HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
What's your latest food quest? Tell us about it

Nota Bene - Amazing experience yet again - review + pics

BokChoi Sep 1, 2008 12:32 PM

Based on Matt416's and others' suggestions (and the fact that I very much enjoyed my last outing to Nota Bene and eventually realized that it is now my go-to place for a satisfying meal at that price range) I decided to return to Nota Bene and try their other dishes. I did not want to wait for the chef to lose interest before returning as people were right - there is so much more on the menu to sample!

Once again, I was blown away. This time, David Lee was not at the helm, but it was still an amazing experience. The bread pudding was done a bit differently this time, and I preferred the last preparation of it a bit better (more bread, less custard in their bead:custard ratio, thus having a bit more 'crustiness' to it), as well, the charcuterie seemed a touch smaller (but that could just be because I was shocked by the variety the first time, and it lost that 'surprise' appeal for me this time), but still excellent. But those were minor complaints in the grand scheme of things.

Charcuterie: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2815217101/in/set-72157606822704633/
Bread & Butter Pudding: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2815217431/in/set-72157606822704633/

For those that have not yet tried Nota Bene, you do not know what you are missing. Truly a great find in this city - even removing the standout prices of this place, it has some of the tastiest food you can find in Toronto. I truly hope that I can still call this my favourite restaurant in the many years to come.

This time, I tried the amazing Boudin Noir tart, as everyone has suggested. Forget the seasons - this dish is for all seasons and is AMAZING. I could eat this everyday (and probably die of a coronary), but it is just THAT good. Granted, you have to enjoy the earthy flavour of the dish, which reminded me a good deal of truffle aroma. Amazing. Paired with the mushrooms, it was a hearty dish that was full of punch. The 'tart' was a thin phyllo crisp beneath the mushroom, suckling pig, and boudin noir topping. The suckling pig was sweet and succulent. It was perfectly executed, and was so sickeningly tender. It was topped with crisp bacon that added an excellent texture contrast. And for such a punchy dish, it sure did have a delicate presentation. Truly one of my favourite dishes at the moment.

Boudin Noir: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2816067692/

Before I go on to my other favourite dishes of the evening, I just wanted to mention the scallops. They were excellently done, but IMO, they were just scallops for me. Nothing too special. But they were very sweet, and juicy. Fresh produce, and excellent bed of lentils underneath them with a flavourful broth.

Scallops: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2815217173/ (poor photo though, apologies


My next favourite dishes were the crab cakes (the special of the day) and the ocean trout. Let's start with the trout. Wafer-thin slices of trout sashimi with presented on a sprinkling of olive oil and soya sauce, topped with shiso leaves, coriander and thai basil. The shiso leaves really stole the show here and were an excellent addition to the dish - it provided the contrasting punch the dish required of such a fish. Well executed. Only complaint was that there was not enough to go around!

Ocean Trout: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2816067532/

Now onto the greatest crab cake I have ever known. If there was any binder used in this crab cake, I could not tell because it was just that minimal. At the forefront of this dish was none other than the Maryland crab. Truly a feat of wonderment. I really hope they recycle this dish and have it in the future as well, because it was only on the specials menu. The meat was so succulent and sweet. It was as if you were eating by the ocean and were eating straight from the crab shell. Only someone was so kind to collect all the lump crab meat with put them on the plate for you, and lightly sear its exterior (fine bread crumb mixture breaded the cake, which was ever so lightly pan-seared - no oily residue). At first when it arrived, I thought that it was the smallest main dish I had ever seen (minus the experience I had at Thuet that is), but upon tasting the dish, I would never desire the chef to 'stretch' the ingredients by adding filler and binder to it to create an average calibre crab cake that was twice as large. I could go on and on about this crab cake, but all this talk of food is making me hungry and it's almost lunch time.

Crab Cake: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2815217217/

Next up were the desserts. As previously mentioned, I went back to my favourite dessert of my last meal and had the bread pudding. It changed a bit (more custard, less bread - which was more like a thin 'toast' crust on top of custard) and I preferred the last variation a bit better. But to each their own. Then we also tried the chcolate tort (dark, rich and creamy chocolate) with a so-so raspberry sorbet accompaniment, and the cherry crumble. The raspberry sorbet lacked the texture I usually associate with raspberries, and the taste was not strong enough of the berry. A bit of a disappointment next to the strongly flavoured tart. The Bing Cherry crumble was another strong dish - excellent crusty topping. Cherries were a bit tart as expected and thus the dish was not overly sweet. Would be my second favourite dessert after the Bread Pudding, but just ahead of the subtler panna cotta.

Cherry Crumble: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2815217375/
Chocolate Tart: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

I can only hope that David Lee and his team continue to produce such excellent fare at such an affordable price. They are truly a force to be reckoned with in the Toronto food scene right now. I can finally feel confident in recommending a restaurant to my friends and coworkers and not worry that they will have a disappointing experience.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

  1. d
    DDD Sep 1, 2008 03:52 PM

    Thank you for the thorough review - number one on my to check out list.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DDD
      BokChoi Sep 1, 2008 05:35 PM

      Glad to hear it. This was my second visit (other review posted as well) and I was blown away even more than the first time. Let me know how you enjoy it.


      1. re: BokChoi
        BokChoi Sep 19, 2008 01:54 PM

        This was my original review. Just to link them all together. Cheers!

    2. p
      phisherking Sep 2, 2008 06:25 AM

      I'm curious as to why you seem to think David Lee would lose interest in his business??? It seems to me he's nothing but professional, and would only want the best for his two restaurants.

      8 Replies
      1. re: phisherking
        BokChoi Sep 2, 2008 08:49 AM

        I have been to many restaurants that have gone downhill after they solidified their status. Also, many tend to become complacent. Supply and demand also drives the industry - and I worry that as he becomes more and more popular, will he maintain the same pricing structure that he currently employs at Nota Bene that makes it so affordable to the masses?

        Many ‘celebrity’ restauranteurs expand their empires faster than they can train their staff. It is a natural constraint. The man can only be in so many places at one time. It takes a great team to maintain an excellent restaurant. I just hope that he would not be the same as so many others and can prove me wrong.


        1. re: BokChoi
          OnDaGo Sep 2, 2008 01:32 PM

          Actually I was there two Saturdays ago and David Lee was in the Kitchen but his Front of the House guy was not in and I can confirm that the service suffered... The waiter was slow & disinterested, the food arrived cold and with strange timing... and the whole experience was sub par...

          David just popped his head out of teh kitchen did not visit any tables while we were there...

          Also has anyone ever seen the lounge busy? it seats like 30 people and I have never seen more then two people at the bar...

          1. re: OnDaGo
            redleaf55 Sep 19, 2008 12:12 PM

            My DH and I went for lunch today - our first visit - and the staff were great. Nice, relaxed, and chatty - a failing of mine is asking everyone how they are, some places they just smile, nod and leave but here, everyone stopped, responded, asked how we were enjoying ourselves etc. Very nice.

            I can't hope to compare with BokChoi's amazing reviews. DH and I had pretty much the same meal:
            - prosciutto to start - a nice contrast between the bitter greens and amazing meat
            - Friday's lunch feature - Nova Scotia Lobster Club. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it definitely wasn't a lovely crusty bun with two huge pieces of wonderful lobster in side. The sandwhich also had crisp lettuce and some lovely smokey bacon. The fries on the side were lovely and the cheese (name escapes me) on top added that extra "something"
            -I had the chocolate tart for dessert and while it and the raspberry sorbet were quite nice together it wasn't my favourite. In interests of full disclosure though, I should stop ordering chocolate desserts. I love milk chocolate and can only just tolerate dark chocolate. This was wonderful dark chocolate though.
            DH had a rhubarb apple crumble which was quite delightful. He only allowed me a forkful!

            All in all, very nice. A bit pricey for us for lunch ($150, for three courses and 1 glass of wine each + tip) but definitely worth the money. Just have to be a bit sparing with our visits.

            1. re: redleaf55
              BokChoi Sep 19, 2008 04:42 PM

              Great review, redleaf55. I have yet to try their lunch, so this was very useful for me. Glad to hear that their lunch is executed well. I have heard mixed earlier reviews about the lunch experience, hence why I have yet to try it. It may be close enough to the financial district for me to make a quick stop by for lunch one day.

              Cheers and happy eating!

          2. re: BokChoi
            grandgourmand Sep 2, 2008 01:46 PM

            I couldn't locate a website. What are the prices like?

            1. re: grandgourmand
              BokChoi Sep 2, 2008 02:09 PM

              The website is hard to track down. But here is the link:

              Prices are in the mid-twenties for mains, with appetizers in the mid-teens on average. Desserts around $10.


              OnDaGo - the service is already starting to suffer? That is quite saddening. I did notice that the service was not as coordinated during my second visit, nor as doting in nature, but I still found it above par - just not as surreal an experience as the first time. I hope this is not a sign of things to come!

              1. re: BokChoi
                BrownRB Sep 9, 2008 07:35 AM

                Had dinner there on Friday with my son. We loved it. The Tuna Tatare, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Pickerel, Beef Ribs and Beets were all excellent. Good service as well. Thanks for the recommendation, BokChoi.

                1. re: BrownRB
                  BokChoi Sep 9, 2008 09:29 AM

                  Thanks for the comment. Glad my review helped you discover Nota Bene. Truly a gem (IMO). Cheers

        2. c
          charxchar Sep 10, 2008 10:39 AM

          I wish I worked close to NB so I could eat the lunch specials...going to check it out on Saturday, super-excited!

          1 Reply
          1. re: charxchar
            BokChoi Sep 10, 2008 02:29 PM

            Another post on another thread stated that they were underwhelmed by the lunch special, so it could be lucky that you can't make it there.

            Hope you have an enjoyable meal. Please report back if there are any special dishes and let us know how your evening went.


          2. s
            so_lovefood Sep 12, 2008 12:00 PM

            I've been to Nota Bene twice in the last two weeks and both experiences were great. Excellent food, service and value for money. The charcuterie plate was awesome and unique and just the right portion. Also, we loved the $8 (well worth it) pecorino cheese fries. Delicious!

            1 Reply
            1. re: so_lovefood
              BokChoi Sep 12, 2008 08:43 PM

              I still must try the pecorino fries. They sound very enticing. I always see the tables beside ours devouring them, but I always find myself very satisfied just ordering a three course meal there without sides. An amazing new restaurant in Toronto. Excellent value. Cannot wait to return.

            2. cynalan Sep 13, 2008 04:35 AM

              Food looks very interesting but the wine list has ridiculous markups.

              1. d
                digiteyes Sep 14, 2008 11:02 AM

                Agree with your assessment.
                Went last night with two friends.
                Betty had the lobster salad followed by the scallops (different scallop dish from yours). Sandy had the duck salad followed by Papardelle with rabbit. I had the charcuterie followed by the suckling pig & boudin noir tarte.
                We finished off by sharing the 7-cheese plate, and each had a flight of three dessert wines (sherry, madiera, and port).

                All of the food was really excellent. I had too much, and have half the tart in my fridge for dinner tonight.

                Fresh ingredients, individual flavours, beautiful presentation, and good service. We've all vowed to return.

                I have to try that duck salad!

                3 Replies
                1. re: digiteyes
                  BokChoi Sep 17, 2008 06:48 AM

                  Good to hear you had a wonderful experience, digiteyes. They have a papardelle on the menu now? Was that a daily special? Was not the boudin noir tarte an amazingly earthy, full-bodied, and rich dish? I should go again as well just to get my boudin noir tarte fix.

                  1. re: BokChoi
                    digiteyes Nov 23, 2008 01:35 PM

                    Just looking at this posting thread again, because I'm thinking of going back for dinner. It's either that, or The Black Hoof, which just got a 4 star review in the Toronto Star. Doesn't sound like it's quite as attractive a spot, which is why I'm thinking Nota Bene again... The boudin noir tarte was awesome. I'm used to crummy grocery-store boudin noir, and the taste of this one was... how to put it? rich, complex, earthy... my whole being just kind of hummed on a sympathetic harmonic note after eating it :-D
                    Even cold as a leftover the next day, it was awesome. the truffle scent came through even more strongly when it was cold.

                    1. re: digiteyes
                      BokChoi Nov 23, 2008 08:48 PM

                      I saw that review as well. Got my interests piqued. Do report back if you try Black Hoof.

                      That boudin noir tarte does hit the spot when you're in the mood for that sort of dish, doesn't it? My SO cannot stand it, and I just don't get it. But then again, they love olives, and I cannot get myself to enjoy them no matter how hard I try - so I guess I'm not as sophisticated in their eyes either. We all have different tastes.

                      There is never any leftover once I get through my meal, unfortunately, so I will have to take your word that it tastes better the next day.


                2. j
                  Janine Sep 18, 2008 09:02 AM

                  I went to Nota Bene after reading about them in Toronto Life and thought, well the chowhounds must have something to say. The rave reviews sealed my desire to try this place. The fact that you don't have to yell to have a conversation. The very expensive leather chairs to the art. And on top of the fact, the service and food are good at least according to you and Toronto Life. So I went last night with hubby. Wednesday the 17th of sept. I got a 5:30pm reservation the only one that night and on the recommendations on the reviews I had the Boudin Noir. Rich and decadant, I've never had this dish before so I have nothing to compare it to but it seem to be excellent to me. I also started with the Barrimunda which was a nice light start before the rich meal. Hubby had vicki's heirloom tomatoes with buffalo cheese. Another Chowhounder I think mentioned the buffalo cheese was the best and it was superb. Melt in your mouth quality..I've never had buffalo cheese like that! He had the yellow fin tuna for his main. Not so great. Didn't melt in your mouth like it should had.
                  For dessert, we shared the bread and butter pudding which was amazing..best bread pudding not too heavy like most bread puddings. I've had and the lemon panna cotta with blueberries..yum a perfect light but if I had known the bread pudding wasn't that heavy I would had ordered that too..it was that good!

