[Winterlicious/Canadian] Nota Bene

Restaurant: Nota Bene
Location: 180 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 3X3
Price Range: $$$
Note: This review is only for Winterlicious 2015 Dinner, it does not reflect the normal service. In addition, part of this review is written by my friend who accompanied me to the dinner.

Winterlicious have been running for a few years now, and apparently every year it gets worse because the food is mass-produced, meaning less effort is put into the quality.  With that said, I don’t mind trying out Winterlicious restaurants, and decide whether to return later for normal service (for special occasions of course) :). This year I tried three Winterlicious restaurants, with Nota Bene being the first one. For dinner, Nota Bene offered a 3 course prix fixe menu at $45, while the lunch costed $28.

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Inside Nota Bene


Sorry if I couldn’t take a better picture of the interior, I get quite nervous when I take pictures inside a fine dining restaurant lol. The restaurant is spacious and very modern looking.

Below are pictures of my friend’s courses:

Quebec Duck & Foie Gras Terrine with cherry compote, pistachio granola
Quebec Duck & Foie Gras Terrine – cherry compote, pistachio granola

The entrée came in a delightfully arranged plate of foie gras. There was a piece of pistachio granola that came with the dish. It definitely complemented the taste of the goose very well. Personally, I felt that it was a little too rich for my taste. However, given that it is goose liver and the fact that it did taste amazing I can’t complain much.

Tongue & Cheek – braised Haldimand county beef cheek, veal tongue confit, smoked chili sauce, local dairy queso & potato pancake

The ‘tongue in cheek’ had two types of meat arranged very nicely: the beef cheek and the veal tongue confit. It came with a potato pancake placed underneath the veal and sprinkled feta cheese. To be quite honest, while the delicate tastes were expertly created, it was not to my taste. I felt that both the veal and the beef cheek tasted a little bland. The feta cheese was really the only source of strong flavor, otherwise it was not very memorable.

Baked Bruce Peninsula Spy Apple - Calvados, Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream
Baked Bruce Peninsula Spy Apple – Calvados, Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream

The Baked Bruce Peninsula Spy Apple was essentially apple crumble with vanilla ice cream. The presentation was very well done. The crumble was warm and tasted delicious. Overall I was very pleased with the dessert. It wasn’t too sweet and the texture was fantastic. In conclusion, I didn’t feel as though the dinner was worth the top $45 bill. It was all presented expertly but the food wasn’t mind blowing. The dessert tasted great but again, an apple crumble is just that.

And here are my courses:

Crispy Duck Salad - Green Papaya
Crispy Duck Salad – Green papaya slaw, coriander, taro root

First of all, I have to say I love the presentation of all the dishes, but the taste say otherwise. The salad had a spicy touch, yet refreshing with the green papaya and coriander, but nothing outstanding. The duck was cooked well, moist, and how can a fatty crispy duck skin not be good? 😀 I don’t remember the exact description on the menu, but I’m not sure if the salad was supposed to come with dressing or not, as mine has none. I wished the dish came with some dressing, even just some lime to tie the whole dish together as the salad was lacking in flavor. In addition, I prefer my salad to have different textures. With this, you are only getting the crunchy texture from all the ingredients, it got boring after a few bites.

Grilled Mediterranean Seabass - romano beans, escarole, lemon, bacon
Grilled Mediterranean Seabass – romano beans, escarole, lemon, bacon

Unfortunately the whole dish was under-seasoned. The fish was cooked to perfection, soft and buttery and the portion was quite generous. The escarole was too bitter for my taste, I believe they over-cooked it, and the lime didn’t help to reduce the bitterness. (I understand escarole is bitter, but I have had it before when you cook it just right, the bitterness is not as prevalent).  The bitterness from the escarole over-powered the fish. The broth was bland and beans were tough (under-cooked), just not good at all…

Clementine Sorbet - citrus compote, Hewitt's yogurt crisps
Clementine Sorbet – citrus compote, Hewitt’s yogurt crisps

The portion was tiny! It’s like the size of a golf ball. The sorbet was very light and refreshing, it tasted like those frizzy vitamin c drink that I used to drink when I was a child :). The yogurt crisp was okay, I wish there was something sweet to compliment the sour sorbet though.

My complaint about my server: she failed to notify me that sparkling water was extra charge. When I arrived, she placed a bottle of sparkling water on my table and promptly filled my glass without asking. Fine, it was partially my fault and I should have questioned why she didn’t ask before serving me the sparkling water? But when my friend arrived, she asked my friend to choose between sparkling and tap water, what!? Other than that incident, the service was good. Dishes were cleared away promptly, and water was filled in a timely manner. Overall my experience at Nota Bene wasn’t good and I wouldn’t return in the future. It was not worth the $45 price tag for the dinner. The portion size was a hit and miss, service was good, but the food was bland for me.

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