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Dinner at Nota Bene - A Review

pinkprimp Jul 23, 2008 05:24 PM

Okay. First I need to mention that David Lee came to our table after dinner and I was so struck, that apparently (according to my BF) I just smiled at him like a dork...lol

Anyway. Onto the restaurant. I love, love, LOVE it! The space is very pretty, a lot of wood, mirrors and beautiful art. The bathrooms make me feel like I'm in an exhibit at the MOMA. I think that it wouldn't hurt to dim the lights just a tee bit more, but that's just being nitpicky.

The food. OH. AMAZING. The wine list was very minimal tonight (three whites, three reds..nothing I was particularly interested in) and they were very keen on pushing beverages, but I could ignore all that for the food.

To start, we had the charcuterie platter, $24 (pig's head, niagara prosciutto, duck prosciutto, maple smoked bacon, a french sausage I couldn't remember the name of, and pork fat like butter, pickled beets, pickled onions, olives and mustard seeds). I liked it a lot. The pig's head was very interesting, and flavour wise, reminds me of Asian barbequed pork. The duck prosciutto was REALLY yummy. We also ordered the tuna tartare, $14. Mmmmmm. It came with avocado on top, with crispy onion and a bit of alfafa-esque sprouts. It sat in a nice pool of a ginger-soy sauce. I really enjoyed it and can't wait to try the steak version.

For the mains, I had the braised short ribs, $24 and my BF had the cornish hen, $24. The short ribs came with a "cornichon and cucumber salad" that I wasn't a big fan of (the pickles are just like the ones I have at home in the fridge...) and a puree of onion and leek (so flavourful). The ribs were sooo incredibly tender and fat and pink and perfect. I almost didn't want to share with the BF, but I'm glad I did because that meant I got to try his cornish hen! It came deboned, whole, but with the drumsticks still intact. It was stuffed with rosemary and parsley on a bed of green beans and bacon with roasted lemon slices. So lovely and moist. It had a very Autumn, rustic feel to it but I loved it nonetheless.

ETA: We also had an order of the rapini for the table. kind of bland, not so remarkable.

For desserts, we split the pots de creme, $10. YUM. They recommended that we eat it in the order of coconut, pistachio, espresso then chocolate. The last two are quite rich and densely flavoured. I think the espresso would be my favourite.

One thing was that the servers were still kinda "green" which is understandable since they just opened. They couldn't answer a lot of the questions I had (ie; what was stuffed in the hen) without consulting someone and one server almost dropped the dishes he was trying to clear off, but in all, really friendly and I'm sure they'll get better. And I appreciate the refolding of the napkin when you leave the table.

In all, the dinner for two with no wine came to $120 before tips.

We're already planning our visit for next week.

  1. pescatarian Jul 23, 2008 05:49 PM

    I want to go just to try those pots de creme!

    Just out of curiosity, what did the pig's head look like on the plate (I know I sound daft and I've charcuterie platters - just no pig's head - unless it was a picture of on in a kitchen or something.

    7 Replies
    1. re: pescatarian
      pinkprimp Jul 23, 2008 05:51 PM

      It looked like barbequed pork! I didn't even know it was the head until the server mentioned it. Very deliciously fatty though.

      1. re: pinkprimp
        pescatarian Jul 23, 2008 05:58 PM

        lol, sounds good.

        1. re: pescatarian
          happycamper Jul 23, 2008 07:37 PM

          oh you make me jealous!
          I must drag bf there this weekend.
          Does anyone have the website?

          Also, the lack of wine selection is a big concern: have you heard anything about future expansion of the wine list?

          1. re: happycamper
            pinkprimp Jul 23, 2008 07:47 PM

            Yes, Yannick told us that they just got their liquor license today so they will have more of a selection once that is up!

            1. re: pinkprimp
              t
              togone Jul 23, 2008 08:54 PM

              http://www.notabenerestaurant.com/menus/

              1. re: togone
                pescatarian Jul 24, 2008 04:00 AM

                The pictures of the food look amazing.

      2. re: pescatarian
        c
        chunkeymonkey Jul 23, 2008 07:01 PM

        The charcuterie pig head is actually the sides of the pigs face,I would say its only the cheeks,as the ears and snout if given to staff.It is like bbq pork the one that hangs from the windows in china town with head and everything ,its baked in the oven with the skin and comes out crispy and the cheek meat is very tender.

