Nota Bene Restaurant has been a long time favourite of mine. It is one of Toronto’s best restaurants and a fixture since its inception in 2008. It has achieved many accolades including EnRoutes Top Canadian 100 Restaurants, Canada’s best new restaurant by Toronto Life and numerous other awards. One of the reasons it has been on the top for so long and been a perennial favourite and earned its well-earned reputation is due to its Chef and Owner, David Lee.
The restaurant was recently revamped and the menu was updated. I wanted to revisit to see if it would still live up to my expectations.
The renovations were done by design team +tongtong. The restaurant is darker, and quite chic. Personally I am not a fan of the overhead tumble weeds. It makes the restaurant more casual looking and I have no idea how they will ever clean the dust and cobwebs that will form there. The back of the room has a lit mural of a picture, which is hard to describe. Our waitress said possibly water or ice?? She also mentioned they may take it down so we can see an open kitchen. I think that may be a better aesthetic.
The menu has increased and there are all mostly new dishes since my last visit. Chef David is still offering inventive plates focusing on seasonality and using the best ingredients. The menu includes the sources of the ingredients, most coming from local suppliers.
What I have always liked about Nota Bene, besides their consistently great contemporary food, is the menu offers something for everyone. David’s cooking is meticulous and the staff are well-trained, knowledgeable and accommodating.
Our dinner was no exception. One of my favourite dishes is the “New Style” Duck Salad, with green papaya, cucumber, and fish sauce made with chilies and Asian herbs. Everyone at our table thoroughly enjoyed it and it has become a new signature dish for me. The Big Eye Tuna Tartare was also a hit, reminiscent of a dish I like at Bourbon Steak, in Miami. The dish comes unassembled and you mix the avocado, celery, cream, pine nuts, sesame oil and chili together yourself (at bourbon steak the waiter tosses the ingredients table side). The Poached Dutch White Asparagus with ramps and verjus vinaigrette were sweet and tender. For mains, the hamburger was a standout dish. One of Toronto’s finest I might add (sorry Daniel). The Cumbrae Farms Prime Beef Brisket was big, juicy and full of flavour. It was topped with Roquefort cheese and served with tasty fries and pickle. It was sensational. The Nova Scotia Lobster Tagliolini with sweet English peas, rosemary, chilies, and capers was surprisingly light tasting with huge chunks of lobster. Our guest said his sea scallops a la plancha with pickled B.C. prawns on a bed of parsnip purée and porcini porridge was also excellent.
They have an extensive wine list or you can bring your own wine for a corkage fee of $35.
Another good option is sitting in the bar/lounge and having a cocktail or a glass of wine with some fabulous bar snacks, like grilled cheese, pork cheek, Cumbrae sliders, or avocado and prawns. Or there are small plates for $12, such as octopus, fish tacos, hamachi nori rolls or suckling pig. Happy hour is from 4-7pm and the snacks are only $4. From 7pm to closing they are $7.
For dessert, we were so glad to see the Sticky Date Pudding remains on the menu. It is beloved by many a Torontonian and visitor alike. It is done with a pecan praline, Hewitt’s semi-whipped cream, rum raisins, and brown butter ice cream. A new dessert for me was the Chocolate & Amarena Cherry Cake, served with banana ice cream and salted caramel. It was a modern twist on a Black Forest cake, only way better.
Nota Bene is not only the best restaurant in the Entertainment district, it is one of Toronto’s best restaurants. It always exceeds my expectations and has stood the test of time.
The restaurant is open Monday to Friday 11:30am-2:30pm, and evenings from 5-11pm. On Saturdays they open from 5-11pm. The location is 180 Queen Street West. There is valet parking.
Telephone number is 416-977-6400.