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Analysis Paralysis - Help me choose a restaurant: Nota Bene, Acadia, Campagnolo, Frank's Kitchen? Other?

I am looking for a restaurant to celebrate my husband's 36th birthday and his getting a new job after ridiculous rounds of interviews! Other places we enjoy include Harbord Room, Globe, Origin. Looking for somewhere with a bit of "hip" while favouring excellent drinks and inventive, good food. Nota Bene, Acadia, Camagnolo and Frank's Kitchen have all caught my interest but don't know which to choose! Help! Reservations preferred.

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  1. If you are a group of 8 or more you could make a reservation at Campagnolo and get the tasting menu. We really enjoyed the tasting menu here and had fantastic service. I haven't been to the other three restaurants you mentioned so I cannot comment on those, but I would also recommend Buca - great pizzas and apps.

    5 Replies
    1. re: TeacherFoodie

      Sadly no - just the two of us. But good to know for the future!

      1. re: cbear4

        Campagnolo will only take reservations for 8 or more, but if you still decide to go you can ask and they may still do a tasting for you. Otherwise, I'd order a few things to share.

        1. re: TeacherFoodie

          To clarify your post, did you mean they will only take a reservation for 8 or more for the tasting menu? I am going on Thursday night and I made a reservation (just a normal reservation) for a party of 2.

          1. re: TeacherFoodie

            Campagnolo takes reservations for any number of diners, perhaps you mean tasting menu resos.

            1. re: themiguel

              I just checked the website, which used to specify reservations were only accepted for parties of 8 or more, but that seems to have been removed. Good news!

      2. Of your list, I'd go with Acadia for sure.

        1 Reply
        1. re: TorontoJo

          Agree with Jo. I am a HUGE Acadia fan.

        2. You may want to consider Ursa. A friend of mine was there recently and said it was one of the better dining experiences he has had this year.

            1. From your list my picks would Acadia or Camagnolo. I think the room is nicer at Camagnolo but the food is better at Acadia however, both are worthy choices.

              1. Acadia's been really awesome so far. I've had the tasting menu every time though, so not sure how that affects experience.

                1. There's a lot of Acadia love on this board but, after being numerous times, I just don't find the place itself to be special enough for a celebration. I also don't find the place, or most of its clientele, to be on the hip side. If you can make due without the hip, I'd certainly suggest Splendido on a Thursday or Saturday - Wonderful food, arguably the best service in the city, and pretty lively on these days.

                  For a hipper feel, by my interpretation, I'd suggest The Saint, Chantecler, Woodlot, and Yours Truly if you're a bit more open minded.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: dlw88

                    Thanks all - I love this board! So I was hoping to book Acadia based on all these endorsements but of course they don't have reservations in the timing that we need! Definitely booking that for the future. I think I am going to try my luck at Enoteca Sociale and just wait if need, but have noted Campagnolo, Ursa and some of your suggestions, dlw88, for the future!

                    1. re: cbear4

                      Best of luck, and enjoy your meal!...along the lines of Enoteca and Camagnolo, Buca ranks highest in my books.

                    2. re: dlw88

                      tell more about chantecler....haven't seen many user reviews...

                      1. re: ingloriouseater

                        I went there with some friends a few weeks ago and I like their style and philosophy to the food. There were some very good dishes in terms of execution and concept (mackerel and pork neck) and some that have good conceptual basis but suffered a bit from execution (too soft gnocchi). However in general I think it's a place worth trying out and is one of those new wave places that are trying to reach a little farther than what's been popular the past few years (rustic Italian, homey American comfort food)

                    3. NOTA BENE! This sounds like the sort of occasion (new job+b'day) that calls for that restaurant.

                      Else, you could give Bestellen a shot.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: meatnveg

                        Nota Bene is so boring these days. Totally lacks punch!

                        1. re: JennaBean

                          +1. They've had the same lunch menu for 3 years. I have to force myself to go there occasionally, unfortunately.

                          1. re: JennaBean

                            I actually find 99% of places in Toronto relatively boring, or the service sucks ass...gotta choose one over the other unfortunately.

                            Nonna's Italian, tacos, burgers, VPN pizza, haute comfort food, prohibition-era styled bars. I'm sick of it all. The only thing I'm interested in eating here lately is either Cantonese, or cheap ethnic eats. I'm finding myself pining for my France trip later this summer even more than usual.

