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Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

Next month my wife and I will be coming from London for a Saturday night concert of two of the best jazz piano players in the world, Bill Charlap, whose NY trio is unparalleled. and his Canadian wife Renee Rosnes. Concert starts at 8 and we plan to get to Toronto earlier that day.

I am a foodie and treasure trips to Toronto because London lacks quality options. So I'm looking for a memorable meal but with a caveat -- I don't want to walk away so weighted down by food and wine that I won't enjoy the concert.

The restaurant doesn't have to be walking distance to the concert since we can take public transportation too, but given the timing, I'd prefer a place that not too far time-wise.

We like all types of food, though we tend to steer away from Italian because most of it isn't as good as what my in-laws make (my wife is Italian).

Suggestions?

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  1. Only one. Nota Bene. It fits your requirements to a tee.
    http://notabenerestaurant.com/

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

    4 Replies
    1. re: Googs

      Great location for us (we may be staying at a hotel quite close). Looks like a nice, straight forward menu that relies on quality ingredients prepared well. Do you have some favourites on the dinner menu?

      1. re: CookatHomeinLondon

        Literally just returned from dinner at Nota Bene - coincidentally, as part of a Christmas gift to the parents: dinner at NB followed by a concert at Glenn Gould Studio.

        One note on the location: budget at least 15 minutes' walk from dinner to the venue, just to be safe. Parents left dinner at 7:30 to feel comfortable about making it to their 8:00 show. Our reservation was for 6pm, they showed up slightly late and had time for apps and mains, but not dessert. This was with excellent service - one attentive waiter, a very helpful wine steward, and an additional fleet of clearly well-trained folks. We did not feel rushed, but moved along at a relatively good clip. So if you are looking for something lighter (i.e. no dessert), similar timing might work well for you.

        It depends on what appeals to you most, but we all chose to order from the prix-theatre menu (offered because Swan Lake is on at the Four Seasons Centre tonight - you'll be in the same boat with the Flying Dutchman on April 24), which is a fabulous value - 2 courses for $29.

        All four of us chose the same options (a curried lobster bisque with coconut milk - it has a mild kick, the predominant taste is the coconut milk followed by a stronger taste of lobster as it runs down your throat - and the grilled Mediterranean seabass, with lovely smokiness from the grill and great texture, served with lentils in a vinaigrette - very clean flavours, and very nice) and we all enjoyed them. My SO was disappointed by the lack of a strong lobster taste in the bisque, but that's the extent of our complaints. It was a lovely meal, though not our most memorable in Toronto. Two final notes: the prix fixe menu also includes beef short ribs, of which I seem to recall reading positive reviews on this board, and if you do want a bit of dessert that won't leave you stuffed, they offer mixed berries (on the dessert menu, not as part of the prix fixe).

        1. re: c.cow

          Hm... Nota Bene does not seem veggie-friendly at all ... haaha, it's meat this, seafood that. What are the chances do you think that a veggie person would have to alter menu items?

          1. re: c.cow

            Thanks so much for sharing your experience. The sea bas sounds very good and the sort of lighter meal that would work, and a 15-minute walk is just fine. I usually stay away from prix fixe because I don't like to limit my choices but it may work well here, especially with timing an issue.

      2. Another option is the Wine Bar, known formerly the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, before it was sold last fall. Contemporary/continental small plates featuring local ingredients, and it's possible to get 3 oz pours of wine. It's just south of Front Street, at 9 Church, which is about a 10-12 minute walk east of the Glenn Gould Studio.

        Biff's is a straightforward/conservative option for contemporary bistro food, which is located at Yonge & Front, about a 8-10 minute walk east of the GG Studio.

        I'm not a big fan of Nota Bene's food, and I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there. The ingredients are high quality, and most things I have ordered have been ok, and sometimes good, but I can't say anything I've ordered there has been memorable. I prefer the food at the Only on King or On the Fork in London, ON to what I've been served at Nota Bene.

        Other restaurants at a similar price point to Nota Bene that are within a 10 minute walk of the Glenn Gould Studio are Forte (contemporary French/continental at Bay & Richmond), and Vertical (contemporary/Mediterranean at King and Bay on the mezzanine level of First Canadian Place). Vertical has a Italian influence but the food I've eaten there has seemed more contemporary/continental than traditional Italian, and they use mostly locally sourced or Canadian sourced ingredients. Both Forte and Vertical serve portions that are on the light side. I like the food better at Forte than Vertical.