                  Overall I give the mains/appetizers 4/5 stars as the yellowfin wasn't up to snuff and it should be. I'd give 5/5 for the desserts.
                  I'd give it 5/5 on atmosphere. I love being able to talk to dinner companion..not yell.
                  I'd give it 3.5/5 on service...here I was disappointed as I was hoping for superb service but Toronto just lacks in that way. No one checked how our meal was until the end of the meal and only I was asked about my meal. Also I decided I needed a drink to but the richness of the tart and as I couldn't decide, the bus boy said he'd come back to ask me but never did so I had to flag someone down to get a drink and it took a while to flag someone as well. I did get the sommelier I think (man dressed well) and he suggested something that I did like. I wanted a beer and he suggested a belgian beer Chimney? can't remember the name now...made by monks spring water, natural yeast, very smooth, almost sweet..went really well with the tart. Big bottle though I don't drink much. But it was worth it.
                  Maybe it was all the hype but overall, I was more disappointed than impressed. Worth trying again..now that I won't be as hyped up...I'll probably enjoy it better next time.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Janine
                    foodyDudey Sep 18, 2008 09:53 AM

                    your review was mainly praise and you gave it 17.5 out of 20, how could you say that "overall, I was more disappointed than impressed" ?

                    1. re: foodyDudey
                      JamieK Sep 18, 2008 02:17 PM

                      I was wondering the same thing.

                      1. re: JamieK
                        tjr Sep 18, 2008 07:30 PM

                        While she liked it overall, I think perhaps she was saying that it doesn't live up to the hype (much the same as some people have been saying about Caplansky's).

                        When I went to Nota Bene, I was impressed. Delicious food, good presentation, decent service, good value. It is definitely a good recommendation for the price range, and I had few faults with the food given the price. The service, on the other hand, was typical Toronto, and not worthy of extra mention. Perhaps this is why Janine was disappointed. Great food, great value, mediocre service? I don't think she was being malicious.

                        1. re: tjr
                          Janine Sep 18, 2008 07:51 PM

                          Well tjr has it correct. The overall experience didn't live up to the hype but I did say it was worth going to again. God knows if it wasn't good I wouldn't bother thinking of going back! And yes, service was better than most Toronto restaurants but not worthy of standards I've had elsewhere. And from the Toronto Life article, I was led to believe the service would be impeccable.
                          yes the sommelier was good which is why I mentioned him but he's just one of the team. FYI, I did tip decently but I would had tipped very graciously had the service reflected the Toronto Life Article. But that's another topic, isn't it?

                          1. re: Janine
                            BokChoi Sep 19, 2008 04:40 PM

                            Janine. Happy to hear you enjoyed the food. The service I had on my first visit was stellar and was similar to experiences I have had at Michelin starred restaurants in NYC - but on my second visit, it had noticeably slipped, but was still above competent, IMO. They weren't quite as doting and coordinated, but they still refolded the napkins each time I left my seat, which is always a plus in my book. It really depends on your server, as well, I find. One gentlemen in particular was very knowledgeable of each dish and eloquent when presenting each item. He was obviously the head waiter. Another time, I had a gentlemen that stuttered a tad and was less refined in his presentation, but he was still quite jovial. That is what I believe may lead to different experiences with respect to service at this restaurant. Either way, for that price, I am more than happy with the service I received.


                    2. re: Janine
                      estufarian Sep 18, 2008 04:38 PM

                      Hi Janine,
                      A few years back i visited wd-50 in New York and had a dish that was one of the worst I've had anywhere (foie gras with sardines). It so dominated my impression, that it was only when I wrote it up that I realized that the other courses had been pretty good. But that one bad experience was what I mostly recalled.
                      I did re-try the place (fortunately) as it is now my favourite restaurant in North America. And if you re-read your review I know you'll find you made a number of compliments.
                      Is Nota Bene perfect? Not for everybody. I really like the service there - but I also hate people asking me how my meal is before I've had a chance to really sample it (different strokes etc.). My yardstick is 'For what it costs is there anywhere else I'd go first?. And I think Nota bene pretty much now owns that category (more expensive than bistro/neighbourhood, but below de-luxe dining (and prices)).
                      I'm sure they don't need my recommendation - as you say, everybody seems to be praising it, and it's not perfect (only been open about a month), but what else has achieved that level in such a short time?
                      Of course, no excuses for somebody not getting back to you - but that's fixable. And a perfect recommendation for the tart (probably Chimay) - a beer recommendation from a sommelier suggests (to me) that you got excellent service.

                      1. re: estufarian
                        BokChoi Sep 22, 2008 01:37 PM

                        estufarian, I agree whole-heartedly with your sentiments. Everyone has different preferences in terms of service. For one, I do not care for a waiter to ask how my meal is 5 minutes into a course, as I have not had a chance to fully digest the experience - the same as you. And I would agree, at the price point for NB, nothing even comes close in Toronto. I would go back in a heartbeat, as their weekly specials seem just as strong as their regular items.

                        gijoeanne, I got the idea that you had a pleasant experience, though I was not sure of your conclusion on the meal. Overall thoughts?

                    3. g
                      gijoeanne Sep 20, 2008 06:08 PM

                      Went to Nota Bene this past Thursday. The lounge up front was actually quite busy - must be because they were telling walk-in's that all tables have been reserved that night. And they were right. The place is buzzing.

                      To start we shared the Nova Scotia Lobster Salad and the charcuterie platter. The salad was for the most part unremarkable, but the lobster was nicely cooked to allow the lobster sweetness to shine through. As for the charcuterie platter, whipped pork fat! Mmm..enough said.

                      Then it was the suckling pig and boudin noir tart for him and braised short ribs for me. First, let me say the only other boudin noir we've ever tried was at Thomas Keller's Bouchon so that was our reference point. The boudin was good, but still not as good as Bouchon's. The braised short ribs were very very tender though.

                      We had two glasses of wine (actually, two 200 mL carafes) - the Hess Collection Cabernet and the Tempranillo. The server suggested these two to us because we couldn't quite figure out how to carry through from the appetizers to the substantially richer main courses with a single wine (Asian alcohol tolerance). Though I gotta say that the $16 and $18 glasses didn't quite match up to the pricing of the food dishes...

                      For dessert, since I mentioned on Open Table that it was his birthday, they brought out a a chocolate plaque saying "Happy Birthday" with a candle. Nice touch. He had the pistachio ice cream with poached Niagara nectarines that he didn't care to finish. I had the bread pudding which was very custardy and looks/tasted like it had been bruléed on top?

                      The service was nice, friendly, although certainly nowhere near Splendido level like I've heard some people say.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: gijoeanne
                        BokChoi Sep 30, 2008 10:37 AM

                        Thanks for the review gijoeanne. Sounds like you had a wonderful evening.

                        The service is a bit patchy, and sometimes you luck out if they are not too busy - but I am more than pleased with the service level. Food is always fantastic.

                        1. re: embee
                          BokChoi Sep 30, 2008 11:55 AM

                          embee, just curious - why was I to delete the question about advice on best getting a seat at Nota Bene for a large party? I did, on your request, but would like to know. Someone else posted a similar thread on JKWB - just for my information. I read the posting etiquette and could not find anything. Just wanting advice from other CHers that worked at getting a spot a hot places, like Nota Bene (walk in, get a drink and wait, split up the table, etc.). Thanks

                          1. re: BokChoi
                            embee Sep 30, 2008 01:13 PM

                            There's absolutely nothing wrong with your post BokChoi!

                            I had posted a quick suggestion to use Open Table and then realized that you already knew about that option and that you probably couldn't book the large party via that method.

                            I tried to delete my post, but CH wouldn't let me. When I erased the text and tried to save the empty box, it simply restored the text I was trying to erase.

                            For whatever reason, the report link wasn't available, so I couldn't ask the mods to nuke it. That option has now appeared, so I'll try again.

                            Sorry for any confusion :-(

                            1. re: BokChoi
                              embee Sep 30, 2008 01:30 PM

                              I finally got a message through asking the mods to restore your message and delete mine. Then I reread your post and saw that you deleted it yourself. Oy.

                              Do repost it.

                              After all this hassle, I guess I should ask the question - will Open Table not accept your reservation? Nota Bene is certainly designed to handle large parties.

                              1. re: embee
                                BokChoi Sep 30, 2008 01:36 PM

                                LOL thanks for the clarification embee! I thought I made a mistep with my posting. Sorry to stress you out a bit. Open Table was fully booked and tried calling them as well, but nothing. Also the bar area is off limits for large groups. Just wondering if there was anything I had missed. Wanted to get a table to introduce some coworkers to this place - but alas... we may have to look for an alternative.

                                I just think it's almost impossible to get a seat there now ~ tres disheartening.


                        2. a
                          air621 Oct 6, 2008 11:15 AM

                          I'm heading there this Saturday for my 5th anniversary dinner. I'm hoping it lives up to the hype

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: air621
                            BokChoi Oct 6, 2008 03:03 PM

                            Good luck - I hope it will consistently be as good as it has been. I am heading there again around the same time. I hope the bread pudding is as good as I remember from my first visit!

                            Does anyone know where to get the wonderful cheese that came with the Caprese salad?


                          2. Scrunchions Oct 10, 2008 09:51 PM

                            I just went to Nota Bene for a Friday night dinner. The charcuterie platter was heavenly - a true celebration of pork fat (with a bit of duck fat on the side). The Boudin Noir tart was also excellent - reminds me of Martin Picard's "ploye" a Champlain without the maple syrup; David Lee would probably kill if I start bring maple syrup to Nota Bene for his Boudin Noir tart.

                            But, ah ... the service. I think we had a wait-person assigned to us but different people were bringing different things to our table and taking away empty plates. No wait-person spoke to us after our mains were delivered (without a word to us) - we did not even get a chance to tell someone that they delivered the wrong side to us (we asked for "frites" but got "beets") or to put in another order of the side we wanted. Our waitress finally came to our table while I was taking literally my last bite to refill our water glasses (which had long been empty after initially filled when we first sat down) and then disappeared and someone else came after awhile to take our empty plates. Maybe I am demanding, but coffee arrived 5 minutes after dessert did.

                            Although there seemed to be many wait staff on duty, we only saw one or two at a time on the floor while the dining room was full of diners; at one point, there was actually no wait staff on the floor. It is kinda strange. Then, as the dining room emptied of diners, all the wait staff came back and started walking around the dining room -- so wierd.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Scrunchions
                              Janine Oct 12, 2008 09:59 PM

                              yes, this is what was disappointing when I went as well. Food is excellent. Service ..well I was led to believe it would be the same. It was decent. I felt like I had to chase down the staff for my drink during dinner. They all seem to disappear once the food is served.

                              1. re: Scrunchions
                                BokChoi Oct 13, 2008 06:11 AM

                                This is very strange. I went again very recently and found the service to be excellent. Plates were delivered synchronously, water glasses always kept filled, and our table was asked on 3 occasions if we were enjoying ourselves and how the food was. Our bread basket was also voluntarily filled before the mains arrived.

                                The lead waiter for our table was exceptionally friendly and capable. She was knowledgeable, well spoken, and ably suggested different dishes at the start of the process in case we were not familiar with the menu (as I had been there on two previous occasions, I was okay, but it was still nice to hear what was popular). We were aided throughout the evening by approximately a team of 3. As I left my table to head to the rest room, one of the floor managers noticed and stepped ahead of me to escort me and show me the way. When a course was done, and we had only just placed our forks and knives down, the dishes would be swooped away. It was impeccably timed, and almost uncanny.

                                On the way out, we were told to have a good night by as many as 5 of the waitstaff - it was very amusing as they turned around and almost created a 'pathway of greeting' towards the door.

                                This experience was just as great as my first visit in terms of service, with the mid visit a tad below. The middle visit was still at a very high standard when compared with my experiences at other similar restaurants. I have yet to have a bad experience, as others have described, but that is not to say their comments are without merit. I will continue to dine at Nota Bene and will report back each time. So far, I have been very impressed, and hope that this continues.

                                I will post a longer review soon about which dishes we had, but I thought I should address these concerns first, and describe my experience.


                                1. re: BokChoi
                                  Food Tourist Oct 17, 2008 02:27 PM

                                  Ate in the bar/lounge area last night and found service to be spotty but not downright horrible. For instance, it took way too long to get a glass of wine and was half way through my main before it arrived. Asked if tables were available in the dining room and the server never returned with an answer. Was disgusted by the bathrooms - no toilet paper, no paper towels - obviously not checked regularly by staff.

                                  No crab cakes on the menu, sadly. However, I enjoyed the barramundi appetizer (each component was perfectly flavoured and the puffed grains added interesting texture) and my friend enjoyed her rabbit loin papardelle with chanterelles main. As for the suckling pig boudin noir tart, it was so rich I couldn't eat more than half. Each component was indeed perfect; however, the overall effect was overwhelming. It reminded me of eating Luke's tete du cochon in Kingston which I had to abandon because of the grease. My friend enjoyed her chocolate cake with butter pecan ice cream but I wasn't impressed with the too-subtle creme caramel with salted praline crunch.

                                  I won't be rushing back, but next time would definitely sit in the dining room to get the full effect. I was glad to see your photos before heading out so that I could narrow down the choices!

                                  1. re: Food Tourist
                                    BokChoi Oct 21, 2008 11:27 AM

                                    Hi Food Tourist,

                                    Thanks for the review. Also glad that the photos were of some assistance in narrowing down your food choices! Have not tried the creme caramel (as I am not typically a fan of that dessert), and based on your review, I guess I won't be trying their version - thanks. Sad to hear your experience in terms of service was so poor. The washrooms were in tip top shape each time I have gone (except one time when I reported a leaking sink which I reported to them and I'm sure they took care of it afterwards), so I wonder why they were so spotty on the night you went.

                                    SO also felt the boudin noir was too heavy and could not stomach it either. I, on the other hand, loved every last morsel. So to each their own! Crab cakes were unfortunately a special of the day. I didn't see it the last time I went either, but their sea bass was truly fantastic (special of the day) - makes me think their specials are a sure-fire hit.


                                  2. re: BokChoi
                                    homebaker Oct 21, 2008 10:21 PM

                                    Hi BokChoi,

                                    As I read your comments about the excellent service you received, I couldn't help but consider the thought that maybe the staff somehow recognise/know you as a somewhat regular customer, and maybe even (gasp!) as a "food critic"? :)

                                    1. re: homebaker
                                      BokChoi Oct 22, 2008 05:13 AM

                                      Hi Homebaker,

                                      You could possibly be right – but even since my first visit, I have always been treated with much respect there and have never had a bad experience. I have only gone on 3 occasions, so I am sure there are much more ‘regular’ customers than I! My third visit was just as memorable as my first - no better, no worse. The second visit was a notch below, but well above the norm for restaurants of that price range.