        I know this because I work there.:)

      3. s
        slants Jul 24, 2008 11:29 AM

        just came back from lunch ... the crispy duck salad is TO DIE FOR!!!!!!!!!!!! ... kinda like vietnamese vermicelli but with daikon instead of noodles but the duck confit in it is CRAZY GOOD! the flavours are very crisp and fresh ... the lobster club salad was kinda meh ... tasted too much of blue cheese dressing ... split the steak for 2 ... looked like it came off a brontosaurus .... very fred flintone... cooked perfectly medium rare - great flavour as well ... i usually salt the crap out of my steaks but this one had just the right balance of "meat" flavour and herbs ... so soft we cut it with regular knives ... no steak knives needed ... ... great selection of cheeses too

        1 Reply
        1. re: slants
          m
          Minnow Jul 24, 2008 01:09 PM

          I had lunch there today too. They've just opened, so I assume they're going to work on the service issues (had a few things happen that would have really bothered me in an established restaurant.) However, have to agree about the food. Skip the tuna tartare app, nothing really happening there, but that chacuterie plate is wonderful, one of the best I've seen in the city. No pig's head at lunch, but the lardo is as good as any I've had, and the two sausages are certainly tasty. Star of the lunch though, hands down, is the suckling pig and boudin noir tart... whole. e. cow. Nice pastry base, layered with various mushrooms, tender pieces of pork and boudin, topped with crushed pork rinds (?) and truffle oil. There might have been some cheese involved as well. This thing was the definition of savoury - I really didn't want to stop eating. I wouldn't recommend it on a hot day (if we ever have any), but I certainly hope that they keep in on the menu until the fall, because that and a glass of a rich red would be my idea of heaven. This place is definitely one to keep an eye on (but of course you'd expect that from the Splendido crew.)

        2. Vise Jul 31, 2008 01:48 PM

          We went for lunch today and it was truly outstanding. The suckling pig/boudin noir tart could be the best dish in the city IMO... crazy rich, decadent, and delicious. Everything else we had (charcuterie plate, tuna tartare, stilton/brisket burger, shaved onion rings) was excellent as well. Can't wait to go back... Splendido calibre food at reasonable prices, you can't go wrong.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Vise
            m
            Mandy Lin Aug 4, 2008 09:04 AM

            A group of 15 of us from work went last Tuesday for a celebratory dinner. We had a reservation in the private room on the east side of the restaurant. It's not completely closed off, so you still feel the vibe from the busy restaurant, but quite enough to make a speech if you choose.
            That morning, I received a call from the restaurant asking if it would be OK to print a condensed menu of 4 apps, 4 mains, and 4 desserts, so that it would be easier on the kitchen. The choices we were given were:

            Apps:
            - chilled courgette soup
            - tuna tartare
            - ocean trout sashimi
            - mafalda pasta (I think)

            Mains:
            - pickerel filet
            - cornish hen
            - braised beef short ribs
            - suckling pig

            Desserts:
            - pot de cremes
            - cherry crumble
            - panna cotta
            - chocolate tart

            Everything sounded great!

            I asked a couple of times on the phone that week whether there would be a fixed price. The first person I spoke to when I made the reservation said no, it would be a la carte but they would add 18% gratuity for large parties, but she would follow-up with me and ask the manager just in case. The next person I spoke to said that they weren't sure yet as they were just opening that week and we were their first large party. However, when we got to the restaurant, the condensed menu didn't have any prices listed. I asked our waiter whether there was a fixed price for all three dishes (as some of the attendees were asking whether they should order one of each), and he came back telling me that the fixed price was $65 pp. This was a bit surprising as it was never discussed with me in advance, and it seemed rather high.

            The meals came and they were all delicious, as mentioned and described in detail from other bloggers on this site. Eyes around me were lighting up, and conversations came to a halt with the first few bites...later turning to discussions on the food itself. The dishes were elegantly presented, with an added thoughtfulness. Service was professional, attentive, and very well timed.

            I started off with the tuna tartare. It had a great balance of citrus, soy, with crunchy bits of fried shallots, and creamy avocado. I then had the beef ribs which fell off the bone. In fact, the cleaned and roasted bone was delicately placed on top of the meat (added to the presentation). It came with a beautiful rich sauce and a crunchy fresh salad of horseradish, cornichons and cucumber. For dessert, I had the pot de cremes. The coconut and pistachio were my favorite, followed by the chocolate and coffee. I thought the chocolate was a bit too rich, but mixing it with the coffee made it a bit lighter. It was all chased down with a fantastic espresso.

            At the end of the meal, a colleague asked to see the regular menu as she was planning on returning with her husband another time. As I looked over, I summed up my 3 dishes, which came to $49, as well as a few other combinations, which didn't surpass about $52. Hmmm...so where did $65 come from? I quietly stepped aside and approached the front desk where our manager was dealing with the bill and asked about this difference in price, and whether perhaps coffee/tea/one drink was included in the $65. The manager came back quickly with an apology, saying that they mistakenly summed the average of dishes on their full menu instead of the dishes on our condensed menu. He immediately refunded the credit card.

