Feed Me: Nota Bene


Hi there,

Firstly, I have a little primer: this visit was made the late fall of 2010.  So, this post is a little overdue because they have changed their menu recently.  However, I still hope that sharing my experiences with you will provide you with a sense of what their cuisine is about.

I went to Nota Bene when they first opened and it was a spectacular experience.  Wanting to recreate that feeling, our cozy party of two decided to brace the windy day and head there for lunch.  Immediately, I sensed a shift in the mood and feel of the place.  It was extremely corporate and business-like, not the cool vibe I felt the first time I walked into the open spaced restaurant with modern art accents.

To begin, the service right off the bat was very spotty.  Our server vanished after handing us our bottle of sparkling water (and did this throughout our entire meal). After that, we had to ask the food runner to find our server for us and take our order.

Crusty Bread for our table while we wait for our meal
Buffala di Mozzarella w. roasted red peppers

We wanted to share an appetizer, so they graciously accommodated our request by splitting the portion in two. Yes, the mozzarella wedge was fresh, soft, the slightest bit springy, and yielded easily in the mouth.  I enjoyed the fruitiness the olive oil imparted on the cheese.  However, two mice sized pieces  (half  a piece for each of us) at $15-16 was a ridiculous amount to pay.

Fried Onion Rings

Oh so crispy, this Bermuda triangle of ringed goodness was fried perfectly.  Sprinkled lightly with salt, in each bite, we got a crunchy exterior which gave way to the naturally sweet onions (perfectly cooked too) inside.  If I weren’t eating this in public, I would have taken these loose slinky rings and piled them in to my mouth greedily.

Spaghetti with chunky tomato sauce

Nothing like a big bowl of pasta to spell out comfort. While the dish was visually enticing,  its taste and texture were an issue.  I understand that pasta should be cooked al dente, but these strands were hard, tough, and undercooked. Overall, the dish was too acidic and needed some more sweetness to balance everything out.

Wagyu Beef Brisket Burger+ fries+ aioli

This is a ‘go big or go home’ kind of burger topped with a no holds barred kind of attitude.  The toasted brioche bun holds several layers of farm animals: piggy pancetta and a hunk of foie gras on top of a wagyu beef brisket burger cooked medium- rare.  No room for veggies here– they’re not welcome in this carnivorous creation.  So how did this pricey $40 burger taste?  Well the garnishes were mighty pleasing on my palate with the saltiness from the fancier grade of bacon, and the pure unadulterated layer of melting, hefty duck liver… but the patty itself?  Well I had to ask, “Where’s the beef?”  As in– that beefy flavour one gets from cattle that’s treated like royalty.  Where was the rich fatty flavour from the marbling?  The texture was gummy, believe it or not– which made me wonder why the server didn’t inform us on what the recommended ‘doneness’ should be (a place like this usually has a chef’s recommendation– especially for ‘Private Stock’ labelled plate like this).  Yes, it was pink inside and juicy, but the baby mush texture was quite off-putting.  Oh yes, while the frites were a bit of an afterthought because they were living in the shadows of its fancier fried sister, they were still enjoyable and also addictive.

Spotted Dick Ice Cream w. a Sugar Cookie

This was a boozy ice cream studded with raisins.  The delicate sugar cookie had a crisp snap to it.  It wasn’t too sweet and complimented the drunken ice cream perfectly.

Chocolate Fudge Cake aka Molten Chocolate Cake to me w. PB Brittle ice cream

Dubbed as a fudge cake, this was actually just your standard molten lava cake with a scoop of peanut butter brittle ice cream on the side.  Firstly, the plating was quite a letdown.  In the past, I’ve had some beautifully plated desserts from this place.  Not this time.  Something was amiss in the back of the house.  The taste?  Good, rich, chocolately, and oozed out just like any good lava cake would do.  Yes, it was made well and the taste was up to snuff… but, it was quite average (yes, I’m being picky here.. but I know they are more than capable of upping the ante, so why play coy games?) – -nothing creative or unique about it.  In hindsight, I should have not followed the server’s recommendation on this, but oh well.  However, I adored the ice cream.  The smooth richness of the vanilla base befriends the hearty nuttiness of peanut butter and punctuated with crunchy brittle.   It coats your tongue and slides into your tummy with a sensation like inhaling sharp, nippy air on a frosty winter day. Just give me more of that in a huge goblet please 🙂

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Truffles

We broke into these midnight hued truffles when they arrived as our post-dessert-dessert.  Trickling out like a slow-moving glacier, the golden caramel that lay inside was counteracted brilliantly spiky salt.  I’ve had my share of bad truffles; it’s hard to make good ones, but here, they were executed perfectly.

Overall, Nota Bene didn’t evoke the memories I had when I first ate here (I’d jump over the moon for their boudin noir dish and their crisp duck salad again!  It was a sad day for my taste buds to see those items removed from the menu) .

Inconsistencies in the back and front of the house definitely impacted our visit here this time. What happened? It wasn’t like this before… I hope they bring their A-game back soon.

Nota Bene on Urbanspoon

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