                                      I typically have had great experiences at many restaurants, even as a tourist in NYC – I received a kitchen tour of WD50 amongst the many highlights of my short 4 day stay there and met Chef Wiley. I think my table was the only one invited back there that evening. When in Spain, Cal Pep himself (of the restaurant fame rated as the best value restaurant in the world by Michelin) talked to us, created a menu for us, served us and got our contact information for sending us monthly recipes from his restaurant. He even posed for pictures with a calamari we later ate (see my flickr account for those shots). I honestly think that if you treat others with respect and kindness, it is often (often, not always) reciprocated. That’s the practice I’ve employed and so far, it seems to be working out just fine.

                                      And maybe they can just see my love of food oozing from my pores – that could be it too.


                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                        estufarian Oct 22, 2008 07:10 AM

                                        I think you're right. Whenever a diner shows interest you tend to get better treatment (I also got invited back into the kitchen at wd-50). Also got invited into the kitchen at Gordon Ramsey (in London) - but that was so they could clear my table and seat someone more important. Had to finish my meal on a coffee table in the lounge! That's NOT service.
                                        Incidentally on my second visit to Nota Bene (part of a foursome), the server struggled to remove 4 plates at the same time (including two of the very heavy cheese plates). Immediately another server (who hadn't served our table all evening) came over to assist without any apparent signals. THAT'S excellent service.

                                        1. re: BokChoi
                                          homebaker Oct 22, 2008 09:16 AM

                                          Hi BokChoi,

                                          I'm glad you saw past my obvious tongue-in-cheek comment and hit on the more subtle issue that kindness and respect (as a customer) is a much more worthy (and sometimes more difficult!) approach than "I'm paying your wages so you better eat my dirt and smile real big" attitude.

                                          But I digress... :)

                                          In any case, I think more restaurants should take service cues from places like Nota Bene. (Wishful thinking, I know.)

                                          1. re: homebaker
                                            Charles Yu Oct 22, 2008 03:41 PM

                                            With co-owner Yannick overlooking things up front definitelly helps. Nice to see the Splendido influence spilling over to NB.

                                            1. re: homebaker
                                              BokChoi Oct 23, 2008 05:22 AM

                                              Hi homebaker,

                                              Well said. Everyone's got their job to do, so why not make this world a better place through simple, kind gestures? I agree, I think I would enjoy more restaurants taking a cue from Nota Bene. Let's see if NB can change the landscape of Toronto dining by setting a great example for others to follow!

                                              Does Chef Ramsey ever appear at that restaurant? Kitchen Tours are always very exciting - though I am never quite sure how to act during one! What questions are one supposed to ask when in there?
                                              Seems like they were trying to make up for the rude ushering-out-the-door-maneuver. But at least they made an attempt to appease you.


                                    2. y
                                      Yum2MyTum Oct 21, 2008 03:12 PM

                                      Hi BokChoi,

                                      I went with a friend to experience Nota Bene for lunch after being so very impressed with dinner service.

                                      We both were more than satisfied with our experience. The standout dish was the tuna tartare - a dish I declined from ordering because of many previous lacklustre experiences but that I was fortunate enough to taste thanks to my generous dining companion. It was fresh, sweet, tart, and just perfect, really.

                                      The service was impeccable: we were in and out the door in 45 minutes flat, to our amusement (and chagrin - back to the office we went).

                                      What a great addition to the city's dining scene. Thanks for the great review, BokChoi and keep up the great work.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Yum2MyTum
                                        BokChoi Oct 22, 2008 05:15 AM

                                        45minutes flat? Wow, that is quite impressive. Perfect for that 'lunch hour' business lunch. I have yet to try the tartare, even though it was suggested as the most popular appetizer because I always felt tartare was just a tartare (Jean George's was good, but nothing spectacular in NYC, however, WD50's was quite an unexpected treat). I should try it next time - thanks for the review.

                                        Also, thank you for the kind sentiments.

                                      2. e
                                        embee Oct 22, 2008 08:16 AM

                                        We had dinner at Nota Bene on a recent Friday night. All in all a good meal and, by Toronto standards, a decent value (though Toronto meal prices at this level of restaurant always seem much higher than at similar places in, say, Montreal). Once again, though, this meal confirmed my belief that Toronto really excels at cheap "ethnic" cuisines. Fine dining is much less a Toronto forte.

                                        We were welcomed warmly and seated promptly at a decent table. The place was about half full when we arrived at 7:00, but filled completely by 7:30. Many people were celebrating events or were obviously tourists.

                                        Service was mainly excellent, with one annoying glitch at the beginning. A male server quickly arrived and asked that annoying trick question "would you like still or sparkling water?". We ordered two glasses of "Lake Ontario's finest" and he was visibly annoyed. This gambit has always bugged me, and it bugs me more and more as the truth about most bottled waters becomes widely known.

                                        Shortly after, a female server came to our table. She asked whether we wanted still, sparkling, or tap water, so I assume this gambit is not restaurant policy. When we told her this had been addressed, she exited pleasantly, but we overheard her complaining that her table had been scooped.

                                        While this incident seemed foreboding, service for the rest of the meal was excellent. It was well timed and accurate. At least four different people delivered various dishes, but the original server checked in on each course, escorted me to the washroom when I asked its location, and was attentive to some special requests. The Lake Ontario's finest was refilled without asking. He may very well have been chastised backstage, but we had nothing else to complain about.

                                        We began with the crisp duck salad and the ocean trout sashimi. The duck salad turned out to be the highlight of the meal. The portion was generous and the various flavours and textures melded beautifully. An unusual and delicious dish.

                                        The sashimi, which others have raved about on this board, was good, but disappointing. The portion was mingy, about half the amount of fish served to BokChoi. The fish was very fresh, but it tasted like, well, "generic sashimi". It did not have any distinctive flavour. I've had better elsewhere, including at some cut rate places. The sauce, while good, could just as easily have come from a high quality jar. The dish only superficially resembled the one in BokChoi's picture.

                                        For mains, we had the grilled spiced shrimp with "corn chowder" (Friday special) and the braised beef short rib. The shrimp were accurately cooked and the portion was ample, but the dish lacked any pizazz. Whatever the shrimp were spiced with didn't come through, and the corn "chowder" was was also bland. OTOH, the beef was tender, juicy, rich, and delicious and and its garnishes impeccable. An order of frites was wonderful, but the promised shaved pecorino was MIA.

                                        We each had just one glass of wine (one of us a red; one of us a white), matched to our mains. These were perfectly fine, but didn't make any impression. We didn't write down the wine info.

                                        We split the chocolate tart with raspberry sorbet for dessert. The tart and sorbet were both exquisite and neither was overly sweet (our preference). Coffee was ordinary, but okay. It arrived with 2% milk, rather than cream (we weren't asked for a preference). This was remedied quickly.

                                        Nota Bene has real warmth for such a starkly modern venue. We ended up having a lively conversation with the people at the adjacent table, which is a rare thing at this kind of resto. Sashimi excepted, there was lots of food. Quality was top notch and cooking was expert. Some of the recipes simply didn't hit, but the duck salad, beef, and dessert wowed. That's awfully good for Toronto, and we left feeling sated and happy.

                                        Good restaurant? For sure. Good value? Yes by Toronto standards, but my personal feeling is that it should have cost $50 less. Up to the hype? I'd need to say "no", but YMMV. A meal of duck salad, short rib, and chocolate tart would have rated a 10. However, a meal of sashimi and shrimp would have been a 7-8.

                                        We'd definitely go back, but it wouldn't be a high priority must do.

                                        16 Replies
                                        1. re: embee
                                          BokChoi Nov 19, 2008 06:39 PM


                                          Upon re-reading your post, I thought I should qualify my posts about Nota Bene and my opinion on Toronto-based restaurants in general. I want everyone to keep in mind that when I post, I rate Toronto restaurants compared to other Toronto restaurants. When I say Nota Bene is exceptional and great value, I mean that it is fantastic for Toronto standards. Of course when I bring NYC into the mix, it would ruin any scale that I may have established. Same as if I were to compare Montreal. Just in case anyone wanders in expecting world-class calibre food/value, I just don't want them to have their expectations too high. If your expectations are kept to a moderate level, I have confidence that you will more likely than not enjoy your time at Nota Bene. My raves about NB stem from my frustration of finding consistent 'value' food in Toronto. Besides Weezie's, and Le Paradis, NB is my new go-to place for a mid(/higher) end dining experience. Grand, of course, is my standby Dim Sum resto for value.

                                          For approximately $26~28 a main, this is more than what I would expect from a Toronto restaurant. If it were at the $35 or $40 price range, I would of course expect much more (hence why I found Scaramouche just so-so for me. I expect much more at that price range. It was good. Safe. But just not worth it IMO. Even if it were in the NB price range, as I enjoy the flavours of NB better. That is also why I found Le Select to be disappointing, because I did not find it to be that much better than Le Paradis, but it was almost twice the price. It wasn't bad by any means, but I would not give it a good review because I did not feel it was 'worth it'. But to each their own!)

                                          If I were to have NB in NYC, I would probably not rave as much, just because there is fantastic food everywhere (OK slight exaggeration) in NYC (or even Montreal for that matter) at that price point, and probably even cheaper and better. However, in TO, the pickings are slim. I think NB provides good value for my Toronto-dollar. It is the quality I would expect (and it oftentimes even exceeds) when paying that amount of money.

                                          I hope this puts my reviews in better context.

                                          However, I guess this is a moot point since we cannot all afford to dine in NYC every time we feel like a nice meal out. (wish I could)

                                          Thanks for your thorough review, embee. I definitely see merit in your $50 less comment.

                                          Cheers and happy eating!

                                          1. re: BokChoi
                                            skylineR33 Nov 19, 2008 09:14 PM

                                            It is good that you clarify because the word and expression you use in the original post make it sounds like it is some of the best restaurant in this world IYO.

                                            Like :

                                            "I tried the amazing Boudin Noir tart, as everyone has suggested. Forget the seasons - this dish is for all seasons and is AMAZING. I could eat this everyday (and probably die of a coronary), but it is just THAT good. Granted ..."

                                            "Now onto the greatest crab cake I have ever known. If there was any binder used in this crab cake, I could not tell because it was just that minimal. At the forefront of this dish was none other than the Maryland crab. Truly a feat of wonderment. "

                                            Seriously, imo, the suckling pig dish is a bit too strong and I know people who think it is way too oily and strong. Also, Grand, which has good dim sum, is a bit too expensive to be called good value as it is the second most expensive dim sum restaurant in Toronto, but just to each their own. However, I do agree Nota Bene is a great restaurant in Toronto with good pricing for the food and atmosphere it provides in Toronto standard.

                                            1. re: skylineR33
                                              Charles Yu Nov 20, 2008 04:25 AM

                                              During our Shanghainese food chowmeet yesterday evening, Nota Bene also came up in our conversation. Everyone in my table of 7 commented that NB's food is way over-rated and in some cases not very tasty and bland. eg., the bland tasting lobster in the lobster salad, the equally bland tasting suckling pig /bourdin noir 'pizza', etc. Only dish that received a consensus thumbs-up was the crispy duck salad. The pickerel also received an honourable mention but apparently is no longer available in the current menu.

                                              1. re: Charles Yu
                                                BokChoi Nov 20, 2008 04:44 AM

                                                I have never tried the lobster salad, so I cannot comment there. But saying the Boudin Noir Tart is bland...well, I'm shocked! If anything, I would have said it was too overpowering - very musty/earthy. But I guess everyone has their own standards in terms of 'blandness'. Very interesting...

                                                1. re: Charles Yu
                                                  erly Nov 20, 2008 05:07 AM

                                                  So where have these people been until now?I have been pretty lonely, in my evaluation of this Restaurant.
                                                  The Restaurant is bright, and beautiful, but the noise level, especially if you are in the first row backing onto the bar is almost intolerable.
                                                  The place has a "vibe", and if that is what you are looking for, it is the place for you...
                                                  Sort of reminded me of One, where people wore dark sunglasses at night to make you think that they were important.
                                                  My meal was very good.
                                                  Lobster Salad, pricey, but very good.
                                                  Cornish Hen very good, but not outstanding..
                                                  Our friend had the sashimi, which was O.K..
                                                  The pickeral which was way overcooked.
                                                  DH ordered the H&S soup, and didn't care for it, thought the taste a bit strange..
                                                  I talked him into the famous suckling pig.
                                                  He is not difficult, but thought that the dish was bland, the bourdin Noir greasy, and suggested that if someone put some B.B.Q Sauce on the Pork, he would have imagined that he was in North Carolina.
                                                  We ordered a side of onion rings, as they looked so good, and they were tasty.
                                                  We were given the wine list and chose a Pinot Grigio.
                                                  Believe it or not the server rolled his eyes, to the point that I said, "we like tasteless wine".
                                                  I am very respectful of servers, and this was a rare moment for me, but he deserved it.
                                                  The service was good but disinterested.
                                                  Possibly I expected too much after all of the accolades.
                                                  I expected some more trendy, or interesting items on the menu.
                                                  Seared Quebec Duck Fois Gras, braised Porcini etc.
                                                  I won't be returning, as the menu is not that interesting, and to us, the conversation (which was near impossible) is almost a important as the food.

                                                  1. re: Charles Yu
                                                    Chester Eleganté Nov 20, 2008 07:05 AM

                                                    Charles, to be fair, of the people that actually commented, they did mention that even with the aforementioned disappointing dishes, other choices (i.e. short ribs, the private stock, desserts, the execution if not the size of the sashimi plate, and of course that duck salad) were strong indeed. Additionally, keep in mind that these were some very discerning diners here, not so easily pleased :)

                                                    1. re: Chester Eleganté
                                                      BokChoi Nov 20, 2008 02:08 PM

                                                      Good to know that there were positive comments as well. I think this discussion adds a nice perspective and differing view points to help CH readers out there. Taste is so subjective. It's hard for a restaurant to be great for every single different palate. So far, NB appears to be making more happy diners than unhappy ones.


