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Feb 8, 2010 02:16 AM

Going to AGO...should I stop at Frank, or go somewhere else?

I am going to the AGO this Wednesday. I figured we might as well stop by Frank since it's right there. I haven't gone yet though, I read some reviews by Joanne Kates and Corey Mintz (spelling?), and they don't seem favorable. Has anyone been and would you recommend it? If not Frank, are there good restaurants not participating in Winterlicious? I don't like how busy and rushed everyone is.

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  1. For roughly the same price as Frank you could go to Nota Bene and have a much more interesting well executed meal.

    4 Replies
    1. re: sumdumgoy

      the menu might be ever so slightly interesting at nota bene (more flair) but the food at frank, for what it is, is well executed as well.

      it's my bias though. i don't fully get the love for nota bene (aoili should never be in steak tartare, the duck salad is just an ok riff off of a vietnamese dish and when you're stuck chewy duck instead of crispy it's not worth eating, the boudin tart flavours become mundane about the 3rd bite in...) though will concede that it's not bad food, just not excellent to me. frank lies within the same vein for me but i still like it better... i prefer the less intense and more spare atmosphere sometimes and feel the food for what it is is executed well - their pasta has been perfection the few times i've had it, appetizers not terribly inventive but entirely satisfying. i guess it doesn't hurt that i get a members discount so the cost gets closer to reasonable at the end of the night.... i also like that they have about a 2x mark-up or less on the wine (from what i could tell) and that i can get my beloved stratus white '06 by the glass. i haven't been impressed with the wine service at nota bene.... temperature being a constant issue.

      1. re: pinstripeprincess

        I had dinner at Frank about 10 days ago and was underwhelmed.

        Bread basket looked great but the bread had been cut too far in advance was stale.

        Baby beet salad was small with one golf ball sized beet cut into 4-5 pieces, greens, a few candied pecans, and a dash of blue cheese at $12.

        Gnocchi with wild mushrooms and brown butter, again an ungenerous portion of leaden gnocchi with undercooked mushrooms and a little brown butter at $23.

        My impression was that the chef was not in the house and that the menu had been designed so that any kitchen assistant could execute and plate the dishes with very little training.

        1. re: sumdumgoy

          I've found the bread basket iffy and I would not rec the beet salad ever. T_T no beets in there, mostly greens. However, some dishes aren't bad at all at Franks, albeit, I've only ever been for brunch.

          1. re: sumdumgoy

            i haven't had either of those dishes. i'm not generally keen to order beet salads at restaurants as i don't find many do anything extraordinary with them.

            that's disappointing but my meals have been quite good. i much prefer their rabbit pappardelle to NB's.

            one of their chef's is excellent with seafood and my options tend to lean towards that.

      2. Here are some menus:
        Nota Bene:

        I like both, but it depends on who you're going with. NB isn't conducive to families and kids, whereas Frank is. NB is also a smidgen more expensive and you'll have to walk a block/5 minutes to get to the AGO. But NB has better service and food execution, (though I don't think Frank is bad).

        Here's the blogpost I made about Frank, which I've also posted in the Frank thread that's on the board.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jlunar

          My favourite place for lunch when visiting the AGO is just across the street from the front entrance. The savory crepes at Art Square Cafe are very good, soup and salad looked good too the last time I was there (last August). They usually have a special of the day posted outside.

        2. In general, I like the food options at Frank better than the food at Nota Bene. Frank tends to have more veggie and fish options on their menu (usually including some sort of cheese souffle).

          Nota Bene's current lunch menu is quite different from the online lunch menu on their website. The current Monday special is a pasta involving Tunisian octopus. There's also a sea scallop dish with beets on the current lunch menu which isn't on the online menu, as well as the Asian salad I ordered. Several dishes (such as the gazpacho, smoked salmon pasta and calamari IIRC) mentioned online are not on the current lunch menu.

          I was at Nota Bene for lunch today, ordering the Asian inspired salad (beets, pear, carrot, cilantro, ginger) which was ok, and the Stilton Burger with frites.

          I was surprised that my burger was completely pink inside, since I ordered it to be cooked medium. Even my friend's well-done burger looked like what I generally would consider medium-rare. I mentioned this to the server, who had talked to a higher-up, who told her the burger was slowly braised (?), which meant that it stayed a pink colour, even if it was fully cooked (?). Not sure about that, since nothing I've braised has ever been that pink. Decided to eat the burger anyway, figuring if Nota Bene is serving Steak Tartar, their rare-looking burger was likely safe to eat. The burger tasted pretty good, better than the Globe's burger (not as salty as the Globe's burger, which was a good thing), but not quite as tasty as the Harbord Room burger, or the Stilton Burger at Caren's.

          Nota Bene's apple crumble with cream cheese ice cream was mediocre. Their contemporary take on sticky toffee pudding was quite tasty. I like Nota Bene's sticky toffee pudding better than the sticky toffee pudding at the Drake.

          I have found the desserts at Frank to be better tasting than the 3 desserts I've tried at Nota Bene (panna cotta, apple crumble, sticky toffee pudding).

          I find the food offered at Frank to be more interesting to me than the food at NB. Guess it depends on what you find interesting! Steak frites, stilton burgers, chicken caesar salad, grilled chicken, and boudin noir tart are not items I really would describe as interesting ;-) But then again, the Yucatan hot & sour soup, and the lobster salad both sounded interesting, but didn't end up tasting that interesting (or good) to me.

          I noticed Frank currently has an apple kouign amann on the current menu- has anyone tried it yet?

          Art Square
          334 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

          Nota Bene
          180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

          FRANK @ The Art Gallery of Ontario
          317 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5T I4G, CA

          2 Replies
          1. re: phoenikia

            Oh boy, that lobster salad... apparently the description of the salad didn't include the various mixed greens that comprised of 2/3rds of the salad, in addition to the ingredients listed above. That was sort of disappointing for 24 dollars.

            1. re: phoenikia

              Had a nice lunch at Frank today. Ordered the vegetarian special which was a chevre, artichoke and spinach omelette, served with fried potatoes and a red cabbage salad. My friend had the apple, chicken and sage pot pie with salad.

              The apple kouign amann that I asked about yesterday is not on Frank's current dessert menu- currently Frank serves a Northern Spy Apple Pie, and a Pudding Chomeur, as well as a couple other desserts. Wish Frank & Nota Bene would keep their online menus up-to-date!

            2. I've been to both, and had a better experience at NB. Better service and I found that the dishes were just more interesting at NB. Loved the duck vermicelli salad, and liked the boudin noir tart

              I regret what I had at Frank (osso bucco, I can make just as good osso bucco at home), but what they did do right was the marrow. Half my meal was marrow, coarse salt, and bread. It was amazing, but I doubt you'd want that to be your meal. Go for NB.