Nota Bene

Saturday, February 8, 2014
Winterlicious dinner last night with the gang at Nota Bene, $45 for three courses:

Hamachi Ceviche

For the first course, I decided on the hamachi ceviche. The yellowtail was fresh, smooth, and fleshy. Chunks of buttery avocado added a nice nutty flavour and textural contrast, chiles offered a nice kick of heat, and a squeeze of lime added a lovely fresh tartness that rounded out all the flavours. What was most surprising, though, was the inclusion of crushed corn nuts! A fun element that added a fantastic crunch and a nice smoky flavour. I thought this was a great choice for the first course — light, fresh, and great for opening up my appetite for the next two courses. 

Cumbrae Farms Boeuf Bourguignon

For my main course, I decided on the boeuf bourguignon. The stew was perfectly flavoured with garlic, onions, and a hint of red wine that wasn't too overpowering. Huge chunks of braised beef were tender and moist, and mushrooms and carrots keep it classic. Nota Bene's version is served on a cloud of creamy rosemary polenta with a hint of horseradish and pieces of smoky bacon. A piece of bread is needed to soak up any remaining broth; too tasty to waste. Comforting, hearty, and filling — so perfect on a cold winter night.

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart

Finally, dessert! I chose the bittersweet chocolate tart, which is a bit of an odd choice for me because I typically don't love chocolate desserts, but this one was perfectly executed. The chocolate tart, as stated, is bittersweet; if you don't like dark chocolate, you won't like this. I actually prefer dark chocolate, and like that it isn't too sweet, which is why I decided to give this a go. The custard was smooth and rich, and the crust was firm and buttery. To accompany it, a scoop of s'more ice cream, extremely addictive on its own and perfect for balancing out the bittersweet chocolate with its sweet milky flavour. Espresso caramel added depth and a lovely smoky-sweetness. No regrets on my course choices at all.

The restaurant itself is sleek, modern, and trendy, but ultimately kind of pretentious. Our server was informative and polite enough, but totally condescending. The others wanted wine, and our server asked them, "Do you know how to choose wine? Do you know what wine pairing is?" Um, are you asking everyone else this? We want informed advice, not judgement. Snobbery is not unexpected, as Winterlicious gives the masses a chance to try out top restaurants at a much lower set price, and restaurants like Nota Bene are used to people dropping $100 on a meal. But that doesn't mean you have the right to talk down to us, right? That having been said, the service was otherwise attentive and meticulous: courses set at the table all at the same time by different servers, water and wine poured when glasses were running low. They made sure we had everything we needed and asked how we were doing at regular intervals. I think on a non-Winterlicious day, the service would be perfect and our server wouldn't be talking to us like we were stupid children.

I think the thing that irked me the most, though, was the water fee. Right after we sat down at our table, our server went around with a carafe of water and asked if still water was fine. Of course, we said it was. It wasn't until he poured our water that he set down the menus which stated that still and sparkling water cost $3.50 a person. I think this is complete highway robbery. It's one thing to not actually tell us that the water you're pouring into our glasses has a fee, but it's another to pour it before even giving us the menu that states the fee. Another thing I didn't like was how our server made it seem like splitting the bill was such a faux pas. He actually said, "If I split the bill, it can't be put back onto one, so you need to make sure you want me to separate these." And then he said, "You want one bill per person? There's not even a couple here?" Like, stop asking questions. You're getting an automatic 18% gratuity for a party of eight people, so just do your damn job. Ultimately, the food is fantastic, but there are plenty of other, much classier restaurants that have way better (e.g. less douche-y) service, Winterlicious or not.

Nota Bene
180 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 3X3
(416) 977-6400
6 comments on "Nota Bene"
  1. The server sounds like an asshole. Yelp that shit! I don't understand why they are such jerks when these promotion type events happen. If we like the restaurant, we'll come back. It's just a chance to try restaurants you might not normally give a shot because of the high price point. That irritates me so much.

    1. Yeah, he was a total douche bag. I actually really liked the restaurant, too, and thought the food was really well executed. I've had that experience with every Winterlicious/Summerlicious event that's gone on in the city. The service is either really nice but really inefficient or really efficient and totally douchey. I mean, the restaurant still made $700 from our table, with at least $100 of that in tips. Don't know why he was being so difficult.

  2. Ugh, sorry to hear about the service you received. So awful! I recall Nota Bene being quite pretentious when I went on a non-Winterlicious night many years ago.

    Anyway, wanted to let you know in case you didn't already hear that the latest Tahereh Mafi book, Ignite Me, is out! I didn't even realize Fracture Me came out or was part of the series so I'll read that to refresh my memory. So excited!

    1. I've read reviews on Nota Bene, and a lot of people say that the service was AMAZING. I can see that they're really efficient and meticulous, but I just think they're plain snobby, and it's interesting to hear that you found them pretentious on a non-Winterlicious day. Don't think I'll be going back. I'll let someone else get an 18% tip. :P

      Oh, yes, I actually put in a book order through Indigo and picked up Ignite Me! :D I CAN'T WAIT. I'm just finishing up the third book in the Under the Never Sky trilogy (which I have been thoroughly enjoying!), and will start Ignite Me right after. :) I also didn't know about Fracture Me, so I might pick that up after -- I like that it's told from Adam's point of view, too. Thanks for letting me know!

  3. I feel like I should have gone here before, but nope, never. You should email the restaurant and complain. Seriously, that's the kind of shit that irks most -- when your fucking water pourer acts like he's better than you somehow. It's too bad the tip was automatic.

    1. I thought about complaining, but then I think to myself that it's not worth it because what are they gonna do about it? I mean, even if they offer me a complimentary meal or whatever, I'm so turned off by the service from the first time around that I don't really wanna return. And they'd probably like, spit in my food or something. :P

      The tip was automatic because our party was for eight people. I think it's 18% gratuity for groups of six or more. Maybe that's why our server felt like he could be a douche, 'cause he knew he'd get 18% regardless of how COMPLETELY SHITTY he is.


Klik the button below to show emoticons and the its code
Hide Emoticon
Show Emoticon