                                                      1. re: Chester Eleganté
                                                        Charles Yu Nov 20, 2008 02:55 PM

                                                        If my memory serves me right, I thought I overheard Embee complaining about the size inconsistency of the sashimi dish ( 1/2 the size of BohChoi's plate as depicted by his posted photos ) as well as the sauce/marinade ( too oily and confusing in taste ). To each their own! 'caus the sashimi plate was my most favourite dish when I ate there!

                                                        1. re: Charles Yu
                                                          embee Nov 21, 2008 09:25 AM

                                                          The sashimi was a ridiculously small portion. It smelled and tasted fresh, but had no interesting flavour characteristics. It just "was". The sauce was okay, but I've had equally tasty sauces straight from a bottle. The dish was okay as far as it went, but wasn't worth ordering and wasn't remotely worth its price. Everything else came in ample portions, especially for this type of resto.

                                                          1. re: Charles Yu
                                                            Chester Eleganté Nov 21, 2008 10:12 AM

                                                            Yeah, that's what I meant. He had a portion size issue that night, but you really enjoyed your dish.

                                                        2. re: Charles Yu
                                                          JamieK Nov 20, 2008 03:24 PM

                                                          Hey, Charles - is there a site somewhere where there are pics or comments about your chowmeet? I saved what I thought was a google chowmeet link months ago but it has somehow morphed into porn (which has kind of made me lost my appetite and dinner is cooking). By the way, your blog link on your profile isn't working, at least not for me.
                                                          Thanks, Jamie

                                                          1. re: JamieK
                                                            homebaker Nov 20, 2008 04:02 PM

                                                            JamieK, it's not actually a blog link. It's his e-mail address typed after "http://", since that's the standard format in the profile section. (I hope that made sense!)

                                                            Anyway, his is not the only one like that, although the others I've seen escape me at the moment...

                                                            1. re: homebaker
                                                              JamieK Nov 20, 2008 06:23 PM

                                                              ah!, ok, I get it. Thanks.

                                                            2. re: JamieK
                                                              pinstripeprincess Nov 21, 2008 04:16 AM

                                                              reports are to be posted here as with the other googlegroup but sometimes we have a hard time electing someone to do the final piece of work... something should be popping up soon! attendees haven't even seen photos yet.

                                                          2. re: skylineR33
                                                            BokChoi Nov 20, 2008 04:42 AM

                                                            Hi skylineR33,

                                                            Thought I should clarify just in case I was giving them an impossible standard to meet. However, I still enjoy the boudin noir very much and would have been happy to have it at any restaurant in NYC (SO could not touch it at all. They thought it was way too rich - so it is a very interesting dish that could make some very happy, yet repulse others). As well, the crab cake is still the best crab cake I have ever had. I still stand by my comment on that crab cake. Have you had a chance to try it when it was on the menu?

                                                            I have done a price comparison and actually found Casa Imperial to be more expensive than Grand. As well, Lai Toh Heen would rank up there.


                                                            1. re: BokChoi
                                                              skylineR33 Nov 20, 2008 06:22 AM

                                                              No I have not tried the crab cake at N.B but I have tried the crab cake at Splendido, it is lovely, I would recommend it. I have no doubt on your recommendation of the crab cake at N.B, I am just saying from your wording, people may have really really high expectation like it is some kind of best dish ever, not just standard of Toronto.

                                                              Here is the dim sum pricing of Casa Imperial (top) and Grand (bottom) :

                                                              s: 3.1 M:4.1 L:5.1 XL: 7.1 SP:8.1
                                                              s: 3.3 M:4.8 L:5.5 XL:7.5 plus dim sum that is charged individually

                                                              It depends on what you order to determine the price of the final bill, but from the above pricing, Grand clearly is more expensive from Casa Imperial, not by a big margin.

                                                              I would agree LWH/LTH are more expensive than Grand though.

                                                      2. BokChoi Oct 28, 2008 11:22 AM

                                                        Had a bit of time so wanted to update my review based on my last experience. As previously mentioned - had yet another wonderful dining experience at Nota Bene a couple of weeks back. Exceptional service, satisfying food. Better lighting this time, so I think my photos actually turned out – what a relief!

                                                        To start off, My SO and I ordered the squash soup with maple, the duck prosciutto, Vicki’s heirloom tomato salad. Duck prosciutto was solid - not too salty. Nice drizzle of olive oil. (sorry, only a shorter review this time - next time will be longer!) The heirloom tomato salad no longer had the cheese I was dying over last time! So sad that the cheese I was in love with is no longer on the menu – I forgot the name of it now (can someone help me out?). The salad was still a strong salad, but it wasn’t earth-shattering, like the first one. The soup, oh the soup. I loved the hidden jewels of maple syrup running through it, just hidden beneath the surface. What a treat indeed!

                                                        Squash Soup: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2929950637/
                                                        Duck Prosciutto: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2930808164/
                                                        Tomato Salad: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2930808486/

                                                        For mains, I introduced my SO to the boudin noir tarte. Unfortunately, they were not as impressed with it as I was. They felt it was far too rich. I could see what they were saying. We agreed that perhaps a drizzle of that wonderful maple syrup could help cut the grease and saltiness (?) – just a suggestion.

                                                        We also sampled the special of the day – the sea bass. Can I say this was simply the best fish I have had in Toronto for quite some time? I have been requesting suggestions for great fish preparers around the city, and I have now found my go-to place. I had the fish at Starfish (I think the day after) and it was nothing in comparison to the succulent piece I had at NotaBene. The portions were amazing – I was full, and my eyes were lit up like someone had just placed a present under my holiday tree! I rarely see something so generous on my plate when it comes to portions. I received two full sized fillets/lobes of sea bass that were perfectly cooked – not overdone in the least. Finally, a restaurant that can get it right. Too bad it was a daily special, I would have loved to order this again. From my experience, it appears that their daily specials are very strong and sometimes even outshine their regular offerings. Their crab cake last time amazed me, and now this time, the sea bass. Cannot wait to see what’s next.

                                                        Sea Bass: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/2929951337/
                                                        Boudin Noir Tarte: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                        Overall, great experience, yet again. Fantastic service, as I mentioned above, great and relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant was not too full on the day I went, and we were able to have a nice, lengthy, quiet relaxing meal. I left exceptionally full and satisfied. I cannot wait for my next visit.

                                                        Cheers and Happy Eating!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: BokChoi
                                                          Yum2MyTum Oct 28, 2008 03:12 PM

                                                          Re: Cheese
                                                          I think it was a beautiful Burrata cheese...

                                                          1. re: Yum2MyTum
                                                            BokChoi Oct 30, 2008 07:41 PM

                                                            Thanks very much for the information, Yum2MyTum.

                                                            As well, we should note that EnRoute declared Nota Bene the best new restaurant in Canada! An excerpt:
                                                            Note it well: Toronto restaurant Nota Bene is at the top of enRoute magazine’s 2008 list of the 10 best new restaurants in Canada.

                                                            Well deserved, IMO.

                                                        2. t
                                                          team_eater Nov 6, 2008 04:28 AM

                                                          I'm returning to Nota Bene for a second dining experience next Tuesday. What do fellow CHers consider to be the best main? Last time, I was one of the unfortunate few that found the Boudin Noir Tart to be too rich for my blood. This time, I am considering either the Short Ribs, Cornish Hen, or Steak Frites (Tuesday Special).

                                                          The ribs seem to be well received, but I haven't read much on the other two possibilities. Thoughts?

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: team_eater
                                                            BokChoi Nov 6, 2008 05:21 AM


                                                            On my last visit, I was also in search of something new. I settled on the Cornish Hen. Needless to say, I was utterly impressed yet again by their deftness in execution. The hen was exceptionally moist and tender. All parts were equally well-prepared; breast, thigh, the whole nine yards. I am surprised that this dish has not come to the forefront earlier, as I find it just as equally wonderful as the boudin noir tart, and the amazing sea bass. At first I was tentative, as birds usually fail to impress me. However, the citrus marinade really came out and the perfect grilling made it a very aromatic dish. The only minor complaint was that the skin was not as crisp (touch soggy and flat against the meat) as I would have liked, but that could just be due to the fact that I am a relatively slow eater and by the time I took a few photos, the skin had been left to rest too long against the moist meat. The charring created a nice flavour though, even though the texture was not there.

                                                            Either way, it was a winning dish, and I preferred it to the short ribs that you were contemplating, as well as the pickerel that has been highly touted. To be honest, I am not much of a meat person, as I feel that there is only so much you can do with braised meat - in terms of flavours and textures. And unfortunately, the ribs did not stand out for me. My dining companion enjoyed it though, but it was not a favourite at the table.

                                                            In summary, the cornish hen is a light dish (high contrast to the BNT), but very filling due to the mere size of the bird. I would highly recommend it. So far, it is tied for my 3rd favourite main. First place - the crab cake special, 2nd - the sea bass, 3rd - cornish hen + boudin noir tart, 4 - the rest (pickerel, scallops, ribs, etc), 3rd is tied as it depends what I am in the mood for that day - something dense and rich, or lighter fare.

                                                            I would like to make a note that the rabbit pasta was amazing from the sampling that I had. The sauce was exceptional, and the meat was very tender. I believe it would rank near the 2nd or 3rd place (equivalent to the sea bass/BNT/Hen) if I had more to fully appreciate it. (I have attached a photo for your reference.) For appetizers, I finally sampled the tuna tartare. Amazing - IMO the sauce trumps even the sauce I sampled at Jean Georges in NYC (the texture of the fish though did not, unfortunately, hold a candle to JG's tuna ribbons). The onion rings were nice to share for the table. They were crisp and light. I did not try the tuna, but dining companion found it very good.

                                                            Apologies for the photos. I was seated in a very dark spot again in the restaurant, so I had to use flash.

                                                            Cornish Hen: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3005389146/
                                                            Rabbit loin pasta: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3004552761/
                                                            Tuna Tartare: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3005388962
                                                            Onion Rings: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3004552807
                                                            Seared Tuna: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                            Hope this could be of some assistance

                                                            1. re: BokChoi
                                                              team_eater Nov 6, 2008 10:30 AM

                                                              Thanks so much for your detailed response!! :) I think I will give the Hen a try. As for apps, I will have to go with the Duck Salad again - it made that much of an impression on me the first time!

                                                              1. re: team_eater
                                                                estufarian Nov 6, 2008 12:23 PM

                                                                I had the rabbit pasta last week. Superb!

                                                                1. re: team_eater
                                                                  BokChoi Nov 7, 2008 05:08 AM

                                                                  You are welcome - do report back! The duck salad was loved by everyone that I brought to NB as well. What a dish.

                                                                  estufarian - I must return. That tiny sampling I had really made me want to order another main course. I must return and order it for myself. Time to make another reservation soon! What are your favourite dishes there? I am finding it hard to narrow down my recommendations. Each new dish I have tried has been a winner.

                                                                  tksh, I would agree, I was not a huge fan of the hot and sour soup as well. The chicken inside it was nice, but I would have to say that the soup just did not do it for me. I would definitely recommend some of the other appetizers over the H&S soup.

                                                                  1. re: BokChoi
                                                                    estufarian Nov 7, 2008 05:59 AM

                                                                    Depends on my mood. On a cold day the Boudin Noir is still my top dish. But (almost) everything is good. Except the hot & sour soup - which indeed is a bit strange. Personally I'd put the duck salad lower too, but I'll add the cheese plate - which i really enjoyed, especially with their '3 dessert wine' tasting option. And I'd happily repeat the rabbit pasta.

                                                                    1. re: estufarian
                                                                      BokChoi Nov 9, 2008 06:30 PM

                                                                      Thanks for the response, estufarian. I would not rank the duck salad as high either, but most of my dining companions have loved it. I have always wanted to try the cheese platter as well, but my dining companions tend to despise cheese (silly people), so those platters just are not as fun by your lonesome self. Plus, my arteries would never forgive me. I think my top appetizers are the raw fish plates (both the sashimi and the tartare), the original caprese salad, and the charcuterie platter (but it is gradually working its way further down my list due to lack of the novelty factor) - though the lobster and octopus salads are still on my list of 'still-to-try'.
                                                                      I cannot wait to find out more about the pre-theatre menu that was mentioned on the other post.

                                                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                                                        szw Jan 15, 2009 01:15 PM

                                                                        Anybody care to comment on the "pre-theatre" menu? I just noticed it on the website and don't think I saw it there before. I'm not actually interested in a pre-theatre meal but am looking to try this restaurant and it looks to be good value as long as its the same quality dish as would normally be served for dinner. Can anybody confirm this?

                                                                        1. re: szw
                                                                          LTL Jan 16, 2009 12:07 PM

                                                                          Would be interested to know the answer to this too.

                                                                          1. re: LTL
                                                                            tjr Jan 16, 2009 08:32 PM

                                                                            It likely is same quality, but you do need to be in possession of the proper type of theatre tickets (I can't remember what you have to go see...)

                                                                            1. re: tjr
                                                                              szw Jan 16, 2009 09:24 PM

                                                                              Oh, you actually need tickets to get this? I thought pre-theatre was just a name to get people in the restaurant during off-peak hours. Can anybody confirm this?

                                                                      2. re: estufarian
                                                                        phoenikia Nov 14, 2008 11:48 AM

                                                                        I also was not a fan of the Yucatan Hot and Sour soup. Not sure why Nota Bene called the soup Yucatan or Hot and Sour because it didn't resemble anything Mexican-inspired, and I wouldn't really call it Hot or Sour.

                                                                        If anyone is craving a delicious Mexican-inspired soup, the Tortilla Soup that Cava is serving right now is very good. And even though it's not described as hot or sour, the lime and pepper gives the soup at Cava both hot and sour notes (although nothing like a Chinese or Thai Hot & Sour soup).

                                                                  2. re: BokChoi
                                                                    tksh Nov 6, 2008 02:56 PM

                                                                    Indeed, the sauce and the paste used in the tuna tartare are both awesome. I just wish I knew what it was.

                                                                    I haven't much to add to the discussion other than to stay away from the Yucatan hot and sour soup unless you really like Yucatan hot and sour soup. It's not bad but for $10, you better really like it.

