Nota Bene is quickly becoming one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. The lovely folks there invited me to come try out the menu and their special of suckling pig. My good friend Kerri and I had quite the extravagant meal and there were still items on the menu I wanted to try. If you are looking for a restaurant for a business lunch or dinner or you want to take your sweetheart out for an indulgent meal, this is the place. I’ve also been to Nota Bene without an invitation and my review of that is here, as part of my restaurant resolutions for 2012. A big thanks to Nota Bene and their team for being so generous to us. Your service was exemplary. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet David Lee one day if only to hear his accent again. He has quite the accent!
A note: Kerri has many allergies and the staff were very accommodating to her needs. They separated items when needed and informed her of dishes that she wouldn’t be able to have. They were patient and receptive to her requests. So if you’ve got an allergy, NB will take care of it and you don’t have to miss out.
The cocktail list isn’t online but it’s a short and strong cocktail list. I wanted something with a berry taste and the bartender recommended the blueberry cocktail with thyme infused gin and blueberry. It was refreshing and sweet but not too sweet. A perfect cocktail if you’re just at the bar. I like the bar area because it’s sophisticated but a bit more informal. The windows provide ample opportunity to people watch the Queen St. West walk-through traffic. The Nota Bene cocktail was light and refreshing. It was the perfect zing before we started our meal.
Our perception of the octopus was that it would have tentacles so the presentation was a nice surprise. I loved the chorizo on top but we felt with the octopus and the beans that this dish was tasty yet disconnected.
The crisp duck salad was a hands down winner of our meal. NB clearly knows how to make something with zing and that’s what this dish was: texture from the duck which wasn’t crackling but crispy and tender enough; that papaya (which we literally said was “the shit” with the zip of flavour from the sauce ); the cashews added a salty crunch and texture as well. The rose petals made for a beautiful presentation and hey! they’re edible!
WINE PAIRING: Barbera D’alba, a red wine from Italy’s Piedmont region (I think near Turin). Our sommelier told us that the wine would cut through the acid of our dish to compliment our duck. There was a bit of a kick to it. A solid, elegant wine.
FOR THE TABLE
Luckily, I never had to eat brussel sprouts as a kid. But man, David Lee’s kids are LUCKY because the flavour of these brussel sprouts make me want to blurt out expletives. The symbal in the sprouts is a garlic chili that really make it sing, as Kerri noted. It was spice mixed with crunchy tempura and a dense vegetable (five a day). We were tempted to lick the plate clean. Phenomenal! My favourite side (the onion rings were a CLOSE second).
WINE PAIRING: Our sommelier did an excellent job in pairing our red wines with our dishes. She chose a Vignatta Syrah from Monteray, California. We both felt this went down super smooth and complimented the spiciness of the chilli sauce in the sprouts. It a well rounded balance for the rabbit in our pasta as well and mellowed out its very strong taste. The consensus: our favourite wine. WOW!
MAINS/ACCOMPANIMENTS BEFORE THE SUCKLING PIG
NB gave us a smaller version of the pappardelle and we could not get enough of it. This had poricini, pancetta and olives on it and we topped it with some parmesean. I’ve eaten at a lot of Italian restaurants and I have to say this is the best noodle I have ever tasted. Like I have to yell it: THAT NOODLE! The width. The egg. The sweetness that juxtaposes and carries the density and saltiness of the rabbit.When you mix sweet (with the porcini mushroom) with savoury (that rabbit) and salty (kalamata olives. An aside: how I love thee), it’s a Frutopia-esque moment of flavourful explosions. Clearly, this was a number one and it was Kerri’s favourite dish (and she is PICKY!).
AFTER THE SUCKLING PIG – CHARCUTERIE -AKA WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?
At this point, I had a few drinks so it was hard to keep track of each meat. A note: this was a reduced version of the regular portion of charcuterie normally made. We were both in a “When in Rome…” mood as we were quite curious about NB’s board. The querto rosso prosciutto on the end had a silkiness to it and was gobbled quickly as was the in-house chorizo. If they put the actual sausage whole on the table, I probably would have been barbaric enough to eat it that way. It was that good. Kerri loved the duck prosciutto and both of us were “meh” on the thurringer (the sausage that is light pink). Overall, it’s a solid board and great if you’re sharing with a larger group.
I heard rave reviews about the sticky toffee pudding and if you have a super sweet tooth, you will do a prat fall and go to dessert heaven. It is quite exquisite. My heart belongs to the creme caramel (my favourite dessert is creme brulee and it was very close in flavouring to it). But this is just a matter of tastebuds.
The clementine sorbet was–like our Nota Bene cocktail–light and refreshing with a tangerine zip that hit the spot. Kerri, who works in the food industry, has had many a sorbet and said she’s never tasted home-made sorbet like this. Sorbet-making lessons anyone?
These salted caramels were a perfect end to our meal and reminded me of my trip to San Francisco. If you’re too full to have dessert but want something small, this is the ideal solution (and a genius business idea). The caramel literally deposits right into your esophogus. Eating at Nota Bene is the equivalent of a kid getting the golden ticket to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. It was truly a delight! Kerri and I both thought we were dreaming that we got a complimentary meal and on top of it got to document it. Thank you Nota Bene!
CONCLUSION AKA WHAT I WILL EAT OVER AND OVER AGAIN
Rabbit Soffrito Pappardelle
Crisp Duck Salad
Nova Scotia Lobster Salad (from my first visit)
Creme Caramel (I had this last time and it was my first love dessert.) Whoever is the pastry chef at Nota Bene: I want to give you a hug. You make truly amazing desserts. Our tastebuds and sweet tooths thank you.
**The Suckling Pig is amazing but it’s very heavy so it’s a once in a while treat.
Honorable Mention: Onion Rings, especially if I’m having a craving.