            It was a great meal and a wonderful evening. I would highly suggest it for groups as well. But definitely make sure you speak with them first about the menu and the price. I'll chalk this one up to it being their opening week and us being their first party.

            1. re: Vise
              m
              Mintycake Aug 21, 2008 07:12 AM

              I went for lunch last week. Perhaps I am the only person that didn't think the duck salad was awesome? I mean, it was GOOD, no complaints, but it didn't wow me. Now, the space is beautiful, service was impeccable (we had a great server), and the presentation of the food was great. I found the portion sizes to be "just right" so you wouldn't feel stuffed. Everyone enjoyed their food. We got a dessert tasting as well (pots du creme - I loved them all except pistachio, cherry crumble, which tasted too dry in the crumble bit, and strawberry sorbet which was excellent).

              I'm going again next week for lunch to give it another shot.

            2. skylineR33 Aug 4, 2008 08:29 PM

              Good food at Nota Bene. Like the room a lots ! Modern, trendy and comfortable.

              Here are the pictures of the Suckling Pig and the 60 days aged 12/oz New York Strip.

              Just want to add the truffle taste of the Suckling Pig dish is so strong that I can still feel it when I go to bed at night. The steak is perfectly cooked, very tender and JUICY !

              The picture is taken at night time, so the light is dimmed...

               
               
              3 Replies
              1. re: skylineR33
                r
                robb Aug 5, 2008 09:13 AM

                Heading there tonight. Just wondering about dress code. Would nice jeans, shirt and blazer be reasonable?

                1. re: robb
                  skylineR33 Aug 5, 2008 09:16 AM

                  Yes, nice jeans, shirt and blazer are absolutely fine.

                  1. re: robb
                    gregclow Aug 5, 2008 10:17 AM

                    When I was there for an early dinner the Friday of their opening week, most of the people there were dressed very casually. I was worried that I would feel under-dressed wearing white Docker-style pants and an untucked short-sleeved black casual shirt, but I was better dressed than many of the people at the few other tables that were occupied. One guy came in wearing shorts, a t-shirt and a ball cap, which seemed a bit too casual to me, but the staff didn't seem to have an issue with it.

                2. p
                  peppermint pate Aug 15, 2008 07:30 AM

                  I was at Nota Bene the other evening. Though the food was a bit spotty, imo, I really enjoyed the place.

                  First, the room - very handsome open space, lots of wood and light panels, large art pieces, gorgeous washrooms, long cool bar area when you walk in. The tables are oversized, which is nicely conducive to sharing dishes without feeling cramped. Behind the bar, they have large containers with spigots holding all kinds of fruit/herb/veggie and alcohol infusions - we didn't have any cocktails but I bet they'd be great.

                  Service - impeccable. Over the course of the evening, we had the pleasure of small and large encounters with various waiters, servers, etc., and all were friendly and polished - my favourite combination. There is no attitude here nor does the warmth and casualness reflect a lack of finesse. Full marks for front of house management. Oh yes, and I had noted a food allergy on my "open table" reservation - our waiter came over at the start and went through every item on the menu to say which was okay to order or not - very impressive.

                  Food - okay, so here's where I'm going to digress from the almost universal "wow" reviews to date. Without question, the duck salad was the best dish we tried - crispy duck pieces, strips of jicama chips, daikon and fresh, bright Asian dressing. Delicious. By contrast, the lobster salad was a total disappointment. What was advertised as a lobster, avocado and bacon salad in buttermilk dressing consisted almost entirely of chopped romaine salad with maybe 5 pieces of avocado, 2 delicious but microscopic pieces of bacon and perhaps a claw worth of lobster. For $24, there was no value to this dish and the flavour was just okay. Oh yes, I forgot that we started with some potato chips dusted with parmesan (and maybe truffles?) with an ancho mayo dip. They were quite tasty but in my view, they should have been freshly made and warm - they arrived 2 minutes after we ordered them and it was obvious that they were pre-made - good but could have been better. Overall, the appetizers were very tempting and there are a number of dishes I look forward to trying on future visits.

                  On to the mains - pickerel was very nice (personally, I hate the texture of pickerel, though the flavours were very light and fresh). Scallops with lentils were also quite good - not out of the ballpark but good. The suckling pork boudin was not stellar for me. Firstly, it is crazy rich - blood pudding sausage, pork, taleggio cheese, mushrooms on a puff pastry crust. I found the pastry to be a bit tough and everything was piled high so it was all a bit awkward to eat. It was tasty but I thought it would be much better as an appetizer than a main - and it's very much a fall/winter dish.