                                                                    1. re: tksh
                                                                      BokChoi Nov 9, 2008 06:24 PM

                                                                      If you manage to figure out the composition, or if anyone does, please provide us some thoughts. Such amazing flavours. I need to revisit these dishes.

                                                                2. e
                                                                  ersatz Nov 10, 2008 02:26 PM

                                                                  Do they offer at tasting menu? I only saw mention of a wine-pairing tasting in all the posts. For 2 people, would you recommend 1 app (begin) + 1 main (follow) per person?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: ersatz
                                                                    BokChoi Nov 11, 2008 03:50 PM


                                                                    Unfortunately they do not have a tasting menu (yet). I would definitely recommend having 1 appetizer and 1 main to follow. Their portions are generous, especially compared to other fine-dining establishments in the city (the raw fish apps are on the smaller side, though so just be prepared - please view the photos). I would also suggest that you try their Bread and Butter Pudding for dessert. It was amazing and one of the best desserts I have had in Toronto (ever). Don't miss out. Perhaps sharing the dessert would be an option?

                                                                    If I am incorrect about the taster menu, someone please correct me. Thanks


                                                                  2. s
                                                                    stephintoronto Nov 21, 2008 08:23 AM

                                                                    Ate there again on Wednesday and it was delicious. I had the Crispy Duck Salad and the Short Ribs. It was fantastic. Yet again they did a great job. We'll worth a visit.

                                                                    Great people watching too!

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: stephintoronto
                                                                      OnDaGo Nov 21, 2008 09:22 AM

                                                                      has the menu really changed much from the opening.. see always the same foods mentioned?

                                                                    2. cynalan Nov 22, 2008 05:38 PM

                                                                      BokChoi - I noticed that you've really been pushing this restaurant. At times I wondered if you might have had an interest in it. Well, I wonder no more. A few friends, my wife and I had a wonderful dinner there tonight. Given the comments on this Board, I had the crispy duck salad, boudin noir tart and flourless chocolate cake with dulce de leche ice cream. One word.... fantastic! All four of us thoroughly enjoyed the dinner. Service was appropriately attentive and we really enjoyed the venue. All in all we found the restaurant to be good value for our hard earned $$. Thanks for the promotion of this place - we will definitely return.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: cynalan
                                                                        BokChoi Nov 23, 2008 08:14 AM


                                                                        I am very happy to hear that you had a wonderful time at Nota Bene. I like to call it how I see it - if a restaurant treats its customers right (great food, good value, good service), then I like to return that with a great review. Good restaurants deserve kudos. Hopefully others will take note as well and step up their game. In the economy that we are faced with today, people are going to be more money conscious. Personally, I do not appreciate going out to a fancy meal only to find the food and experience a disappointment. It has happened time and time again (most recently at Truffles). We spent about $500 the other night and the food was dreadful (overdone, ill-conceived, etc. - full review to come soon) and was such a disappointment (I could not believe I was eating at Truffles. I have like them for so many years). My dining companion was celebrating a milestone birthday, and they were so depressed afterward because it was their choice (against some of my warnings about a recent chef change). I have decided to try and cheer them up again with another meal at Nota Bene. Hopefully this meal will put them in a better mood. But seriously, I should not have to spend almost $1K to have a good celebratory meal in Toronto for 4 people! Sadly, I doubt I will be returning to Truffles anytime soon. Their new chef Laurie Bandur is just not up to snuff IMO. Maybe it was just an off-night because they had a large party next door in the hall, but then IMO a restaurant should not open if they cannot handle a few additional diners.

                                                                        cynalan. If you like Nota Bene, give Weezie's a try. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/563398 . I also had a great meal recently at Zucca Trattoria. Review to come soon as well for that one.


                                                                        1. re: BokChoi
                                                                          cynalan Nov 23, 2008 02:26 PM

                                                                          I've read many of your reviews and feel that we are kindred spiritis. We both have an appreciation for fine food and are not willing to settle for an inferior product just because of the name on the marquis. I am not familiar with Weezie's but based upon your recommendation will try it.

                                                                          By the way, I note that you travel a bit. My wife and I are going to Chicago in a few months and I have Alinea on my to do list. Have you been and do you have any other recommendations?

                                                                          1. re: cynalan
                                                                            BokChoi Nov 23, 2008 08:26 PM

                                                                            cynalan, I hope you will enjoy Weezie's. I found it to be very satisfying with comfort food at its best. The value factor there is also refreshing.

                                                                            Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity to visit the Windy City. Please do report back once you try it. Sorry I could not be of any assistance.

                                                                            You are right. It's always best to trust one's taste buds and wallet. I personally try not to get all tied up and confused with pretension and reputation. If I like something that everyone else likes - great. I'll toss in a good review of the place on top of the many other accolades that resto may have gotten. If not, I will speak my mind. Sure, sometimes I have an unpopular view. I just think a balanced and honest review of a restaurant is more useful to someone who is trying to make a decision than a bunch of uniformly positive views. Everyone has their little something to add. I hope I have helped to fill out some of the threads on this board. The discussion here is always great.

                                                                            CHeers and happy eating

                                                                            1. re: cynalan
                                                                              estufarian Nov 24, 2008 07:09 AM

                                                                              Two places (at least) in Chicago are VERY difficult reservations - but worth the effort. Alinea is horrendously expensive - but is probably the future of fine dining (although personally I still prefer the chef's former efforts at Trio). But I was recently blown away by Schwa - a TINY dining room that's quirky but excellent (including not returning my reservation phone call for 3 weeks). Reserve very early for both (Alinea is open on Sunday - which is how I mostly get in there).

                                                                              1. re: estufarian
                                                                                Suresh Nov 24, 2008 10:01 AM

                                                                                Grant Achatz is amazing. Equally amazing is the new book that he put out, also titled "alinea", which I had the privilege of going through over the weekend.

                                                                                1. re: Suresh
                                                                                  futronic Nov 24, 2008 10:22 AM

                                                                                  My meal at Alinea in April was fantastic. Worth every penny, and the wine pairings were alright also. Not mind-blowing (as a wine geek), but not bad. My friends and I did the tour, and it took about 4.5 hours. Don't want to get too far off topic, but I just wanted to mention it was worth the hype in my opinion.

                                                                              2. re: cynalan
                                                                                The Chowhound Team Nov 24, 2008 10:38 AM

                                                                                Folks, Chicago has its own board: http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/7 Please post about Chicago restaurants there, so everyone who is interested in Chicago chow can benefit.

                                                                          2. b
                                                                            bshiferaw Nov 28, 2008 10:10 PM

                                                                            I went to Nota Bene tonight. The food was excellent but the service was poor (waiter was slow, disinterested and had to be waved down) and the hostess rude. While I understand the need to make sure tables turn, I found the hostess unprofessional (she came to our table twice to inform us we had only 2 hours and 1.5 hours left before she needed the table). About 20 minutes before "she needed the table", we had finished our main course and our waiter cleared the table, proceeded to ignore us for 10 mins, then came to our table with our bill (never asked if we wanted coffee) and informed us that the hostess had told us she needed the table at 8.00 p.m. so there was no time for coffee/dessert and left the bill on the table. Never have I experienced such attitude. Again, I understand the need to turn tables, but I think there is a way to do it that doesn't spoil the mood and experience. We all agreed that while we loved the food, we would never return.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: bshiferaw
                                                                              BokChoi Nov 29, 2008 08:49 PM


                                                                              Sorry to hear that the service you experienced was so poor. From the other reviews, it seemed that they had taken steps to improve that aspect of the dining experience. That is strange that they would tell you twice during the course of your meal that the table would be required as far as 2 hrs out!

                                                                              I actually went back recently for a meal there for a bday celebration (to make up for a terrible meal at Truffles the week before) and had a wonderful time. The staff wished the birthday person Happy Birthday at least 3 times (each by a different member of the staff), and the service was spot on. The food was a bit off for me this time, just compared to the previous meals (a longer review to come later), but it was still solid. The food was just a bit over-done and the sauces a touch different than what I remember from my first try of certain dishes (seems like they're still tinkering), but it was still a very enjoyable evening. It sure did make the birthday person happy after the disaster at Truffles.

                                                                              Thanks for your comments. Perhaps they are reading these posts and will ensure they make the necessary improvements for future diners? Constructive criticism is good for all I guess!


                                                                              1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                millygirl Jan 4, 2009 12:30 PM

                                                                                Finally went to Nota Bene last night and had a lovely dinner and great time. No complaints about the service either. In fact our server was perfect, friendly but not instrusive, helpful when asked, and his timing was perfect. We had the excellent tuna tartare starter, crispy duck salad and octopus salad first courses. Each of us raved about our starters and wolfed them down. Mains were short ribs, boudin noir tart and beef tenderloin. The tart was as everyone above has described - rich and delicious. Short ribs were very good as was the David's private stock beef. You cannot go and not order the the onion rings and frites, so we did. Both addictive.

                                                                                Even though we were stuffed, troopers that we are, we decided to try the cheese plate and passion fruit sorbet. The sorbet was really good and left me wanting to come back again, just for that. Well, that and the tuna tartare, and the onion rings!!

                                                                                The restaurant itself is beautiful. Reminded me a bit of Bymark actually, but better. And the atmosphere was really nice. Good mix of people and ages. Definitely would, no scratch that, WILL go back.

                                                                                They sure don't skimp in the alchol either. My cosmo was sent back for more cranberry juice, otherwise I would have been under the table and Mr Millygirl claimed his martini to be 'perfect'.

                                                                                Oh yes, have to give mention to the washrooms - one of the nicest in T.O.

                                                                                This place should be on everyone's must try list for 2009!!

                                                                                1. re: millygirl
                                                                                  cynalan Jan 5, 2009 11:44 AM

                                                                                  Millygirl - I fully agree with your recommendation about NB being a must try! My wife and I have been there a few times and find the restaurant excellent value. In fact, I booked the private dining room for a Christmas function for 24 guests from our various regional offices. Everyone throughly enjoyed Party Menu #3. Service was impeccable. One of the comments that I received from many of our guests was that this was the first large group function that they were at where everyone received their meals at the same time, and I do mean the same time. An army of wait staff entered the room and everyone's meal was revealed simultaneously with a flourish... a really nice touch.

                                                                                  1. re: cynalan
                                                                                    BokChoi Jan 8, 2009 11:27 AM

                                                                                    Quite the production, no? Exceptional skill must be behind serving 24 guests simultaneously. I'm impressed. It is always so satisfying when you get a good meal and are not disappointed, especially in front of friends/coworkers no?

                                                                                  2. re: millygirl
                                                                                    BokChoi Jan 8, 2009 11:26 AM

                                                                                    millygirl. Happy to hear that you had yourself a wonderful time with mr. millygirl. Also happy to hear that they haven't slipped in the past few months. It has been a little while since my last visit (too many other restaurants to try in the city! And everytime my SO is in the city, they want to have lots of Chinese food since they don't have much in Boston that's edible).
                                                                                    Thanks for the review.


                                                                              2. s
                                                                                Sadistick Jan 5, 2009 11:48 AM

                                                                                My family and I went to NB last Friday evening.

                                                                                First impressions was that it was a very nice space, albeit a tad bit loud.

                                                                                We all started off with some cocktails, their Streetcar was absolutely delish! (I could drink way too many of those!)

                                                                                Started off with some french onion rings for the table - amazing, so thinly sliced, just the way I like 'em!

                                                                                Around the table, the following Aps: Pasta App w/ Truffles - Nice flavour, nothing special, too big of a portion for a pasta App. Tuna Tartar - Again, very nice quality tuna, but nothing I couldnt easily make at home (I told my mom she should get something more exciting!). Indian spiced Baramundi - I didnt try this one, but my dad told me he really enjoyed it.
                                                                                Duck proscuitto salad - The duck itself was very nice, but on top of a bed of arugula DROWNING in balsamic vinegar (a little EVOO would have been nice...) was not my idea of complementary.
                                                                                I ordered the crispy duck salad - although the duck was not crisp, the flavours were amazing. Duck confit on top of a bed of shaved papaya salad with chilis, cilantro and some cashews...fantastic flavours, the richness of the duck was cut with the salad. Def. the best App.

                                                                                Next - Mains:
                                                                                2 diners opted for the seared tuna - again, good quality tuna, but nothing I couldnt make at home.
                                                                                Pasta with Rabbit and Porcini's - Amazing flavours, rabbit was great...lacked mushrooms though, as dishes advertising porcini's usually do...
                                                                                2 x Suckling pig/boudin noir tart - I would say one of the top 10 dishes I have ever had. The key was getting a piece of everything in one bite, then the flavours just soared. I would go back again JUST for this dish.

                                                                                Our waiter was not the friendliest of chaps, but we did not let that lessen our experience.

                                                                                It's all about what you order, and if you know what to order here, you can have a great meal, at very reasonable prices.

                                                                                I will be back.

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Sadistick
                                                                                  BokChoi Jan 8, 2009 11:29 AM

                                                                                  Good to hear about the pleasant experience, Sadistick. Thanks for the review. The tuna dishes do seem like 'make at home' dishes, no? But the sauce is what seals the deal for me for the tartare - it was amazing for me.

                                                                                  1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                    Sadistick Jan 8, 2009 11:36 AM

                                                                                    I did enjoy the sauce, but for $15 I can get quite a nice sized piece of sushi quality tuna at City fish, enough to feed 4 for Apps, the sauce, I could recreate, maybe not exact...but close ;)

                                                                                    The Crispy Duck Salad was fantastic (although not crisp!)

                                                                                    1. re: Sadistick
                                                                                      BokChoi Jan 8, 2009 11:47 AM

                                                                                      You need to tell me what's in the sauce when you do recreate it. I had the one in Splendido and found that NB's was a very acceptable version for the price.

                                                                                      The duck salad has changed a lot since I first had it in August. The greens changed quite a bit . Though it has always been crisp every time I have had it. That's too bad - it is what made the salad special (the textural contrast).

                                                                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                        Sadistick Jan 8, 2009 11:59 AM

                                                                                        I will let you know after my experimentation.

                                                                                        I think we are speaking of a different duck salad? There's 2 - the duck proscuitto, and the crispy duck salad...the crispy duck salad is on a bed of shredded papayas with cilantro, chili's, lime, and cashews, no greens present.

