the Chocolate Brownie with Peanut Butter Panna Cotta. And really, they should have allowed the Panna Cotta be the center of the plate, rather than a supporting character to the just pretty good, though a bit dry, chocolate brownie. I even wondered if the brownies were a couple days past their prime. But really, when smothered in a vanilla bean cream and with a bite of that superb peanut butter panna cotta, we were able to polish it off.
Overall, it was a great dinner with a great friend, with only a few aspects of the dishes falling short of our expectations. We did find out, on our way home and some searching online, that the James Beard Award nominated chef just recently left the restaurant! So actually, our expectations were a bit misplaced to begin with!