CLOSED: Nota Bene (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 180 Queen Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

Not having visited the restaurant for years, Summerlicious seemed like a great opportunity for a return visit. For one, it would be more affordable (normally mains can easily cost upwards of $35) and their Summerlicious offering sounded great. Plus, they even had great drink specials with $8 cocktails and $7 wine glasses.

At first, I was worried the restaurant’s quality had gone down as the starters differed from my fond memories of Nota Bene. Don't get me wrong, they were still decent; but, the ingredient combinations and tie into the restaurant itself seemed off. My albacore tuna sashimi was seared beautifully with a thin even ring around every piece. However, the accompanying ingredients (Caeser aoili, fried onion frizzles, bonito flakes and grilled peppers) were all so powerful that it drown out the fish. Personally, I thought the condiments described on the menu (citrus soy sauce, ginger and coriander) would have been more than enough. The additional elements were tasty but, in my opinion, would have worked better with beef carpaccio. 

Sanagan’s pulled braised goat was a dish recommended by Toronto Life’s picks. So, it was one I was interested to see and arrived more put together than expected. My friend described it perfectly – it tastes like chili except with shredded goat. In hindsight, after reading the menu’s description (black beans, pico de gallo and goat cheese espuma) it should have tipped us off to the potential Tex-Mex flavours. And it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – the chili was good - just not something you’d expect at Nota Bene (but could work well at The Carbon Bar). The creamy fried croquettes (perhaps polenta?) were delicious and went well with the tangy goat cheese.

As the mains arrived all fears were calmed - this was what I remembered and loved about the restaurant! Normally, I always go for the meat or fish option but something about the pea and ricotta ravioli was calling my stomach. It was every bit as delightful as it sounded. There were plenty of plump ravioli stuffed with a fresh sweet pea and ricotta. The creamy sauce helped to flavour the pasta but wasn’t too strong as to cover the subtle pea. A soft runny poached egg in the middle mixed into everything to add another element of creaminess. Plus, nothing goes better with shaved truffles than a well-cooked egg! Crisp kale chips were scattered on top adding texture and extra pops of flavour. This is a great dish that you should order off their regular menu.

Indeed, the peppercorn-crusted steak frites tempted me and those who ordered it were happy. Between our larger group, there were requests for rare, medium rare and medium well steaks. The accomplished chefs successfully served everyone simultaneously (despite the varying doneness) and each came out correctly.  And the parmigiano and rosemary topped fries were wonderful – I may have snuck my fare share off of the plates around me.

My husband, a burger fanatic, went with their dry-aged beef burger. He noted it was very juicy (likely on account of using beef brisket) and had good flavours. He only wished there was a bit more sauce to the burger but was nonetheless satisfied.

To end, my friend and I split a hot sugared doughnut and cheese plate. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the cheese plate; it had three great pieces of different and delightful offerings. With crostini and a piece of dried fruit this would have been a sufficient ending.

But, the doughnut was absolutely fantastic! We were astonished by the size (the equivalent of two Krispy Kremes), yet everyone polished off their plate. The doughnut was hot, soft, light and not too sugary. It went so well with the hefty scoop of vanilla ice cream and the light blueberry sauce.  My only regret of the evening was not having a full order of this.

Needless to say, we left the restaurant stuffed. Of course, our attentive waiter could have something to do with this. As we were waiting for a friend, he continuously brought out bread and our drinks were never empty.  All in all, the return visit was great (albeit much busier than the non-Summerlicious weeknights visits). So, although this post is coming out a little late in the Summerlicious cycle, go while you still can! And if you don’t get a reservation, go back and splurge on the ravioli and doughnut, you will not be disappointed. 

Is Summerlicious worth it?

As a special feature to the Summerlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).

Summerlicious - $45

Regular menu - $58 - tuna sashimi ($17), ravioli ($29) and doughnut ($12)

Savings - $13 or 22%

* All the items offered during Summerlicious were part of their regular menu, fantastic!

    Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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    Gastro World's Grading System
    • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
    • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
    • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
    • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
    • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
    • 10 - absolute perfection!