                                                                                        1. re: Sadistick
                                                                                          BokChoi Jan 8, 2009 12:01 PM

                                                                                          The menu has changed. I see - thanks for the clarification. Your salad sounds very nice indeed. I guess their duck salad was such a winner that they decided to expand their repertoire.

                                                                                2. Chester Eleganté Jan 5, 2009 12:10 PM


                                                                                  There's a new dish on the lunch menu:

                                                                                  Crisp chicken ramen -- lemongrass, baby bok choy, chicken broth, chilies.

                                                                                  anyone try it yet?

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Chester Eleganté
                                                                                    pinstripeprincess Jan 6, 2009 07:45 AM

                                                                                    any idea how long it might be on the lunch menu? i am utterly curious.... sounds more like a thai chicken soup i'm currently enamoured with.

                                                                                    and just to add to the rest of this thread, i thought nota bene was quite nice and excelled in the service area (at least for my experience in toronto) but overall was good to great but not really that fabulous food experience i was hoping for.

                                                                                    steak tartare - nice smoked chips but who puts aoili in their tartare?? delicate beef flavour masked though the texture and portioning was quite ample

                                                                                    tuna tartare - really quite lovely though nothing truly exciting. very miniscule portion and the avocado was very creamy and rich and nearly competed with the tuna a little much. love the sauce

                                                                                    boudin noir tart - finished it all, call me stuffed! found the flavours to end up melding too much together that each bite was exactly the same as the last... got bored halfway through. pastry was absolutely excellent though and actually stole the show for me. even so would not remove any element just to lighten the richness... just eat half and move on to something else! very nice boudin noir itself.... could perhaps benefit from a astringent sauce perhaps to break it up a bit more?

                                                                                    rabbit pasta - perfect pasta nice tender rabbit but very minute truffle flavour though the scent seemed to linger. nice dish but still kinda of bored me after a little while.

                                                                                    french fried onion rings - awesome. they even stayed crispy sitting in a take out container for several hours after! do they have a dipping sauce for these babies? gigantic bowl of it and no matter how hard we tried we couldn't make a dent in it either way.

                                                                                    grapefruit yogurt pannacotta - mmmmmm............. so delicious i asked for an extra helping of grapefruit compote and they so wonderfully obliged me. the compote was really utter perfection. wisps of candied grapefruit artfully arranged around a tangy syrup studded with identically sized chunks of fresh grapefruit and a few little edible flowers for a little boost of colour. too bad the winding meringue on top was clunky and too dry crisp for the pairing. the panna cotta itself wasn't spectacular on its own but was perfectly matched with bites of compote. really... i'd almost just go back for this.

                                                                                    sat at the bar and the bartender was helpful, friendly but not intrusive and overall quite lovely. not formal service at all but still probably some of the best i've received in toronto... so i don't really know if that means much! sommelier was helpful as well and i appreciated the virgin cocktails on the drink menu.

                                                                                    1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                                                                      BokChoi Jan 8, 2009 11:30 AM

                                                                                      Sounds like they changed their panna cotta dish - I believe I had mine with generous portions of blueberries a while back. It was quite a beautiful dish. But every time I go back, I cannot resist ordering the bread pudding. It is one of my favourite desserts of all time. Have you had a chance to sample it PSP?

                                                                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                        pinstripeprincess Jan 8, 2009 11:59 AM

                                                                                        nope, just one visit so far. while i can't say i was disappointed with nota bene, it just doesn't quite hit my list for multiple visits yet. i didn't find anything exceptional enough to trigger anything close to a craving though i can see they're competent with what they do.

                                                                                        1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                                                                          BokChoi Jan 8, 2009 12:03 PM

                                                                                          Yes, that's fair.

                                                                                          I could just go for the tartare/sashimi appetizer, boudin noir tarte (if I am feeling particularly gluttonous) and end off with the butter bread pudding. That would be a satisfying meal for me. SO would never have the boudin noir again as they said it was too rich (though they loved the version at Splendido. Interesting).

                                                                                  2. j
                                                                                    Julie McCoy Jan 12, 2009 09:01 AM

                                                                                    I love a good debate and Nota Bene obviously has brought out so many strong opinions. I went on Friday with much anticipation. Unfortunately, NB will not be going on my favourite meals of the year list. While the food was good and, in the case of the duck salad, exceptionally good, the complete lack of interest on the part of the staff means I would not wish to hurry back. We had to flag down a server for anything we needed (to order drinks, to order our meal, to get our bill) and we were not asked at any point if we required anything. We were sitting along the first row (right behind the bar) so I don't think we could have been forgotten. Our first bottle of wine was finished with no attempt to ask if we would like another (a server whisked the bottle away before I knew it had gone, and then by the time I could catch someone's eye we had finished our main course). We were not able to order coffee or after-dinner drinks as, again, we couldn't get anyone's attention until we were fed up of trying. Attempting to get and pay the bill was also a laborious process. Now, the place was definitely busy, and the table of a former hockey player and an actress may have absorbed some attention, but I do feel that at this price point, I shouldn't have to spend so much time away from my dinner conversation in an attempt to flag down a server.
                                                                                    My experience the week before at Mildred's Temple Kitchen shone through all the brighter in comparison. Friendly and present service combined with exceptional food is the dining experience I will go back to again and again.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Julie McCoy
                                                                                      BokChoi Jan 13, 2009 08:44 AM


                                                                                      Sad to hear that you did not have a pleasant experience. Some other recent reviews seemed to indicate that they have sorted out the service issues (I myself have had nothing but wonderful experiences each and every time since my first visit in August).

                                                                                      I have heard good things about Mildred's Temple Kitchen. Hopefully I will get around to trying it soon.

                                                                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                        Julie McCoy Jan 15, 2009 06:10 AM

                                                                                        Oh, I have no trouble believing that one could get fantastic service at NB...(I should have said I quite enjoyed the simultaneous serving of plates to everyone at the table)..but unfortunately it should be a little more consistent. We still enjoyed our evening (we do find ourselves very amusing!) and by no means did I walk away bitter. It's just unfortunate that we missed out on what could have been a fantastic experience.

                                                                                        1. re: Julie McCoy
                                                                                          lilaki Jan 15, 2009 06:50 AM

                                                                                          i have to second julie and bigfeet ... SO and i went just before christmas on our way to a show at roy thomson hall. service was totally indifferent and very rushed. the place was actually empty - we had an early reservation b/c we wanted to be at RTH by 7:30 pm. clearly, they were ramping up for a big night as there were many large tables set up. but for the time that we were there, the restaurant was at about 50% capacity. we didn't order wine - maybe that's why they didn't treat us well? we were out of there in 55 minutes FLAT. we very much felt rushed to pay the bill and clear the table ... even though, when i made the reservation, we were told the table would be ours for two hours. to top it all off, food was just MEH. nothing to write home about. definitely won't be going back - which is unfortunate because i had read so many positive reviews on this forum beforehand.

                                                                                          1. re: lilaki
                                                                                            Sadistick Jan 15, 2009 06:54 AM

                                                                                            To further add to this experience:

                                                                                            My only complaint with the place, as mentioned above; was the service, or lack there of.

                                                                                            We didn't order bottled water (which sometimes plants the seed of nonchalant'ness in the waiter's head) however; we did order a rather pricey bottle of wine.

                                                                                            Our waiter did in fact try to rush us (when we specifically said we wanted to slow the pace down) adding insult to injury, all the while in a rude undertowned attitude.

                                                                                            I will be going back, but if similar issues occur once again, I may have to say something to management, for their own sake, of course.

                                                                                    2. BokChoi Jan 17, 2009 06:54 AM

                                                                                      After a severely disappointing meal at Truffles for a milestone birthday for a DC of mine, we headed to NB to try and cheer him up. The special of the day was the Cumbrae steak frites (we went on a Tuesday). From the beginning of the evening to the end, everything was nearly spot on. The service was excellent and my DC was exceptionally happy with the food. I had made a reservation using Open Table and had mentioned that it was my DC’s birthday. The kitchen prepared a special dessert with a placard saying “Happy Birthday” and topped the dessert with a candle. Several staff members later passed by to wish him a happy birthday. He was made to feel like a King for a day and he was beaming. To top it off the food was good as always. The steak was prepared medium rare, as was recommended by the waiter. Two DC’s ordered this dish, while the rest of us ordered the rabbit pasta and the Cornish hen. To start, we ordered a selection of Tuna Tartare, duck salad and an octopus salad. To finish, we had the Birthday panna cotta and the infamous bread pudding. The duck salad was crisp and well executed as always. My DC was a bit disappointed with the selection of accompanying veggies. There was quite a bit of turnip/radish and not much of anything else in their opinion. They enjoyed the flavours, but were disappointed with the naming of the dish ‘a salad’. It was stunningly presented though. The tartare’s were winners again. I would have to say the sauce was not as great as I had remembered from my first visit. It was a bit too sweet and missing the additional sourness/saltiness that was in the first presentation that made it an eye-popping “wow” dish. The fish was incredibly fresh and the texture was excellent though. I would have to say that for the price, this dish comes pretty close to what is offered at Splendido for twice the price. I found the quality of the fish and the flavours to be much more fresh and complex, but all the basic elements are present in the NB version. A great steal IMO. The octopus, however, was very disappointing. The octopus was grainy and did not have the bounce-y texture I was accustomed to. This mealy texture was a bit off-putting and the temperature of the dish was not as I would have enjoyed it – the fish was lukewarm sitting atop the greens.

                                                                                      Duck Salad: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3200062642
                                                                                      Tuna Tartare: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3200062686
                                                                                      Octopus salad: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3199217011

                                                                                      The steaks were a hit, though the butter was partially discarded because the generous portioning of artery-clogging agents was a bit frightening for my DC’s. My Cornish hen was a bit overdone this time compared to my previous visit. It did not have the moist interior that I was presented on my previous visit. The flavours were still spot-on, but the meat (especially the breast) was a bit dry and tough. The rabbit was also a touch overdone this visit compared to my previous sampling. Since I dislike overdone meat, this was a bit off-putting for me. Overall, the sauces and the pasta were quite good, but I guess I could only focus on the meat. Next time, I think I will try to request the meat as rare as possible again.

                                                                                      Steak Frites: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3200062786
                                                                                      Cornish Hen: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3200062836
                                                                                      Rabbit Pasta: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3199217163

                                                                                      The desserts were a huge success. The panna cotta was nice and light. The bread pudding was JUST as fabulous as my first viist (the few times in between were not as stellar, but still amazing). The crust was just incredible and crispy. We were all groaning in delight while consuming the desserts.

                                                                                      Panna Cotta: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/3199217205
                                                                                      Bread Pudding: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                                                      Everyone at NB made the experience a success. The food made my DC extremely happy for his birthday, and the staff members were extremely gracious with the well wishes and were always refilling glasses and clearing tables in a timely manner. Overall, we were very happy with the money spent at NB that evening and will be returning.

                                                                                      Cheers and happy eating!

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                        Chicken Teriyaki Boy Jan 21, 2009 08:39 AM

                                                                                        My girlfriend and I recently dined at Nota Bene for the first time and came away rather disappointed.

                                                                                        To start we shared the Buffalo Mozzarella and Duck Prosciutto. Unfortunately the central elements of both dishes were served on (and overwhelmed by) what seemed to be large beds of identically dressed arugula. While the quality of the mozzarella itself was good, the portion was quite small. It was however complimented nicely by grilled radicchio. Point of reference: we found L'Unita's mozzarella di bufula to be much better and more satisfying. It was the same price and featured a more substantial serving of mozzarella that was actually, and rightly so, the focal point of the dish.

                                                                                        For our mains my GF had the Lobster Pasta and I had the Beef Short Ribs. We also added a side of Onion Rings. Both dishes were again pretty underwhelming. The short ribs in particular were under seasoned and bland. The light, crisp and salty onions rings ended up being the highlight of the night.

                                                                                        Service was adequate but it seemed our waitress was spread a little too thin. We had to flag her down a couple times to order wine and then at the end to request our check.

                                                                                        Dinner, with five glasses of wine and tip came to $200.

                                                                                        Would maybe go back to sit at he bar for a drink and to try the charcuterie (or have another bowl of onion rings), but that's about it.

                                                                                        1. re: Chicken Teriyaki Boy
                                                                                          traceoftaste Feb 2, 2009 04:14 PM

                                                                                          Hi! I’ve been reading Chowhound reviews for years now. I love the “real” feedback. I often use it to determine where I should eat. And I love to eat (and to pair great food with great wine). This weekend I decided that instead of just reading it’s time I join the discussion. Especially as this weekend was a joint birthday celebration in the city with my lifelong best friend (a fellow foodie!). We did Canoe on Friday night, Nota Bene on Saturday night, Mildred Pierce on Sunday for brunch and a small snack Sunday afternoon at Frank. It was quite the food weekend!

                                                                                          For now I thought I’d focus on Nota Bene as that was to be the highlight of our weekend celebration. We were both really looking forward to dinner and excited to dine at a restaurant that not only gets high praise on Chowhound but also received the top ranking in EnRoute’s new restaurants of 2008. The service was friendly as we entered and I was immediately surprised to see a bar downstairs that was bustling and busy with lots of (what appeared to be thirty/forty something’s out for a fun evening.) I thought that was a good sign. Then, walking up the stairs and around the corner I was very, very surprised to see a wide, open, main dining room. It’s nice but a total contrast from the downstairs. My first impressions on the main dining room were that it would be a great restaurant to take business clients or older family members who appreciate a good meal and “brighter” light for dining. Generally the room is lovely – very well done - but in my opinion it lacks intimacy. And I like a little more intimacy for my fine dining.

                                                                                          Our server was good –but at first seemed to be rushed and a fast talker! We sat down to only one menu at our table but that was minor. We had to ask for the drink list but settled on prosecco to start. That was fine. Eventually we ordered our mains. But just as we were done our waiter was quick to turn and walk away. I had to call him back to tell him we also wanted to order a bottle of wine. He forgot to ask! I had the Hess in mind and told him so but also indicated I was open to suggestions. He was quick to say yes the Hess was decent value for the money; yeah, stick with that. No other conversation, no other suggestions. Generally he seemed too rushed to really care but as the meal progressed (and a table or two emptied) he did relax a little. My friend surmised he had a lot of tables to manage and was busy – hence his rush. Fair enough – he was working both sides of the room. But let’s be honest – if he had a few more minutes to show us some attention we may have ended up spending a little more money and felt a little happier with the start of our evening.

