Sunday, September 18, 2011

nota bene

This past weekend, L surprised J with an incredible dinner at Note Bene. It was our second visit and we were just as impressed this time around. The first time we sat in the bar area, but last weekend we were in the art gallery style dining room and were seated next to our former mayor, Mel Lastman. Even though the tables are quite close together we were relieved to find old Mel was as quiet as a mouse, especially given the noise he makes on those insipid furniture commercials. However, on one of his frequent trips to the washroom he did almost put his hand in L's little dish of peppery olive oil.

J started with the crisp duck salad with the "sumac dusted-green papaya slaw and cashews". J is already a big fan of any asian style salad with mango or papaya so she was thrilled. She thought the flavour combinations and textures were superb. The duck was the best she'd had to date, a bit milder than what she has previously tried in asian restaurants. The slightly sour dressing, cilantro and chili combined with the sumac left her taste buds all a quiver.

L ummed & ahhed for a while before finally taking the safe bet & plumping for the cavatelli pasta. Without wanting to sound hyperbolic it was perhaps the wisest decision made by anyone since man emerged from the primordial ooze & thought he would try rubbing two sticks together. So flavorful & intense was the truffle scented bolognese that after a lifetime of wondering, L thinks he finally understands what it must feel like to smoke crack while drowning in a vat of condensed mushroom soup. An added bonus was that this plate was so wonderful, that it has almost totally obliterated the memory of an unfortunate incident with a similar dish at One Of A Kind Pasta (just a few hundred yards down the road from Nota Bene, but a lifetime away...)  


J somehow managed to consume the entire 12oz grass-fed new york strip loin and the majority of the "pommes frites with pecorino". At first J thought it was an oversight that they didn't bring her a steak knife, however she quickly realized that the run of the mill knife was more than sufficient for this perfectly seared delight. Having been raised on suburban chain restaurants, J  usually prefers her steak over seasoned. However, in this case J felt the meat was so scrumptious that she applauded it's starring role with the supporting cast of sea salt, balsamic vinegar and was it oregano?rosemary or both? 

L went for the the sea scallops as he often does when he finds himself somewhere fancy, his pretzel logic being:

i) I'm not really all that crazy about scallops
ii) This is such a nice place I bet everything tastes good
iii) ergo I should order something I don't like(?)

After the truffleganza of the previous course, the shaved black truffles were a bit of disappointment here, contributing little taste-wise. Cauliflower puree was divine & the scallops themselves were enormously satisfying without actually being so gauche as to be delicious or anything, almost as if they felt it would be somehow beneath them to be tasty. L felt suitably supercilious as he masticated thoughtfully, enviously eyeing J's steak.

Freed from the shackles of having to share a desert L fulfilled the purpose for which he was put on earth & ordered the Nota Bene cheese board. The Gogonzola was just the right side of tear gas, punishingly strong but strangely invigorating. The Rochetta was a cheesy miracle, surprising & delighting with every bite. One week later L is still drifting off to sleep muttering under his breath "Pierre Robert, Pierre Robert, Pierre Robert" a cheese that belies description. So soft that it had shed its form of a solid & transmogrified into some sort of cheese plasma.  ......

Still reeling from the vast quantities of red meat, J still managed to nibble on a bit of pistachio ice cream. Having consumed vast quantities of the stuff through her travels in Europe, she had much to compare it to. She has found that pistachio gelato falls into 3 categories:

1) The heavenly essence of nuttiness
2) Sickly sweet - too similar to toasted almonds (which J abhors)
3) Chemically artificial and not worth mention

Although obviously incredibly fresh and well made, nota bene's pistachio ice cream was a category 2. But any fans of sweet almond will surely rejoice in its glory.

Conclusion: Great looking restaurant with attentive service and stellar food. If you have a special occasion and can afford to go, it's well worth it.

Check out their website

Nota Bene on Urbanspoon

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