                            1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                              that's pretty much it, I save my money for continental eats when I travel.

                              in town I eat very similar to you, ethnic and cantonese.

                              D. Lee is opening a new place though, in a hip area. So perhaps he'll experiment more than he does at Nota.

                            2. re: JennaBean

                              I've been happy with everything I've ordered at Nota Bene for dinner over my half dozen visits over the past 18 months, and I've found the food to be more interesting than I found it when NB opened. I especially like the seasonal vegetable dishes and seasonal salads. I'm happy they moved the crabcake to main course section from the daily special section.

                              It's not hip or trendy, and the menu might look boring compared to the Hoof or anywhere else that's pushing the envelope, but I haven't been finding the food to lack punch. I would think that an upscale restaurant located near the Financial District and the Performing Arts Centre would need to keep a few conservative dishes on the menu, for the majority of their clientele. Have you dined at NB recently, JennaBean?

                              The current lunch menu has been updated. I've enjoyed the white asparagus dish at dinner. Haven't had a chance to try the tuna tostada yet. The lobster tom yum is also a relatively new dish. http://www.notabenerestaurant.com/dow...

                              1. re: prima

                                I was taken by a former client for lunch about a month ago. I don't generally continue to write about restos that I don't enjoy so I didn't do a report back. That being said, once again I was bored and it just felt way too corporate to me. For that price point I want a little wow. I don't think it is bad I just wish for a little of the old David when he was really hitting it out of the park like he was at Splendido in the last few years there.

                                1. re: JennaBean

                                  I couldn't agree more. I'm just so disappointed with Nota Bene. I'm hoping their new venture is a return to their former stature.

                                  1. re: JennaBean

                                    I think the work "corporate" really defines it. Not bad but targeted to satisfy a very specific client base that wants their experience inside a well defined box. It's not for me.

                            3. I feel like Acadia best suits your criteria - a bit of hip (although there room was pretty bare/minimal when we were there), but inventive tasty food, great cocktails, fun vibe.

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: miketoronto

                                Some interesting comments re: Nota Bene. Looking at the board, there always seems to be divides on that one.

                                We ended up at Enoteca Sociale and really enjoyed it. Would certainly go often if I lived nearby, though not sure I will rush back from the other side of town. I felt the big standouts were the kale salad and the paper thin mushroom tortellini while my husband felt it was the arancini balls and bucatini pasta so certainly all meals were enjoyed!

                                Heading to Acadia next weekend and can't wait!

                                1. re: cbear4

                                  If you havent been to Ici Bistro, you should really go it was my favourite place from the places I've visited recently ( which includes all four restaurants you listed) though I really have enjoyed Acadia and Campognolo a lot as well.

                                  1. re: akhorasanee

                                    I second that! I've had two stellar meals there and if it weren't for my inability to plan far enough in advance for resos I would be there often!

                                    1. re: JennaBean

                                      I really wish ICI bistro would answer their phone. Makes it impossible to go last minute. I'm not a "planner" either, we're very spontaneous diners. They also changed their policy so that they now take reservations for there bar seating, so you can't just show up anymore. Very frustrating.

                                      1. re: justxpete

                                        I would think it would be hard to go last minute anyways.. its a very small restaurant, and they are definitely pretty busy. But I too have had a really good meal there (in Dec).

                                        1. re: hungryabbey

                                          The difference is that they used to accept walk-ins (or at least they didn't the last time that I went), but now they don't, and they don't answer their phone to tell you that. As a matter of fact, they really don't answer their phone at all, or return voice mails - which has been my experience. I'm not sure if others have experienced the same.

                                          In any case, I'm not certain I'll return, despite having loved the food on all my visits.

                                          1. re: justxpete

                                            You can always reserve with them on open table

                                  2. re: cbear4

                                    good thing you are. while i haven't enjoyed acadia as much as others have... matt blondin just announced he's leaving the end of the month.

                                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                            He's off to NYC for an undisclosed amount of time.

                                            1. re: JennaBean

                                              Amy Pataki certainly dropped some strong hints that Blondin is joining Momofuku.

                                              1. re: childofthestorm

                                                He said on his twitter he's off to nyc but didn't say for how long.

                                    1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                                      cbear4, that's exactly how I feel these days. So hard to decide where to go.

                                      We're booked for Acadia tomorrow night - first time. We've not been to a new buzz resto in quite some time so looking forward to it.