                                                                                          I was amazed at how fast our dishes came out. It seemed super fast; yet overall dinner with apps, mains, desert and port/coffee took 3 hours so we were right on track. We had a great conversation with the server who poured our wine and I was pleased to know that we had, with the crispy duck salad, tuna tartare and boudin noir ordered his three favourite dishes. Our other main was the braised short ribs. The salad and tuna were overwhelmingly our fav’s. I loved the tuna –thought it was one of the best I’ve ever had. Creamy, delicious. The duck itself – crispy as promised and just perfect when paired with the papaya salad. I tried the ribs and thought they were very good and particularly tasty when combined in the same forkful with their side salad. Here again the freshness of the salad was the perfect compliment for the heavy meat. (As an aside the last short ribs I had were at Chinois on Main –Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in LA. They were done with a sweet sake soy glaze served over potato purée and absolutely divine! Amazing! So, while these braised ribs had a hard act to follow I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the non-traditional pairing of the ribs with the fresh cucumber/pickle salad. In my opinion it made a very nice match. )

                                                                                          The boudin noir? I liked it. Yet given the reviews I was prepared to love it. And I do love “blood pudding”. It was a stable in our house growing up and depending on how it is made black pudding can be hit of miss yet NB’s is fantastic. However the dish overall didn’t wow me. I found the suckling pork a little bland. And I didn’t order a vegetable side for this dish and in retrospect I think I should have, for the tart itself with the pork, fat back bacon and pudding was a little too heavy and salty for me (a self-identified salt addict!). So while I liked the tart overall I thought the plating - without a hint of freshness on the plate – lacked the balance that the side salads gave both the ribs and the duck.

                                                                                          The Hess? It was a decent complement to the mains – no wow’s there but fine.

                                                                                          Desert? First was the infamous bread pudding. Again it was a dish I was fully prepared to love but I didn’t. I thought the custard was a little bland and the bread topping good but relatively basic. I did ask our waiter to pair it with a desert wine of his choice and he selected the 10-year-old Maderia. That was the perfect complement. Yum. Our other desert was the flourless chocolate fudge cake that was in essence a decadent molten chocolate cake. It was fine. The flavour was good but not overwhelming. By far the dulce de leche ice cream that accompanied it was my favourite part. I could have happily had a whole bowl of that to see me off.

                                                                                          So overall: I found the food good. Very good. The room itself - nice but a little too light and open for me. The service – what can I say? I found it professional ”enough” but generally not over friendly, warm or engaging. Personally, I like professional and friendly. For me great food is key but great service is often what makes a night more memorable. Yet as a food lover if I have learned one thing –it is with so many food options out there if a restaurant even makes it to my “I wouldn’t be adverse to trying that again list” then it has certainly done something right. And the food at Nota Bene was good so I'd like to go back and give it another chance. Just not this year. For there are too many other Toronto restaurants that rank a ‘must visit” or “would love to go back there” for Nota Bene to make my 2009 repeat list.

                                                                                          1. re: traceoftaste
                                                                                            LTL Feb 4, 2009 06:24 AM

                                                                                            Thanks for the detailed report. I've only been once and experienced the same issue with the somewhat rushed and spotty service, but I really enjoyed the food. I'm heading back there tonight actually and was wondering which you'd recommend over the other, between the duck salad and the tuna tartare. Others' opinions welcome as well!

                                                                                            1. re: traceoftaste
                                                                                              BokChoi Feb 9, 2009 05:42 AM


                                                                                              Thanks so much for the comprehensive review. Glad they're still doing a stand-up job over there at NB. A couple of unfavourable reviews, but I guess every restaurant has its off-day/every person has their own preferences WRT taste. The boudin noir tart is a tricky beast - you either love it, or hate it... but I guess in your case you liked it. It has started to go lower on my list of favourite dishes at NB, just because the novelty has warn off (the pungent flavours are a lot to take on repeat visits).

                                                                                              Too bad you did not love the bread pudding as much as I did. I really found that dessert stellar. Their sorbets /ice creams are fabulous, are they not? Very satisfying, if not a bit pricey if you order them a la carte. Paired with other dishes, they're always a satisfying treat.


                                                                                        2. r
                                                                                          ragged25 Feb 4, 2009 08:40 AM

                                                                                          It might not be a great idea, but I made a 5:00pm reservation at NB on Valentine's Day. Given that it's probably one of the worst days to go to a restaurant, I figure at that my SO and I don't mind an early dinner and at that hour the place will be pretty empty and service/food should be relatively good.

                                                                                          Any of you think it's a bad idea to go to NB on V day? BTW, since we're going at 5pm, you think the pre-theatre menu would apply?

                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: ragged25
                                                                                            LTL Feb 4, 2009 09:31 AM

                                                                                            Not sure about whether or not it's a good idea, but I think the early dinner time should work in your favour because they won't be too slammed at this point (hopefully). Also, their website states that the pre-theatre menu is available "only on days when there is a performance at the Four Seasons Centre".

                                                                                            1. re: ragged25
                                                                                              BokChoi Feb 9, 2009 05:44 AM

                                                                                              Going early, they should be okay and not rushed. But make sure you place your order before the rush gets in. I have never had an issue with their service or food quality - no matter what time I sat down. I never felt rushed either. But everyone has their own experience at large restaurants such as NB. Have a happy Valentine's Day and hope you enjoy the food there! The noise level should hopefully be lower at such an early hour as well - you and your sweetheart should be able to have a nice conversation over a nice tuna tartare or duck salad.


                                                                                              1. re: ragged25
                                                                                                estufarian Feb 13, 2009 06:41 AM

                                                                                                I went to Splendido once on Valentine's Day and was pleasantly surprised to discover that they 'staggered' the seating times, so there was a flow of customers arriving. No attempt was made to serve an 'early' and 'late' sitting, with bunches of tables arriving and leaving at about the same time. I even mentioned it and was told that the seatings were staggered to ensure that the kitchen could run 'properly' - even though a 'full house' would potentially allow more customers. They were genuinely concerned that the 'experience' should be the more important issue (and presumably lead to more repeat business in the long term). Given that Nota Bene has the same management team, I would 'almost expect' that a similar strategy would be used here too. Perhaps you could make a mental note and report back.
                                                                                                It seems to me that the short-term revenue from packing the place for 1 night would hopefully be more than exceeded by the revenues from returning patrons.

                                                                                                1. re: estufarian
                                                                                                  BokChoi Feb 15, 2009 05:30 AM

                                                                                                  This is such a good idea and quite against the grain. It is the presence of these details that set Splendido apart from the herd. Most restaurants set seating times so that they have waves of customers ordering at once, flooding the kitchen. I can only hope they manage to pull this off with Nota Bene - a true indication that service and satisfaction is number one with their average customers (because service is stellar at Splendido and there are not too many customers in an evening).

                                                                                                2. re: ragged25
                                                                                                  szw Feb 13, 2009 09:26 AM

                                                                                                  I'm heading there for a late dinner, 9:30. Hope it goes well for both of us!

                                                                                                  1. re: szw
                                                                                                    BokChoi Feb 15, 2009 05:31 AM

                                                                                                    good luck szw. How did it go?

                                                                                                    1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                                      szw Feb 15, 2009 07:43 AM

                                                                                                      Place was busy still at 9:45 until close. Service was good but I am not one to require lots of service so maybe thats why.

                                                                                                      Apps were great, we shared the tuna tartare, steak tartare, and poached and chilled shrimp. All were great.

                                                                                                      She had the scallops and said they were good but nothing special. I had the sucking pig tart and it was good but I didn't think it was amazing. The table next to us ordered the hangar steak and short ribs and they both looked really good.

                                                                                                      Or we may grab a seat in the bar next time and just snack on apps!

                                                                                                      Overall it was still a very positive experience. We don't really eat at these kinds of restaurants, we're always hunting for good cantonese and asian food around scarborough and markham usually!

                                                                                                      1. re: szw
                                                                                                        BokChoi Feb 15, 2009 06:01 PM

                                                                                                        Thanks for the report szw. I would agree that the scallops are nothing special - but then I am often never impressed with scallops (I had an amazing one at Canoe a few years back that was served raw, and another at Clio in Boston that was amazing served with caviar). Their apps truly are their strong point. Glad to hear you guys enjoyed yourselves and had a happy Valentine's day.

                                                                                                3. JonasBrand Feb 17, 2009 09:09 AM

                                                                                                  Finally had an opportunity to try Nota Bene.

                                                                                                  Seared Yellowfin Tuna - Perfect. Great cut of Tuna. Served one a bed of greens sauteed in some sort of stock, very very good. Also with roast cubes of butternut squash. Winner.
                                                                                                  Sea Bass - Very good. Subtle flavors compared with the Tuna.

                                                                                                  Quebec Yogurt Panna Cotta with Citrus - Mmmmmmm!
                                                                                                  Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Ice Cream - Also a winner. The Dulce de Leche Ice Cream was not too sweet and the tastiest version I've had.

                                                                                                  Easily one of the best meals I've had in Toronto. We'll be back soon.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: JonasBrand
                                                                                                    Muffin__Top Feb 19, 2009 12:21 PM

                                                                                                    Hey everyone, I went to Nota Bene for Valentines Day for 545 b/c after the gym I am a HUNG-Y girl!!

                                                                                                    Server was great, attentive, always available, and courteous.
                                                                                                    We both had the burger, I ordered it medium but it seemed a little more medium-well done. The SO got it rare and it was done perfectly. Burger was as usual tasty, juicy, well seasoned with caramelized onions and to die for. Fries were okay, not a huge cheese fan.
                                                                                                    For dessert I had the panna cotta, and as Jonas said it was delicious especially with the citrus TANG! SO had the creme caramel which I was envious about, as it was buttery smooth, cinnamony and melt in your mouth.
                                                                                                    After an entire bottle of wine the manager comes out and gives us two huge vodka shots, which effectively ruined our Valentines Day as we got so drunk we immediately passed out at home! =P

                                                                                                    1. re: JonasBrand
                                                                                                      BokChoi Mar 11, 2009 10:37 AM

                                                                                                      JonasBrand, do try the bread pudding next time. Let me know what you think (if that's your sort of thing... it's quite heavy).

                                                                                                    2. f
                                                                                                      foodio Feb 19, 2009 02:35 PM

                                                                                                      Not that Nota Bene needs any more praise but I just thought I'd add my two cents.....I've eaten there twice, both times in the bar area on the weekends and been pleasantly surprised that they could accommodate us without a reservation (I've also been turned away once).

                                                                                                      Both times the SO has had the boudin noir and still cant stop raving.

                                                                                                      On our previous visit I had the tuna tartare with avo to start and was craving pasta so had the mushroom pasta as my main - I'm pretty sure it was bigger than the previous time.

                                                                                                      We also had the steak tartare to share and I found the mustard taste incredibly overpowering (and I really like mustard).

                                                                                                      Finished with the chocolate cake and it was rich and perfectly done (although not molten as our server had suggested). I cant wait to try the bread pudding!

                                                                                                      I'm a big fan of the atmosphere and find the service incredibly laid back and not snobbish at all - even when we just drop by in super casual attire (i.e. hoodies). I'm looking forward to trying out the dining room when I can get organized enough to make reservations!

                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: foodio
                                                                                                        tjr Feb 19, 2009 02:49 PM

                                                                                                        The thing about Nota Bene is that you really need to know which dishes are good, and which are bad. Some are absolutely terrible (steak tartare), others are good (boudin noir, though it is one note and hard to get through the whole thing for me), and others are hit-or-miss (I had an absolutely awful duck salad where the duck wasn't crispy at all, but I've also had it done properly as well).

                                                                                                        My experiences with Nota Bene (quite a few) have been hit-or-miss. Once you go more often, you can figure out which dishes are likely to be good, but trying something new has a pretty large chance of resulting in disappointment. There are only a few dishes I will eat there, and even still, sometimes they aren't that great. The service is at times okay, at times bad.

                                                                                                        In general, for me, Nota Bene is just okay. Even if I like some of the dishes, there's a limited amount of times I can eat them before I get bored.

                                                                                                        1. re: tjr
                                                                                                          BokChoi Mar 4, 2009 09:04 AM

                                                                                                          I would agree. Some dishes are a miss, while others are a hit (for me anyway). Also, it really depends on what you like to eat. If you don't like heavy, rich items, then don't try the boudin noir tarte. It'll overwhelm you and you won't enjoy it. My SO really disliked it. i loved it.

                                                                                                        2. re: foodio
                                                                                                          BokChoi Mar 11, 2009 10:38 AM

                                                                                                          Now i have a craving... thanks for the review foodio.

                                                                                                          1. re: foodio
                                                                                                            Pincus Apr 7, 2009 11:57 AM

                                                                                                            So sitting at the bar means you can order off the full menu anyway, or do they limit your selections there?

                                                                                                            1. re: Pincus
                                                                                                              BokChoi Apr 7, 2009 12:41 PM

                                                                                                              I've been told by a dining companion that has tried it that you are offered the full menu. Best to call to confirm if you have doubts.

                                                                                                              1. re: Pincus
                                                                                                                pinstripeprincess Apr 7, 2009 12:51 PM

                                                                                                                full menu.

                                                                                                                1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                                                                                                  Pincus Apr 7, 2009 01:43 PM

                                                                                                                  Thanks both, I can see a future Friday night out shaping up.

                                                                                                            2. j
                                                                                                              Julia_K Feb 20, 2009 06:17 AM

                                                                                                              Does anyone know if they are planning on updating/changing their menu? I've been there three times and I basically tried most of their dishes. I have my favourites and I'd like to return to have them again, but I'd also like to try something new there.

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Julia_K
                                                                                                                BokChoi Mar 4, 2009 09:04 AM

                                                                                                                I have not headed back in a while, but I have heard that Chef Lee is planning to open a new resto? Is this true? Anyone have any info? Guess NotaBene has been doing smashingly well.

