Nota Bene - Another 'Belated' Review
Hello fellow chowhounders,
First, for those unfortunate few who had suffered Nota Bene's inconsistent service. Based on our experience last night, I guess management must have heeded your advise and the corner has been turned. Despite a packed Saturday evening crowd, the service we received was top notch. Friendly, attentive and smooth. Timing for water refill, removal of old cutleries and plates and their replacements etc was spot on.
Now for the food. The two of us ordered 3 appertizers, 2 entrees and 2 desserts. They were;
- Ocean trout sashimi. IMO, the high light of the evening. The fish was ultra-fresh and sweet. The dressing was heavenly, with perfect harmonious balance of the sweet, tangy and oily components. Just like a fine sweet dessert wine. The dish reminds me of a similar one I had at Sushi Kaji. In Kaji's case, Bonito, Mirin, Yozu and Sesame oil were the main ingredients. However, David Lee's creation was by-far more delicious!
- Nova Scotia Lobster Salad. An interesting variation of the classic Cobb salad. A very pleasing dish. I was surprised that the most attractive part wasn't the big chunks of succulent lobsters but the irresistable accompanying strips of Maple bacon! Man, I could have munched on them the whole night! But then I guess I would also need an ambulance to take me to nearby Mt Sanai Hospital afterwards!
- Grilled Octopus and Rapini. Another nice dish but a bit 'underseasoned'. A little sprinkle of sea salt would certainly help to kick the octopus up a notch. However, compare to a similar dish I had at Mario Batali's Michelin 1*- Babbo a few months back, the Babbor's version was totally lacking in taste, tough and over-charred'. whilst Nota Bene's morsels were much more tender and perfectly cooked. Thumbs up for the 'no-star'!
- Seared Yellow-Fin Tuna. Once again, the fish was ultra-fresh but the dish on the whole was a bit dissappointing. The ground pepper crust was a bit over-whelming whilst the fish itself a bit bland. A drizzle of some form of 'seasoned oil/dressing' might be needed. IMO, the condiments are not enough to spark the dish.
- Suckling pig and Boudin Noir tart. A glorified ' French gourmet pizza '?!. This dish was raved by every CH who tasted it but also received lots of complaints due to its too 'rich' nature. How to make this delicious dish more balanced will be a nice challenge for Chef Lee! May be offer half portion as an appertizer? That way, I would have room to order one more extra entree!
- Bread pudding dessert. All I can say is, if it wasn't for the fact that I was stuffed ( mainly due to the afore mentioned tart ), I would have ordered another one or two or three...Ha!! Its that delicious!
- Apple crumble with apple cider and ice cream. Nothing special, however, at $10, a slightly bigger portion is warranted, IMO.
Overall, though a bit noisy due to the packed crowd, the evening had been most enjoyable. Both decor and service was great. Food was delicious with only a bit of a slip-up that can easily be corrected. I look forward to my next visit! Hope the seared scallops and the braised ribs are still available on the menu.
I was there Saturday evening for dinner as well, but a lot earlier.
We were the first to sit around 5pm ( I had a shoot to get to later on).
The place quickly filled up by 6pm. Service was spot on throughout, wine and water was tended to by multiple heads, and without intrusion we were checked up on.
- Nova Scotia Lobster salad...loved the maple bacon, the creamy bits of avocado and lobster chunks that put my mouth on a rollercoaster ride of textures.
-charcuterie...candy for adults, from aromatic salame felino to silky duck proscuitto..
-hangar steak...perhaps the least challenging item on the menu, silky smooth steak that literally melted in your mouth
-boudin tart....ahh....how it reminds me of Au Pied Du Cochon. Yes i've read the reports that it's too rich, etc etc, and I have found a solution to the problem. Order it without the mushrooms. Due to my allergy, the tart came out without the mushrooms but with a bit more cheese. sweet tender pig, blood sausages, and crispy phyllo
-flourless chocolate cake...it is what it is, but forget the cake, it's accompaniment..the pistachio chai flavoured ice cream is out of this world.
-yoghurt panna cotta...heavy yoghurt flavour, and delicious.
- onion rings..i still love these crispy shavings of lightly dipped onion rings, but i think the order was just too big.
originally i had planned to sample david's private stock, but plans changed when we got there.
I got to return for another lunch last week and it was just superb, with highlights including the previously-praised crispy duck salad and the steak tartare. But be forewarned, they have pared down the lunch menu considerably, both in terms of "heavy" items (bye bye charcuiterie plate and boudin noir tart, I was planning on ordering at least one of you) and super-pricey options as well. Virtually every appetizer was a salad in one form or another. So clearly they have adapted for the Bay St. lunch crowd, and given that they were virtually full, they obviously made some good choices.
Service was impeccable, with a fantastic wine recommendation that really put an exclamation point on the meal. Best restaurant to open this year?
Has the lobster salad improved since it first opened? When I went, it was 90% romaine with a couple of medium-sized pieces of lobster and 2 barely there pieces of the bacon (which tasted great but I needed a magnifying glass on my fork to find them)? For us, that was the lowlight dish of the evening, even though we otherwise enjoyed our meal - and had great service.
Good to hear that they have taken note and that service has improved! But then again, I never seemed to have a poor experience. Also nice to hear that the lobster dish has improved - I avoided this dish on previous occasions due to the poor reception by other CHers.
Thanks for the review. I would agree with childofthestorm - best new restaurant of the year (IMO) !