Based on Matt416's and others' suggestions (and the fact that I very much enjoyed my last outing to Nota Bene and eventually realized that it is now my go-to place for a satisfying meal at that price range) I decided to return to Nota Bene and try their other dishes. I did not want to wait for the chef to lose interest before returning as people were right - there is so much more on the menu to sample!
Once again, I was blown away. This time, David Lee was not at the helm, but it was still an amazing experience. The bread pudding was done a bit differently this time, and I preferred the last preparation of it a bit better (more bread, less custard in their bead:custard ratio, thus having a bit more 'crustiness' to it), as well, the charcuterie seemed a touch smaller (but that could just be because I was shocked by the variety the first time, and it lost that 'surprise' appeal for me this time), but still excellent. But those were minor complaints in the grand scheme of things.
For those that have not yet tried Nota Bene, you do not know what you are missing. Truly a great find in this city - even removing the standout prices of this place, it has some of the tastiest food you can find in Toronto. I truly hope that I can still call this my favourite restaurant in the many years to come.
This time, I tried the amazing Boudin Noir tart, as everyone has suggested. Forget the seasons - this dish is for all seasons and is AMAZING. I could eat this everyday (and probably die of a coronary), but it is just THAT good. Granted, you have to enjoy the earthy flavour of the dish, which reminded me a good deal of truffle aroma. Amazing. Paired with the mushrooms, it was a hearty dish that was full of punch. The 'tart' was a thin phyllo crisp beneath the mushroom, suckling pig, and boudin noir topping. The suckling pig was sweet and succulent. It was perfectly executed, and was so sickeningly tender. It was topped with crisp bacon that added an excellent texture contrast. And for such a punchy dish, it sure did have a delicate presentation. Truly one of my favourite dishes at the moment.
Boudin Noir: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Before I go on to my other favourite dishes of the evening, I just wanted to mention the scallops. They were excellently done, but IMO, they were just scallops for me. Nothing too special. But they were very sweet, and juicy. Fresh produce, and excellent bed of lentils underneath them with a flavourful broth.
Scallops: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-... (poor photo though, apologies
My next favourite dishes were the crab cakes (the special of the day) and the ocean trout. Let's start with the trout. Wafer-thin slices of trout sashimi with presented on a sprinkling of olive oil and soya sauce, topped with shiso leaves, coriander and thai basil. The shiso leaves really stole the show here and were an excellent addition to the dish - it provided the contrasting punch the dish required of such a fish. Well executed. Only complaint was that there was not enough to go around!
Ocean Trout: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Now onto the greatest crab cake I have ever known. If there was any binder used in this crab cake, I could not tell because it was just that minimal. At the forefront of this dish was none other than the Maryland crab. Truly a feat of wonderment. I really hope they recycle this dish and have it in the future as well, because it was only on the specials menu. The meat was so succulent and sweet. It was as if you were eating by the ocean and were eating straight from the crab shell. Only someone was so kind to collect all the lump crab meat with put them on the plate for you, and lightly sear its exterior (fine bread crumb mixture breaded the cake, which was ever so lightly pan-seared - no oily residue). At first when it arrived, I thought that it was the smallest main dish I had ever seen (minus the experience I had at Thuet that is), but upon tasting the dish, I would never desire the chef to 'stretch' the ingredients by adding filler and binder to it to create an average calibre crab cake that was twice as large. I could go on and on about this crab cake, but all this talk of food is making me hungry and it's almost lunch time.
Crab Cake: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Next up were the desserts. As previously mentioned, I went back to my favourite dessert of my last meal and had the bread pudding. It changed a bit (more custard, less bread - which was more like a thin 'toast' crust on top of custard) and I preferred the last variation a bit better. But to each their own. Then we also tried the chcolate tort (dark, rich and creamy chocolate) with a so-so raspberry sorbet accompaniment, and the cherry crumble. The raspberry sorbet lacked the texture I usually associate with raspberries, and the taste was not strong enough of the berry. A bit of a disappointment next to the strongly flavoured tart. The Bing Cherry crumble was another strong dish - excellent crusty topping. Cherries were a bit tart as expected and thus the dish was not overly sweet. Would be my second favourite dessert after the Bread Pudding, but just ahead of the subtler panna cotta.
I can only hope that David Lee and his team continue to produce such excellent fare at such an affordable price. They are truly a force to be reckoned with in the Toronto food scene right now. I can finally feel confident in recommending a restaurant to my friends and coworkers and not worry that they will have a disappointing experience.
Cheers and Happy Eating!
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