                                                                                                                1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                                                  abigllama Mar 9, 2009 03:37 AM

                                                                                                                  I always trust BokChoi's reviews the heaps of praise praise on this place sounded promising, finally decided to drag the SO here for his birthday and it was excellent. We had a later seating at 9:30 and read about no corkage fees after 9 so brought a tasty bottle of wine along with us!

                                                                                                                  Server was excellent and decanting was offered but we declined since it was a young wine. Service all night was excellent, attentive without being intrusive. I started with the Boston Bibb Salad which was excellent, SO got the Mafflanda Pasta which was amazing. I got the burger for a main, which was excellent grilled onions and the frites were excellent. SO got the Blackened Red Snapper special of the night and said it was one of the best pieces of fish he'd ever had. There was a really tasty and complex tomato sauce with capers and a bunch of other stuff in it that was a great addition to the meal. We had a side order of the uber addictive onion rings too.

                                                                                                                  For dessert we split an order of the bread pudding and really enjoyed that. I'd made a note on the reservation that it was his b-day and not really expecting much. But they brought out the dessert with a candle and a personalized happy birthday dark chocolate piece on the side! Very cool and several staff members said happy birthday and promised they wouldn't sing. Really well done! Service was great and waiter was didn't bat an eye at the brought wine and request for tap water, we did order some coctails to start things off too.

                                                                                                                  Only concern that has been mentioned before is the noise level. The place was jammed and it was really hard to hear and sometimes communicate with the waiter until about 10 when it started to thin out a bit. Not a huge deal but we prefer later seatings anwyay so works out fine. There were a couple of celeb sightings as well that was also fun. Not including the brought wine, dinner cost around $160 with tip which I consider a steal for the quality of the food and service. Dragging a $40 bottle of wine along made the meal taste great without the sting on the wallet. Looking forward to checking out the rest of the menu on next visit!

                                                                                                                  1. re: abigllama
                                                                                                                    BokChoi Mar 11, 2009 10:36 AM

                                                                                                                    Thanks so much abigllama. Glad my reviews could help you out. And I am even happier to hear that you had a great meal. Thanks for the review.

                                                                                                              2. cynalan Mar 11, 2009 09:29 PM

                                                                                                                No doubt about it... Nota Bene has become one of my favourite restaurants. Visited tonight for the fourth time in the last couple of months. This time I booked a last minute table for a business dinner. Recognizing that the restaurant can get very crowded, I requested (online) a table in the quieter private room off to the side. To my surprise, I was actually seated there and avoided the noise of the main room.

                                                                                                                Generally, I would say this was another successful dinner. My associate ordered the butternut squash soup and had the steak tartare as him main. He raved about the soup, calling it one of the best he's had. Sadly, he could not give the same compliment to the steak tartare. First, the presentation of the dish turned him off. It was served in the shape of a hamburger patty, a la President's Choice frozen beef patty. The flavour was nothing to rave about but he did admit he is spoiled by the tartare at North 44. We shared an order of onion straws (really cannot call them rings) - fantastic - almost melted in the mouth.

                                                                                                                Although the Bourdin Noir tart is a personal favourite, I decided to try the Braised Short Rib this time round. Another business colleauge raved about it a few weeks ago. So, ordered the duck prosciutto salad and the braised short ribs. Both were excellent with lots of flavour. Salad had several slices of thin duch prosciutto accomponied by a lettuce/frisee salad dressed in a citrus vinaigrette augmented by very light blue cheese. Very refreshing. The short rib was to die for. I usually do not enjoy this cut of meat due to it being rather fatty. Not the case hear. It was served with a duo of sauces - white and dark. Excellent. My only criticism was the garnish of two baby carrots cooked to mush... I hate limp carrots.

                                                                                                                I do not understand the comments about poor service. Maybe I've been fortunate as our servers have always been top notch. Group service does not bother me. I really do not care who delivers the food to our table, as long as service is attentive. The wine steward and our waitress kept our wine glasses full, bread was replenished when the basket emptied and plates were cleared in a timely manner. Absolutely no service issues at all.

                                                                                                                Bottom line - another enjoyable dining experience.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: cynalan
                                                                                                                  LTL Mar 12, 2009 06:52 AM

                                                                                                                  Those onion straws/rings really are so addictive! I had them the first time I went and even though I was stuffed to the gills, I couldn't leave without finishing the whole bowl. Now I'm also craving those short ribs. Sorry to hear the carrots were mushy. Maybe it was an off night; they were perfectly done when I had them. Can't wait for my next Nota Bene fix.

                                                                                                                  1. re: cynalan
                                                                                                                    BokChoi Mar 12, 2009 10:16 AM

                                                                                                                    Great review cynalan. Thanks for the update on the food. It's been a while since my last visit. Glad to know it's still a great standby.

                                                                                                                  2. OnDaGo Mar 12, 2009 08:42 AM

                                                                                                                    Any word if the menu will change soon with spring in the air...

                                                                                                                    1. l
                                                                                                                      LTL Mar 19, 2009 10:33 AM

                                                                                                                      Heading back for yet another round tonight and I had a dessert-related question. I can't help ordering the bread pudding each time, but want to try something new tonight. I'm open to any of the options - which is best? I was thinking either the panna cotta or chocolate cake.

                                                                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: LTL
                                                                                                                        Muffin__Top Mar 19, 2009 11:20 AM

                                                                                                                        Panna Cotta is WAY better than the CC IMHO

                                                                                                                        1. re: Muffin__Top
                                                                                                                          LTL Mar 19, 2009 01:40 PM

                                                                                                                          Thanks for the tip

                                                                                                                          1. re: LTL
                                                                                                                            pinstripeprincess Mar 20, 2009 07:19 AM

                                                                                                                            panna cotta is delicious. good texture, nice tartness from goat milk... found the grapefruit accompaniment to be wonderful. really lovely candied grapefruit peels.

                                                                                                                            1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                                                                                                              LTL Mar 20, 2009 08:52 AM

                                                                                                                              I enjoyed it very much, although it took a few bites for me to begin to appreciate all the subtle flavours coming together. The fresh tangerines were perfect and really brought out the citrus notes of the panna cotta. Candied peels were yummy as well as the meringue topping. Very refreshing end to the meal.

                                                                                                                        2. re: LTL
                                                                                                                          BokChoi Mar 20, 2009 09:08 AM

                                                                                                                          Would have to agree with everyone. The chocolate cake was okay, but the panna cotta was very nice and light. A subtly sweet way to end off a meal.

                                                                                                                          1. re: LTL
                                                                                                                            Julia_K Mar 20, 2009 11:51 AM

                                                                                                                            I really liked their apple crumble. Ordered it twice. It's very simple, but the simplicity is what makes this dessert so wonderful. it's very flavourful and... homey I guess.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Julia_K
                                                                                                                              LTL Mar 23, 2009 10:32 AM

                                                                                                                              I might try this next time. I presume it's not overly sweet or too strong with the cinnamon flavour?

                                                                                                                              1. re: LTL
                                                                                                                                Julia_K Mar 25, 2009 09:47 AM

                                                                                                                                Not too sweet at all, but it's quite cinnamoney (did I just make up a word?). I don't think it's overpowered by cinnamon, but I might be biased, since I love cinnamon with apples.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Julia_K
                                                                                                                                  LTL Mar 25, 2009 01:34 PM

                                                                                                                                  Sounds exactly like the kind of apple pie I like. Will try it next time and report back.

                                                                                                                          2. m
                                                                                                                            msprnt Mar 26, 2009 02:00 PM

                                                                                                                            i'm going with a small group of 4 on saturday! ... anything in particular to note? we typically don't go to fine restaurants very often ... but we're going to celebrate one of us landing a solid new job! ...

                                                                                                                            we're a pretty casual crowd and plan to share apps and desserts.... is nota bene too pretentious for that?.... also, we likely won't be getting wine... i'm slightly worried we'll get cold service cuz of that (esp. since that was an issue earlier) ....

                                                                                                                            also, has anyone tried the pre-theatre menu?... is it up to par with "normal" dinner service quality/portions? .... any thoughts on that?

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: msprnt
                                                                                                                              tjr Mar 26, 2009 03:38 PM

                                                                                                                              You might get cold service whether or not you choose to order wine, but I think you'll probably be fine sharing apps and desserts, as long as you're ordering mains as well. It's not exactly a "fine dining" restaurant.

                                                                                                                              Check this thread for dishes to try, as well as the dishes to avoid. Nota Bene is pretty hit or miss, and some of the dishes are pretty bad.

                                                                                                                              The pre-theatre menu is only available at certain times (when there's a show), but I'm not sure if you'd need to produce tickets or not.

                                                                                                                              1. re: msprnt
                                                                                                                                LTL Mar 27, 2009 08:30 AM

                                                                                                                                A friend tried the pre-theatre the same night that I ordered off the regular menu. Service was the same, as were the quality and portions. You do not need to produce ticket stubs. Most of the evenings I've been there, they automatically gave me the pre-theatre menu along with the regular menu. Note - the pre-theatre menu is only available on nights that there is a performance and it's only available between certain hours (check the website for more info).

                                                                                                                                If you order enough apps and desserts, I don't think you need to order mains at all! Some of their apps can get pricey (on par with some of the mains).

                                                                                                                                1. re: LTL
                                                                                                                                  msprnt Mar 27, 2009 09:41 AM

                                                                                                                                  thanks for the heads up guys! ... i certainly hope we don't miss on the dishes we order! .... i'm guessing, it's the same menu that's been offered the last month or two.

                                                                                                                                  cold service is kinda disheartening .... but at least it's consistent................=(
                                                                                                                                  ... i was thinking of bringing our own wine and paying the corkage.... but we'll see

                                                                                                                                  unfortunately, there are no plays/shows at the four seasons on saturday ... we're going early enough too! .....

                                                                                                                                  well, i'm optimistic!... hopefully, the night will go great with great food!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: msprnt
                                                                                                                                    msprnt Mar 30, 2009 10:04 AM

                                                                                                                                    gah! we didn't end up going ...... we were running fairly late and i had a canker sore.....hahahah .... didn't want to waste this great food....

                                                                                                                                    we'll try again another time....

                                                                                                                              2. shekamoo Apr 4, 2009 03:08 PM

                                                                                                                                BokChoi, I must thank you for leading me to NB. the Boudin Noir was IMHO almost comparable to some of the dishes I've had in Europe, and that I thought would never be possible in Toronto. the service was timely and professional if a tad cold, despite the fact that they were operating at capacity. I also owe you for weezie's, so here's thanx for both! keep up the good work...

                                                                                                                                1. l
                                                                                                                                  LTL Apr 6, 2009 08:00 AM

                                                                                                                                  Hi everyone: I'll be heading to Nota Bene yet again and was hoping for some guidance on apps. So far, I've had the lobster salad, barramundi, and tuna tartare. I'm thinking of trying the maffalda pasta with mushroom bolognese next. Any thoughts?

                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: LTL
                                                                                                                                    abigllama Apr 6, 2009 03:39 PM

                                                                                                                                    the maffalda pasta was one of my favourite things that I ate there. It's pretty rich and heavy so try to balance it with a lighter main to avoid feeling like you have a brick in your tummy!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: abigllama
                                                                                                                                      LTL Apr 7, 2009 07:11 AM

                                                                                                                                      Hm, I was thinking of steak as my main but I find it's not too big a serving, given that I have a huge appetite. I will report back on the maffalda.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: LTL
                                                                                                                                      BokChoi Apr 7, 2009 10:25 AM

                                                                                                                                      Personally, I love the hamachi sashimi. I would highly recommend trying that one. It's quite small and would go well with your steak (a lighter start). Their soups have been fantastic on the occasions I've had them. I have not tried the cauliflower, but I doubt they would do a disservice to that beautiful vegetable.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                                                                                                                        LTL Apr 8, 2009 08:02 AM

                                                                                                                                        The sashimi certainly sounds lovely, but I really don't mind a big app. I have a huge appetite. On one of my visits, I had the lobster salad, the short ribs, onion rings, and bread and butter pudding!

                                                                                                                                    3. Food Tourist Apr 6, 2009 04:08 PM

                                                                                                                                      Food-wise, this is one of the best places to eat in Toronto. However, on a recent visit (a Friday evening in March) there were problems with service. First, we had a reservation made well in advance but had to wait for 30 minutes to be seated at our table. Second, the sommelier served a wine that was clearly not up to par at the wrong time in the meal (should have been served first, not last, based on body and taste) based on his mistaken opinion (at $145 a bottle, it was not a small mistake). Third, and most important, even after a lengthy conversation with the server explaining that he is deathly allergic to shellfish and fish, my dining companion was served a dish containing seafood/fish (the brussel sprouts, of all things). Thank God he asked "what's in this?" when he noticed the veggies were coated in a mysterious white topping (presumably cheese). Turns out the chef uses fish sauce to spice up the sprouts. The server then proceeded to say, "I thought you were ordering them for the table to share." Oh, really?! Not surprisingly, my companion left early and skipped dessert.

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Food Tourist
                                                                                                                                        BokChoi Apr 7, 2009 10:27 AM

                                                                                                                                        Hopefully they'll be scanning this board and will notice such a large misstep! That's quite dangerous. There have been quite a number of complaints about different establishments not realizing, or at least not understanding the food they're serving. That, or the message is being lost between the server and the kitchen. I'm glad to hear that disaster was averted.

                                                                                                                                      2. y
                                                                                                                                        Yum2MyTum May 11, 2009 08:31 AM

                                                                                                                                        Went to Nota Bene for mother's day on Friday evening. While we all love the bread pudding dessert and it was delicious as usual, I felt the need to post re the sticky toffee pudding dessert which was so delicious! Super sweet (and perfect for my sweet tooth), warm, gooey and rich... it was the perfect conclusion to a delicious meal.

                                                                                                                                        1. m
                                                                                                                                          michelle1993 Nov 10, 2009 10:05 AM

                                                                                                                                          The lunch menu: The Chicken Caesar salad, and for dessert: The black cherry crumble. The Scallops are also a favorite of mine. Not a fan of the Steak and fries, However the freis are delishious!!!

                                                                                                                                          The service can be a bit slow at peak times for some reason.

                                                                                                                                          Nice atmosphere, and great food.

                                                                                                                                          Show Hidden Posts