Fine dining without the fuss
What: Hundred North
Where: 100 N. Commercial St.
WHEN: 5pm-1am Tues.-Sun.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
I first heard from Tim Shea in mid-September, less than a month after he opened Hundred North in the coveted corner space next to the Mount Baker Theatre that formerly housed the Table and Robert Fong’s Pacific Cafe.
“I’ve been living in Bellingham for nine years, and I’ve been dreaming of doing this my entire life,” Shea told me. “I source almost every piece of meat, fish or vegetables locally and whatever I can’t get enough of in town, I buy from ethical vendors in the state who are able to provide details and specifics into their operations. I am focused on quality across the board for food, drinks and service.”
Last weekend, I finally got the chance to taste the fruits of Shea and his hardworking staff’s labors when my quotable coworker and I were invited to Hundred North to sample the gustatory goods.
As I patiently waited for my colleague, I took in the aesthetics at the fine-dining establishment, noting the large the black-and-white photographic reproductions of Bellingham’s bygone era, the giant yellow glass chandelier above the host station and a casual-yet-classy vibe that put me at ease.
By the time my date arrived, I was mid-conversation with Shea, who had just finished telling me that his first restaurant job was at McDonald’s (he was 13 at the time), and that much of the work put in to open the restaurant was done by himself and a horde of loyal friends.
“I’ve heard nothing but raves about this place,” my plus-one said a few minutes later as we waited for our cocktails to arrive. She’d ordered a Pisco Sour ($9.50), while I opted for a cranberry-vodka-sage-and-black-pepper concoction created earlier in the day by master mixologist Tyler Moore. It was autumn in a glass—crisp and cool and a little dangerous.
But the food was what we’d come for, and it wasn’t long before we were finding out just why Shea had hired Chef Nathan Huntington.
From the appetizer menu, Beets (apple, shaved fennel, beets, stilton cheese, walnut and olive oil, $16) were simple yet savory, but it was the Mushroom Fricassee (chanterelles, lion’s mane and lobster mushrooms with tempura shallot and a poached egg, $16) that made our taste buds come alive.
“The beet salad is really good, but this mushroom dish tastes like nothing I’ve ever eaten before,” my canny coworker said.
Under the “small tastings” section of the menu, a small ramekin of house-made ricotta ($6) served with grilled bread cleansed our palates as we waited for our entrees, servings of tortelloni ($19) and pork belly ($24).
On the first bite of the butternut squash tortelloni, my friend’s eyes grew wide as she took in the many flavors—the mascarpone, lemon buerre blanc and pine nut basil pesto—and the pillowy wonder of the dish.
“You should try this as soon as possible, because I’m ready to eat all of it, right now,” she said. After a few bites of the OMG-that’s-amazing pork belly—Shea says it’s marinated for 18 hours or more—served with orca beans and collard greens, we switched plates.
Anyone who thinks the point of origin for meat and vegetables doesn’t matter should test that theory at Hundred North, where we could taste the care in everything we consumed—from the cocktails to the main dishes to our desserts of creme brulee and apple galette (each are $10).
When Shea came by to see how we’d enjoyed our food, we weren’t lying when we told him it was one of the best meals we’d ever eaten in Bellingham.
He seemed pleased with our answer, and said he hopes people will drop by to see for themselves why his passion project is for everyone.
“It’s fine dining at Hundred North, but it’s also fun and casual,” he said.
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