Nota bene on queen street west?
My husband and I went to Nota Bene last week for our anniversary dinner. I'm afraid that I'd have to concur with those of you who came away underwhelmed by the food.
The service was excellent, from start to finish, but the food simply did not shine. Although nothing was downright bad, there were none of those revelatory tasting moments that, to me, signify a level of specialness.
Between the two of us, we had:
The charcuterie plate, which we did not find to be mind-blowing;
The lobster salad which, with its buttermilk vinaigrette, blue cheese, lardons and romaine lettuce, was satisfactory but seemed somewhat lacking in cohesiveness;
The crispy duck salad, which was more successful than the lobster salad and had great texture and flavour (and was not at all sour). This was probably the most flavourful dish of the evening;
For mains, we chose:
The Tuesday special of roasted cod with cod fritters. Boring and bland!
The papardelle with rabbit, which contained many good-sized chunks of rabbit. The dish was flavourful in a muted way, but the choice of pasta shape is questionable. It is virtually impossible to eat rabbit and pasta together in one forkful unless -- gasp -- one were to cut the pasta rather than twirl it.
A side of onion rings were divine.
We chose not to have dessert.
I'm actually one of the seemingly few people on this board who never understood the hype over Splendido before its recent change of hands (haven't been there since), and Nota Bene has me stumped, too. I think one of the problems I have here is that there seems to be an essential member of the traditional kitchen brigade missing -- the saucier. The saucier is one of the most important and respected members of the brigade, the one who puts the finishing touches on food that's otherwise perfectly prepared. And real sauces (as opposed to the omnipresent purees) seem to be missing in action from Nota Bene's menu.
While the prices were not horrendous (no mains other than steaks were over $30, although appetizers were pretty pricey), our main courses were quite small (both of us raised our eyebrows when the plates were set down).
So, while one could dine here without going into bankruptcy or bursting one's pants buttons, if the food doesn't satisfy, in my opinion the question of value is moot.
I went for my second visit to Nota Bene on October 2. It was packed and loud. This is not a restaurant for an intimate dinner; it is very energetic. The ambient music was barely audible, which was a blessing since it seemed to be nothing but repetitive drum beats.
Staff were everywhere and that added to the frenetic energy of the dining room as they zipped in and around the tables. They seemed younger and not as well trained as before. Perhaps there had been some new hires? They serve from every possible direction and offer no information about what is being served. I have a serious food allergy which I reported when I made my reservation. On my previous visit, my server was on top of things and knew exactly what I would have to avoid. This time when I asked about ingredients, the server was confused and replied vaguely "yea, I think that'll be okay" which made me reach for my epipen.
The olive oil that accompanied the bread for the table was horribly bitter and inedible. The bread itself was delicious with a wonderfully chewy crust.
I had The Big Eye Tuna Tartare as the first course. It had a luscious texture and a great balance of flavours. My companion ordered the Crisp Duck Salad. The duck was excellent but the salad beneath was far too sour and didn’t compliment the duck at all.
We both had the braised lamb special and enjoyed it immensely. The lamb was tender and sweet. The potato puree that was served along side it was decadent and rich with plenty of butter. I ordered a side of pommes frites and my companion ordered the champagne asparagus which he enjoyed.
With a shared dessert, and one drink each, the bill was $203.00 before tip.
180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA
Thank God you also disliked the olive oil! I went there tonight and found it inedible. I thought it was rancid but the waiter said it was supposed to taste like that. He was nice and brought out some balsamic for me.
It was my first trip. I liked it, but found it lived up to the hype only occasionally. I really liked the duck salad and the charcuterie plate. Someone had the boudin noir and loved it, though it is extremely rich. I had the red snapper special and found it merely okay. It was oil-heavy. In fact, the whole meal seemed to be heavy on the fat.
We've been twice over this past year. We really liked it. The chicken soup is marvellous, particularly with the dried goji berries. My wife swears by the pasta with rabbit soffrito. The charcuterie plate was an altar to pork fat. The suckling pig and boudin noir tart is too rich to have if you've had the charcuterie plate already.
The price is pretty decent - certainly expensive, but plenty less than places like Canoe.
I was there last summer for drinks and appetizers, not long after it opened. The staff eas great - I asked if they could turn the Virgen Mojito on the menu into a slutty mojito, they didn't have any problem with the change and the bartender made the best Mojito I've ever had - and I've had a lot. The martinis were great too. The food was absolutly fantastic. We had a few appetizers, but I remember we that the fish was done perfectly. It was expensive ($18 a drink or so), but if you're up to it you'll be glad you went.