Nota Bene tonight -- any recent/new recommendations?
- TorontoJo Aug 7, 2009 05:56 AM
A group of 'hounds are meeting at Nota Bene tonight. It's my first time there, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm curious to hear recommendations from anyone who's been there recently. I've looked over the old threads and the poached asparagus, crispy duck salad, boudin noir tart, short ribs and some of the fish dishes get great reviews (and I'll be sure to avoid the lobster salad). The menu sure doesn't seem to change much and I'm surprised to see some of the heavier dishes on the menu for the summer. Is it just that the web site menu doesn't get updated? Or do they really keep mostly the same menu year round?
I actually liked the solid components of the lobster salad- the lobster itself was perfect the night I was there. I just wish they'd use a light, citrusy dressing rather than the heavy/creamy buttermilk blue cheese dressing they use;)
The dish that I would definitely avoid is their Yucatan hot and sour soup, if that's still on the menu! Blech! If you do want to try a hot & sour & Mexican soup, check out the tortilla/lime soup at Cava!
The one consistent complaint about Nota Bene appears to be the failure to adapt the menu to what is in season, let alone to prevent boredom from setting in. I have been several times and my favourites continue to be the crisp duck salad, any of the steaks, the frites, the white asparagus salad, the papardelle w/rabbit loin and the halibut (which I think is one of the specials). I likely won't go again until they put some new items on the menu. The boudin noir tart is good but nothing revolutionary, it is a very heavy dish, especially for a starter and especially in the middle of summer.
oh and the sticky toffee pudding is very good as well.
Still, at the price point, which is very reasonable, the food and service is all very good. You will have a great time.
Yum! I definitely second the crispy duck salad (and unlike phoenikia, found the lobster salad very pedestrian (but agree a citrussy dressing would be more suitable!) - sadly so, since the individual components were generally very nice, just too bland as a whole dish). The onion rings do tend to feel greasy once they've been sitting, but fresh on the table they're terrific - delicate and flavourful. I say go for it. When I was there in June, they had a rabbit soffritto, which looked a lot like the "PAPARDELLE PASTA, GRILLED RABBIT LOIN" listed on the current menu, but I'm not sure whether they changed the name because "soffritto's" unfamiliar to many (including me!), or whether it's a totally new dish. If it's what they were serving in June, it was (to my taste) phenomenal - on the "comforting" side (so maybe not the first thing you'd think of in August) but unqualifiedly one of the best dishes I've ever eaten. Have fun!
It's too late to warn you to ask for a restrained hand on the salt on the onion rings and frites - otherwise they are fun to eat but don't let them loiter on the table and go cold and soggy. The lobster salad I agree has a horrible dressing, butI love the crispy duck salad. The air conditioning was set to "meat locker" last time I was there, so I always warn friends to bring a parka!
My husband and I went just last night to celebrate a special occasion, as well as the fact that we just moved back into the neighbourhood after being out of the country for a couple of years.
The menu was somewhat different from what is posted online. Some of the main components of the dishes are the same, but the preparation is different. An example off the top of my head would be the pickerel dish which online states it is prepared with spinach and tomato curry but is currently prepared with a cauliflower puree and other ingredients.
One seasonal item that I did order as an appetizer was the zucchini flower salad. I was worried that it would be too greasy, but mixed with the greens and grilled peppers, it hit the right note for me. As an aside, after reading so many good things about the tuna tartare, I was fully prepared to order it... but the (excellent!) server helped me come to the conclusion that while I can probably try the tuna tartare on my next visit, the zucchini flowers were seasonal and likely wouldn't be available. (The white aspargus dish was not on the menu, by the way). I sampled my husbands hamachi sushi which was nice, although he commented that the portion, even for an appetizer, was a bit on the smallish size (we agreed that quality was better than quantity!).
For my main, I did order the suckling pig and boudin noir tart. Yes it was heavy, and yes I did love it! I have to admit that I was caught up in the hype around what I'd read about this, one of the chef's signature dishes - and for that reason, as well as having never tried boudin noir - I ordered it. It didn't disappoint at all, but I can definitely see how someone with a delicate stomach might be turned off by this heavy dish. My husband loved his order of pulled braised lamb with penne pasta. We also ordered frites and while we enjoyed them, we looked longingly at the next table who were enjoying onion rings that looked divine.
We had wine pairings with each course, and finished it off with blueberry compote panna cotta and strawberrys & a scone.
We can't wait to go back and try some of the other dishes, including the charcuterie, the onion rings and the cheese platter.
I'm sure you will have a great time, and look forward to reading your review.