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amuse bouche, kaji or nota bene?

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I have a couple of friends coming to TO for just one night (from Connecticut) and we want to have a nice dinner out. Nothing too stuffy because we want to talk and catch up while eating :-) Which one would you pick?

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  1. Hands down Kaji. Nota Bene second. Amuse Bouche not even on the list.

    10 Replies
      1. re: JennaBean

        Why is Amuse Bouche not on the list? Could you elaborate please? Simply saying it doesn't does not make for a constructive decision making process.

        I am thinking of eating there soon and have heard very good things so if there are dissenting opinions I would like to know why. Thanks.

        SWS

        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          I've been twice and will never go again. Once the service and food were just meh. There was nothing special about the experience as a whole and for that price point there should be something special.

          The other time it was a disaster! First, the table we had was the last one before the kitchen and right across from the bar. There was shelf over the table and my SO and I banged our head on it almost every time we got up or adjusted our seat. An example of trying to squeeze one too many tables into a space or just dumb placement of a shelf.

          Second, there were a pile of dirty linen napkins under our table. Not sure how long they had been there nor did I care. When we pointed it out no one even apologize of the grossness of it all.

          Third, as I said my table was right next to the bar so I had a clear view of the bar all night. A large group at a table not too far away were either served the wrong bottle of wine or the wine wasn’t good as it was pour and they taken off the table. The blonde hostess for the evening (who I believe used to be at the Fifth and may even be one of the partners) then processed to use a funnel and put the wine BACK IN THE BOTTLE AND SERVED IT TO OTHER TABLES!

          That’s right after it had been in other people’s glasses on their table she put it back into the bottle and I watcher her serve it to other tables.

          The final straw was again with this woman. She was responsible for preparing the cheese plate at the bar but for some reason she wasn’t able to wash her hand before doing it.

          This was a few years ago so I can’t remember the food but I can tell you’ve I’ve never been back nor will I ever.

          1. re: JennaBean

            um... wow.. i've never seen that.

            they do use these cheesy vases as carafes, but no funnels...

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              This was a few years ago now. They hadn't been opened too long. I was shocked to say the least.

              When it happened I had posted about it here and I was still unhappy about the whole thing and wrote them. Not a word in reply.

              So now it is one of those places I just say no to, no matter what.

            2. re: JennaBean

              I listed Amuse Bouche in the "worst in Toronto" thread.

              1. re: dubchild

                Personally, if I had visitors in from out of town, unless they were serious sushi fans, I wouldn't take them to Kaji for the simple fact it's in Etobicoke. I'd rather take them to a place in a more interesting area. That may just be appropriate for myself and my out of town pals though. Etobicoke could very well be perfect for your friends.

              2. re: JennaBean

                Yikes!

                Thanks for giving more info on your experience. Its diametrically opposed to the great things I've heard, which is unfortunate. It now puts me in the "hmmm, maybe I'll have to rethink that" category. Sigh.

                SWS

                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                  In Amuse's defense, I have eaten there 2 times within the last year and have had nothing but great, friendly service (albiet somewhat lax on the descriptions of each plate), marvelous food and a grand all around time.

            3. re: JennaBean

              Third!!
              Kaji is in a class on its own!

          2. Are your friends ok with the omakase idea? The only choice you have at Kaji is whether you want to pay for Bronze, Silver or Gold level omakase- what you get is pretty much a surprise, although you could mention to the server if you have allergies or preferences. Not a restaurant for picky eaters. If your friends like high quality Japanese food, are ok with flying by the seat of their pants and don't mind spending their only dinner out in a non-descript residential neighbourhood 20 minutes from downtown, then choose Kaji.

            I would probably bring out-of-town friends to Nota Bene or Amuse Bouche, so they would be able order exactly what they like off the menu.

            I'd lean towards Amuse Bouche over Nota Bene because I've never been there, and I didn't really like the scene, food or noise at Nota Bene. The location of Nota Bene, across from the Opera House, is a nicer and more convenient than the location of Amuse Bouche on Tecumseth.

            1. You have 3 good choices there, although they are fairly different beasts so hard to compare.

              Personally I think Kaji is an incredible meal, but its not a catch up dinner conversation meal. Further, as already stated you are not really in control of what you are eating which is not everyone's cup of tea, and there will be some items that require most people to go out of their comfort zone. The fact that it is in Etobicoke is irrelevant.

              I really like Nota Bene although it lacks some intimacy imo and is a little stuffy. The food is very good, the service even better. I have not been in a while because the menu seems to never change much and I don't want to pay to eat the same thing over and over.

              I have had nothing but good experiences at Amuse Bouche. The food is good and service has always been attentive. I like this place for the intimacy and would be a better fit for a catch up dinner. I wouldn't be dissuaded by horror stories, I have heard at least one about most restaurants. Not saying they are not true but every restaurant can have some lunkhead that ruins someone's experience, even the top ones. Usually these people don't last long. Only way to know is to go yourself.

              Having said all that, you could consider 2 other small restaurants around Amuse Bouche, the Rosebud and Niagara Street Cafe - both are small, intimate, not stuffy, have good food and are great to just sit and chat while you eat a good meal.

              1. Thanks to all who replied! We ended up in Nota Bene (Kaji was too far) and had a wonderful meal! I had been there before but my hubby and two friends had not. We had the crispy suck salad, lobster salad and hamachi sashimi to start. The lobster salad was good but not amazing. The lobster though was cooked perfectly and was very sweet. The hamachi sashimi was light and the cilantro brought out a new dimension that you don't normally expect with sashimi. The duck salad though was easily the best starter. The richness of the duck went very well with the acidity of the salad and the thai basil (I think?) added a fragrance that rounded everything out.

                We all had the striploin (I know, not too adventurous!) but I have to say, it was probably one of the the best steaks I've had. I've tried Jacob, Barberian, One, Harbour 60, Ruth's Chris and many other places and this could easily match the best ones. For the price point ($47), it was so worth it. The frites were amazing and the onion rings were thin, sweet and crisp. We also had broccoli as our token "green dish" and it was good but not out of the ordinary.

                For dessert, we had the yogurt panna cotta, bread pudding and chocolate cake. The panna cotta was refreshing and a perfect end to a rich meal. The pudding was so good, but a bit too rich after the meal we had. The chocolate cake was good, as expected of a flourless chocolate cake, but not outstanding.

                4 cocktails, a bottle of malbec, coffees all around plus our food came up to just under $500 incl tax and tip. Everyone thought our meal was outstanding and I'd definitely go back. I was there a year ago and the menu is still the same so I'm concerned that you can only have the same menu so many times. Maybe with the change in season, the menu will be tweaked a bit. I sure hope they keep the duck salad though!