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Notion - A Return Visit

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Full review with pictures here:
http://www.rodzillareviews.com/2011/1...

Notion was one of the few Pittsburgh restaurants I kept up with while living in San Diego. Whether it be by Chef Racicot’s twitter account, the restaurants facebook page, or eating vicariously through a favorite reviewer – another visit to Notion became a top priority upon returning to the area.

I was joined by my best friend Kate for the Chef’s tasting menu. “Deal” is not commonly associated with fine-dining, but I really feel it is worth mentioning here. This type of experience for such a price ($85 pp sans wine) seems beyond generous, and that’s before even considering the quality of the dishes. Speaking of which…

Amuse - onion soup - white chocolate, bay scallops, grapefruit
The amuse was really a bonus course. Barely seared bay scallops, roasted onions, and tart grapefruit were covered with a sweet white chocolate soup. The addition of crisp onion chips and chopped hazelnuts added a great textural element to this sweeter side of savory meal opener. A great start.

1.tartare - korean flavors, peanut, iceberg
I think the tartar may become a signature dish at Notion. It was the only menu item that had remained since my last visit, and even better than I remembered. Our great server, Kenneth informed us that the bulgogi sauce was actually inspired by GM Jennifer Jin’s family recipe. My compliments all around.

2.cauliflower - severeal forms, red curry, cider
Several forms of cauliflower referred to a base puree, pieces roasted with olive oil, and dehydrated florets placed on top. A warm apple cider was poured table-side to complete the dish. This was a deceivingly heavy course, but the spice from the red curry aioli moderated the richness. I still had to finish my dining companions portion…though there may have been a bit of suggestion on my part.

3.white beans - cherry, molasses, ham, apple, rosemary
A thick base puree displayed the starchier characteristics of white beans. Sweet ham, tart granny smith apple, cherry and molasses gelee, and toasted rosemary crisps provided a great balance of textures and flavor. Meanwhile the maple bubbles added an additional sweet element without weighing the dish down. I’m always excited for new dishes, but I hope this one sticks around.

4.salmon - red onion, cucumber, cream cheese, rye
Like an avant-garde play on lox. This dish had all the classic components in more refined forms. Katie actually disliked salmon before trying this sous-vide prepared piece. Another standout.

5.ribeye - cabbages, mushroom, vermouth
The final savory of the tasting was a nicely seared ribeye presented alongside a mushroom and cabbage farce. The crisped kale pieces we’re good enough to be bagged and sold on their own. The vermouth bubbles added a touch of sweetness to an otherwise aggressively seasoned dish. I’m a big fan of bold flavors, but I could see this being too much for someone sensitive to salt.

*supplement - pork - clams, grilled lettuce, parsley, brown butter
We decided to add a supplement for our true final savory course. Another dish with a seafood broth poured table side. I appreciated the oceanic flavors, and especially the beautiful presentation, but I wasn’t as impressed as I was by the items on the set tasting. Not a let down, but not a highlight.

6.milk chocolate - coffee, rose water, lemon cake
This is a fine example of Racicot and team taking creative flavor pairings and somehow making them work. Prominent citrus flavors cut through the rich chocolate ganache and slightly bitter coffee flavors. I can’t say I got much from the rose water gelee, but I can’t say I missed it.

7.apple - birch, licorice, parsnip
As successful as our first dessert was, this was hands down the winner. The airy licorice cake was lighter in both color and density, while the darker parsnip brought a buttery weight . Tart granny smith and sweet honey crisp apples came atop a birch custard before everything was drizzled with warm crème anglaise. A great seasonal dessert, and a great way to finish.

When I first visited Notion, I mentioned that a few of the dishes were among the best I ever had. After having a quite a few more memorable dining experiences, I’m happy to report that they have kept their position and I’ve found a few more favorites. Racicot’s style would stand out anywhere, let alone in an area that has not traditionally been a culinary hot spot.

If your interest in food stems beyond simple sustenance, I whole heatedly recommend a visit. I used to say “you won’t find anything like it near Pittsburgh“, I can now say that you won’t find anything like Notion for much, much further.

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notion
314 Allegheny Valley Expy, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

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  1. Certainly makes me want to pay a visit. Wish Notion would just move to E. Liberty. That part of town is really starting to take shape and it would be a great addition.

    Thanks for the great report.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Whigsboy

      Thanks a lot Whigsboy. It definitely is worth the trip, but I agree an East Liberty spot would be awesome.