        If you want to splurge, you might also want to consider Canoe. Edit: JamieK has pointed out that Canoe is not open Saturdays.

        Vertical and Wine Bar are participating in the Stop for Food prix fixe event being held from March 1-31st, offering prix fixes to support The Stop Community Food Centre, in case you're interested in helping out a good cause while dining in TO ;-)
        http://thestop.org/event/01-mar-2010

        Vertical's $50 Prix Fixe for The Stop:
        http://www.dine.to/menus/menu_4568_do...

        9 Replies
          1. re: JamieK

            Oops! I forgot for a moment that Canoe is only open Mon-Fri. Thanks for mentioning that, JamieK!

          2. re: phoenikia

            phoenika, do you have a review of Only On King anywhere? I'm been extremely curious about it ever since my fave wine critic gave it a stellar review.

            Not to rain on your parade, but I don't think Wine Bar really qualifies as walking distance. Despite being a straight shot along Front St, it's still quite far at 1.5 km. It's also not in a transit friendly zone.

            1. re: Googs

              Not taking that as rain on my parade, at all;-) Good to have another CH's perspective. Maybe it's closer to a 20 minute walk, but I still would consider the Wine Bar a good option that's relatively close to the GG Studio, especially when you consider the calibre of most Front St restaurants. I often will walk 30 minutes for take-out or groceries, so I guess 1.5 km along Front doesn't seem that far to me. Guess it depends on the person, footwear and the weather ;-)

              If the poster is still interested in the Wine Bar, it would be about a 5 minute cab ride on a Saturday night.

              Googs, here is my review of the The Only on King:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3602...

              If you happen to be in/near London, The Only is a great place to eat.

              1. re: phoenikia

                How does the Wine Bar compare to what was offered before Jamie Kennedy left? Do you recommend particular dishes

                Twenty-minute walk would be fine if its a nice night and we eat early enough so we don't feel rushed.

                1. re: CookatHomeinLondon

                  I thought the food quality and portion sizes on my last visit were roughly the same quality as when it was JKWB. The menu offers many of the same types of dishes- local ingredients, continental flavours with an Anglo influence, as well as the ever-changing upscale poutine that's always been on the menu. One of my friends thought the frites weren't as good as they had been before, but it could have been an offnight for frites, and it's possible the potatoes were older/newer/different variety. I never was really wowed by the frites at JKWB.

                  The service was great- no changes there. One of the owners is Scott Vivian, the chef who was the chef de cuisine under Jamie Kennedy.

                  I'm not a big wine drinker, so I can't really comment on the wines that were available. I would guess the wine programme/approach has changed considerably since the sommelier Jamie Drummond left to work with Good Food Revelation.

                  One nice change is that reservations can now be made for dinner.

                  Another change is that the same menu is used from opening time (11 or 11:30 am depending on the day) to closing time each day. Under Jamie Kennedy, the Sunday brunch had a separate menu. That being said, the dishes offered on the daily menu change frequently.

                  I liked the gnocchi & the beet salad on my last visit. The scallops were slightly overcooked for my taste, but I'm pretty finicky about my scallops and few places seem to get them right in TO.

                  menu:
                  http://9church.com/menus/WineBar_Dail...

                  Here is a recent thread:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/681620

                  1. re: phoenikia

                    Thanks for letting me know. I'm particular about my scallops too. I probably pass on the frites if only because too many carbs and I will be less alert than I want to be for the concert, though I may have to make an exception for the gnocci, Good to hear the food quality has been maintained.

            2. Update -- We'll be staying at the Sheraton Centre on Queen Street (thanks to Priceline at $79 plus tax) and will be checking in before we head out for dinner.

              2 Replies
              1. re: CookatHomeinLondon

                That puts Nota Bene within 0.3 km's of your hotel. You could practically pitch a baseball that far. Good luck wherever you go.

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

                1. re: Googs

                  Location-wise its perfect, though if I can pitch it 300 metres, I may get plucked from the streets by the Jays on the way to the show,

                  Thanks for all your help!