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If you’re a North Shore foodie, you’ve undoubtedly checked out at least one of Cala and Co.’s restaurants, each known for its creative decor and daring pairings: Alchemy in Gloucester, Cala’s in Manchester, Indigo (formerly Blue Smoke) in Hamilton, or Zoe’s Tapas and Bar in Beverly Farms.

Now Latitude 43, the former McT’s, is making a splash on the Gloucester waterfront with its dramatic nautical chic decor, admirable sustainable architecture, local art, fresh fish, and sushi chef extraordinaire Wing Lam.

The troika of chef Jeff Cala, Jenny Grammas, and Mark McDonough is out to make the Rogers Street complex a destination restaurant. “When you’re from away, you want to go to `a place,'” says McDonough. “We created both sides of Gloucester.” It’s a working-class town, but it’s a colorful center of culture, too. “So we’ve got the fried fish and the traditional New England comfort foods like prime rib and whipped potatoes, and we’ve got the high-end sushi bar and the local art.”

McDonough is as “green” as they get. He is a huge proponent of the sustainable economy, serving with several nonprofit organizations devoted to the environment. He sees

Latitude 43 as a teaching tool for showing how eco-friendly design can be cool and economical.

The awnings on the deck, for instance, are part of a solar hot water heating system. “This is an example of doing design right. It’s not only blocking the sun but it’s turning the sun into an energy source.

Juxtaposed to the awnings’ efficiency is the interior’s exotic sense of drama with its “under a pier” theme. Note the antique rescue boat’s hull breaking through the ceiling near the open display kitchen, Chris Williams’s octopus sculpture hovering over the sunken sushi pit, and the shell-encrusted wavy modern lamps strategically placed throughout the dining room and the entry “living room.”

A mural painted by local artists Lena Fransioli and Brooke Sheldon focuses on the ever-changing light, air, and water. The Luminist seascapes of Gloucester maritime painter Fitz Hugh (Henry) Lane inspired them.

Natural materials are used throughout. The concrete floor contains a radiant heating system. Kirei board and plyboo are two new plywoods made of renewable plant materials. The granite used in the fireplace and the harbor walk was quarried from Cape Ann.

One key factor, however, is not local: sushi master Wing Lam. Lam, recruited from San Francisco, was one of five finalists in last year’s California Sushi Masters Competition. “I call him our Iron Chef,” says McDonough. “Everywhere in New England, when you order sushi, you’re given drawings in Plexiglas. We’re the only place on the East Coast where you have to read the menu to know what you’re ordering.”

If the menu holds the possible itineraries, then waiter John was our indispensable tour guide on our gastronomical adventure. “To start I suggest the enormously complex and perfectly balanced ratatouille-ish fish stew – rock solid with chunks of fresh swordfish, halibut, and calamari in a light red sauce.” At $8 a bowl, it lived up to John’s introduction.

“Next I suggest as a transition point and palate cleanser. the kaiso `toy box’ seaweed salad with wild tosaka seaweed, shaved hearts of palm, mizuna, organic red spinach, white asparagus, artisan goat cheese, and blueberry-walnut vinaigrette.” It was presented as a box, and as John noted, it is “the most architecturally complex item on the menu.” The price was $12. John translated the foreign ingredients and assured us that this seaweed salad is far afield from the sesame-seeded slimy sort we’re used to locally.

When it came to experimenting with the sushi courses John led us on a progressive tasting starting with the tame Latitude 43 roll, consisting of crispy tempura tuna, avocado, cucumbers, mango, and more ($18); moving to melt-in-your-mouth blue fin tuna ($6/16); and ending up in the “where the wild things are” category: uni (sea urchins) and quail eggs on tobiko (flying fish roe) ($5/15).

Sure, there’s meatloaf and shepherd’s pie too, but your mom can whip up those comfort foods on any given Sunday. On a visit to Lat 43, throw caution to the wind and go for salmon toro (seared salmon belly) and some sake served in a wooden box – made from a renewable source, no doubt.

Latitude 43

25 Rogers Street, Gloucester


High season 11:30 – midnight; off-season 11:30 – 10 p.m.