                  Dessert - exellent cappuccinos (so rare, even in great restaurants). But I was really disappointed with the pots de creme - they were stiff and gelatinous, not at all the texture that pots de creme should be. I liked the coconut and chocolate flavours best but overall, just so-so.

                  We had a fantastic evening, in spite of the mixed reviews on the food. Given the pedigree of the owners, I have confidence that they will sort out the kinks on the menu and I'm sure there are many treasures amidst the items we didn't get around to trying - but I can't give them full marks on the food - not yet. Again, I can't say enough about the service and the room has a lovely feel to it.

                  1. c
                    commie Aug 18, 2008 09:41 AM

                    Does Nota Bene allow corkage? Planning to have dinner there this saturaday night for a birthday with the wife.
                    Nothing on their list tickles my fancy, not that its a bad list, but i am somewhat of a winehound.
                    Would like to bring a first or 2nd growth bordeaux for the dinner..

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: commie
                      e
                      EarlyDrive Aug 18, 2008 10:44 AM

                      commie,
                      i recall somewhere in this post (or another related post) that they allow corkage and that the fee is $40.

                      1. re: commie
                        r
                        robb Aug 18, 2008 11:16 AM

                        We were there a couple of weeks ago and I brought 2 of my own bottles. Stemware and service was first rate, as it shyould be fro $40/corkage. We made sure to give our waiter, the somellier and David a small taste-which was overwhemmingly appreciated.

                      2. a
                        alley Aug 18, 2008 06:19 PM

                        Based on the reviews here, as an out of town visitor staying downtown I chose to spend my "splurge night out "at Nota Bene, and I was certainly not disappointed. I was surprised at the scale of the room, it is an ambitious undertaking and clearly requires a lot of skill to run. I had the crispy duck salad to start (the contrast of flavours and textures was exceptional) followed by the short ribs (rich and wonderful), with a side of rapini (so as to have something healthy) and wines paired by the server. For dessert a superb chocolate tart with raspberry sorbet - they did not offer the pots de creme tonight (at least I couldn't find them on the menu - ok, I did have 3 glasses of wine, but the dessert menu wasn't all that long, I am sure I would have noticed), but I was happy with my choice. The service was expert. Overall I was very impressed and completely satisfied.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: alley
                          f
                          florence Aug 21, 2008 06:47 AM

                          My experience at lunch last week was underwhelming. The lunch menu they have listed on their website was not what was on offer - they have a much smaller and less interesting menu which was disappointing as we had looked forward to having a special lunch experience (ie long and luxurious)

                          1. re: florence
                            w
                            waxingdeep Aug 29, 2008 06:41 AM

                            I had a lovely dinner at Nota Bene last night. In my opinion it offers excellent value.

                            We begin with the duck salad, the trout tartare, and a green salad. The duck salad deserves the accolades its receiving on this board, but I wonder whether it wouldn't shine more if plated differently, say on a plate less deep and less round. In a bowl the dish seems a little frumpy, especially compared to the lovely tartare. That's really my only quible with it. The tarter was excellent, if a little underseasoned--more shiso, please. The salad had a banal dressing, but the greens were nice enough. You can only expect so much from a garden salad.

                            For my party, the unquestionable highlight was the suckling pig with the boudin noir. It was a superbly executed study in textures--excellent flaky pastry , soft, moist meat, boudin, incredibly smoky bacon, and then cracklings. The only possible complaint was the richness of the dish, but what a dish!

                            Hangar steak was perfectly executed and seasoned. The lamb chunk steak was huge and, I'm told, excellent.

                            Yoghurt panacotta with wild blueberries was very good, although perhaps not especially good value at $10.

                            I'll be back.

                            1. re: waxingdeep
                              f
                              fickle Sep 5, 2008 12:45 PM

                              I have to agree with waxingdeep regarding the plating of the duck salad. I think it would have been better presented in a more shallow bowl to give it a bit more presence. We had shared the charcuterie and the duck salad as our starters. On the table together, we were definitely drawn more to the beautiful presentation of the platter than the bowl. I felt bad that we weren't giving the duck salad as much attention! Thankfully the taste more than made up for the presentation.

                              We followed with the sucking pig & boudin noir tart and the sea bream special. Reflecting back now, I think we should have ordered something else last night instead of the tart and saved it for another occasion. Between the duck, the charcuterie and the pig, I think we went into meat overload! It was a bit much.

                              Since we had indulged so much already, we topped off the evening with the wonderfully rich chocolate tart. The sorbet with the strawberries and the champagne foam was a refreshing end to our highly decadent meal. We'll be back to order a better balanced meal next time ;-)

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