Walking past a gorgeous and sleek exterior on Queen street west of University with a little bit of mystere and modernism with it's neon lights inside has peaked my curiosity to try Nota Bene for some time now. This restaurant sticks out like a sore thumb as it's a bit out of place as it was next to the divey jazz bar - the Rex and across from the Condom Shack store so of course it caught my eye.
I took the opportunity to connect with some foodie friends I met while vacationing in Antigua and selected Nota Bene for dinner!
When we walked in the wood doors passed the long dark bar on the lower level and went into the seating area, the high ceilings of the restaurant and the canvasses of impressionist artwork reminded me of being in a gallery space which is further emphasized by the intimate lighting which muted the neon lights as you walked further into the restaurant.
We are greeted by a former colleague of mine, Erica, who has left working with me to pursue her dreams of being in the culinary industry, at least for now and I was thrilled to see her. She was very well informed about the different dishes and gave us her recommendations. The service is without a doubt spot on as it would be in a restaurant of this caliber and it's a double plus because it was someone I was fimiliar with.
The menu features lots of rich proteins and is a carnivores delight with executive chef David Lee's private stock of meat that is exclusive to Nota Bene such as a 33-ounce rib steak for $89 and wagyu beef which I have learned from Iron Chef on Food Network is the American version of Kobe beef!
As true foodies, we indulge in 3 different appetizers before having our mains. We tried the tuna tartar which is topped with avocado Aaron and Steve enjoyed the tartare very much but i found the tuna was a bit mushier than I would've liked. We also try the crispy duck salad which was on topped of a slaw - the crispiness of the duck played well to the shredded cabbage and the duck also had a small kick which i really enjoyed. We also had the soft shell crab which was delightful. Lightly battered and crunchy and was on top of a cucumber vinegar salad with a slight hint of chilis as well that gave you a tingle in the back of your throat.
Steven couldn't resist and ordered the wagyu burger for his main. He claimed that it was perfectly cooked, medium rare, so good that he had to check if there was cheese on the burger as it was sooo creamy and tender. I tried a bite and I actually wasn't as impressed - i thought the beef was a bit well done which in my eyes is a waste of wagyu! But to his defense, he did cut me an outer piece and there was no redness in it. Aaron ordered the ten ounces of braised beef short ribs with a pickled horseradish salad and he really thought they were delicious- light in flavour. I ordered the rare flank steak served with 3 sauces - the Guajillo Spice, Tomatillo, Lime, Avocado Chutney. The portion of the steak was huge and I had the opportunity to share many pieces with my fellow foodies. We all agreed that the steak was scrumptious. Erica also suggested that we order the onion rings that came to our table thinly sliced and battered lightly in panko. They were such a delight!
Nota Bene also has free corkage after 9pm so our friend Andrew, who came a little later, brought 2 bottles of Malbec Fuzion and we enjoyed the wine with our decadent desserts. Our group got bigger as our friend Brad joined us for dessert as well.
We tried the sticky toffee pudding which was collectively the one that got the most "ooos" and "ahhhs", we had the flourless chocolate cake which was the second favourite of the table. Then the berry crumble and lastly the pistachio gelato which was our least favourite. Steven compared it to eating Jergens hand creme and I couldn't agree more!
For a meal like this- i was expecting the bill to be horrendous but I have to say it wasn't and the value for what we paid was great! And to top that all off it was a fun night here with amazing company, great service and delicious food!
So I went back and I wanted to add to our blog- we ordered the following appetizers:
Lobster salad- chunks of fresh lobster mixed with greens and avocado and I really enjoyed the freshness of the salad.
The chuchuterie board- it had 2 smoked bacons -one that was Creemore (like the beer) smoked bacon and one was maple. There was also Niagara prosciutto and pork cheeks which were salty and delicious. There were only 2 pieces of the spanish churizo which was hard to share and most interestingly they had a ball of pork fat which i lapped up like butter on crostinis.
For our mains- one of our guest tried the parpadelle pasta with octopus and chickpeas. The octopus were cut in chunks and although it was tender, it tasted a little skunky. It was definitely not a favourite main dish. I had the roast suckling pig- which was served on a crusty and flaky phyllo pastery topped with more smoked bacon and blood saussages. If I hadn't inhaled all the different cured meat on the chuchuterie board as well as the ball of pork fat, I would have loved this dish but instead I felt like i was going into cardiac arrest because it was sooo greasy and salty and fattening! But let me tell you - these flavours are soo good together.
2 more notable mentions- the scallops were perfectly prepared and tender and a great light dish to have and the seared tuna - perfectly done and very flavourful.
The aftermath of eating such a rich dinner was that I didn't make it to work the next day b/c my stomach was in knots!! All this food bloggin is catching up to me!
Nota Bene- 180 Queen St. W. (Queen and University)