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Restaurant Review: Nota Bene, Toronto – Lauded as the Best in Canada

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Posted by : Elana Safronsky, Fri, Sep 18 2009

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From the left: Nota Bene interior, Executive Chef and Proprietor, David Lee.

I'm going to start by offering the following: Executive Chef David Lee (Splendido), General Manager Yannick Bigourdan (Splendido), Franco Prevedello (a restaurant magnate known for starting over 15 of Toronto's most successful restaurants, of which Pronto, Centro and Splendido are only three) and a $3 million investment… Is the place going to be so-so? I don't think so.

For those whom Splendido's fame did not reach, it held (the resto is still around but is under new management) its place among the finest dining establishments Toronto and Canada had to offer. For decades - Splendido was where you would go to impress.

Well times have changed, and the whole concept of 'dine to impress' is bombing - as many other cities like New York have lamented - so the power troika repackaged finery in a more accessible, contemporary package: Nota Bene.

Nota Bene - while still quite up there in price - has a more downtown vibe (and not because of its Queen and University Ave location), sleek décor, a busy bar and lounge great for people watching (the same menu is available throughout). The whole experience is much less '50th anniversary dinner' and more 'put your heels/sartorial jacket on, call a babysitter and encourage your wife or husband to do the same at another restaurant while you hang with your friends' - which is what I did.

A few things about Nota Bene betray the proprietors' old-school values however, and those of course be the seasonal/local/market cuisine of stoic/meticulous (and really good looking) Chef David Lee and the impeccable service.  So outmodishly impressed we were by these virtues, Dinner for Two at Nota Bene was one of our employee appreciation prizes this year.   

Left: Melissa and hubby, not at Nota Bene

I asked one lucky recipient of the certificate, Melissa J.G., to tell me about her dinner, and here's what she and her hubby thought:


What did you two have?
Apps:

• Steak tartare w/ potato chips
• Crispy duck salad w/ sumac-dusted green papaya slaw, cashews

Left: Crispy Duck Salad (via Dine.TO)

Mains:

  • Seared "rare" big eye tuna w/ bell peppers, olive paste, capers, arugula salad
  • Pulled suckling pig and boudin noir tart w/ maple-smoked bacon, mushrooms, truffle vinaigrette

Dessert:

  • Flourless chocolate fudge cake w/ chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream
  • Sticky toffee pudding w/ pecan praline, spotted dick ice cream


Most memorable?
"I had a bite of my husband's pig and it melted - although I loved the tuna I would try that again (without an appetizer because it's so filling) if I went again.

The second would be my chocolate fudge cake dessert…It was divine!"

How did you feel about the location? Did it feel like an occasion?
"Loved the locale! We took the TTC and found it no problem. We decided to gussy up for the dinner (I had an inkling there'd be dinner jackets) so I pulled out my wrap dress. We were actually a bit early and they were extremely accommodating and were able to seat us a bit earlier. The staff was well informed and extremely pleasant."

Anecdotes about room/food/service?
"My only slightly negative comment is that my preference is to eat in a space that's not as open. There were no walls or barriers and the banquettes were quite low. I did the loft living so I love living in open spaces, but I prefer to be cocooned a bit more.

"The service was fantastic though and all the staff was quite knowledgeable on the food and wine. I love when they use those little "crumb catches" at the end of the meal - I want one for myself!"

What were the people like?
"Everyone was pretty dressed up in business attire or cocktail outfits."

Any other comments?
"The olive oil with the dipping bread was fantastic. It's only when you try olive oil that good that you realize the difference from a regular one. Drinkable almost (but I didn't). We definitely plan on going again."

There you have it.  Have you been?  


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Nota Bene Restaurant
180 Queen St. W,
Toronto, ON
M5V 3X3, Canada?

(416) 977-6400

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Posted: Fri, Sep 18 2009 by Elana Safronsky

Get to know:Elana Safronsky

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