Friday, October 28, 2016Overcast 3°C

Nota Bene

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Profiled on February 29, 2016 / review policy

nota bene torontoNota Bene is a fixture on Queen St. just west of University. Even as it has become progressively more casual over the years, the food remains some of the city's most refined.

The interior from Toronto studio tongtong features tumble weeds mounted to the dining room ceiling, a dangling all-leather wine rack inspired by kelp, and a tree trunk of kiln-fried iron wood retrofitted with geometric 3D leaves printed out of nylon.

Nota Bene TorontoThe menu from Chef David Lee (ex-Spendido and The Carbon Bar) has evolved too. There's a greater emphasis on seafood and vegan dishes and an all around shift to become more approachable.

Dinner here (especially with a couple drinks) can easily soar into triple digits, but there's also a menu of bar snacks that can be ordered in its entirety for $40.

Nota Bene TorontoThe incredibly attractive cinq a sept-styled offerings showcase eight small plates for $4 each between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. ($7 afterwards).

Nota Bene TorontoAmong the highlights are a crispy pork jowl sprinkled in maldon, salt cod fritters with a milk-based pimeton mayo, avocado topped with sweet BC prawns and a plate of addictive chicken fried mushrooms.

Nota Bene TorontoThe bar menu boasts one of Toronto's largest selections of gin and the classic G&T ($17) is the house specialty served with a DIY selection of garnishes including grapefruit, cucumber and hibiscus.

Nota Bene TorontoThe drink list offers appropriately festive after work cocktails like the Oh My Darling ($15), a blend of vodka, aperol, St. Germaine and clementine juice.

Nota Bene TorontoMoving on there's more small plates to try. Tendrils of grilled octopus ($12) presented with peppery arugula, capers and dusting of powdered pimenton is well worthwhile.

Nota Bene TorontoThe Cookstown heirloom carrots ($16) is among the vegan options casually peppering the menu without distinction. Vegan or not, it's a delicious dish starring roasted, blistering carrots accompanied by a swoosh of dairy-free sunflower seed "sour cream" and a salad of kale and radish finished with crunchy fried channa dal and hemp seeds.

Nota Bene TorontoThe St. Canut suckling pig ($32) is among the meatier entrees and there's lots to wax on about. The crackling skin and boudin noir sauce are lucious while gently braised Savoy cabbage, apple sauce and Kozlik's mustard add familiar and comforting components.

Nota Bene TorontoI'm especially enamoured with B.C halibut cheeks ($36, top photo), a dish composed of supple fish on a bed of lima bean mash with smoked shiitake mushrooms, tangy capers, zippy gremolata and sweet black garlic purée.

Nota Bene TorontoFor dessert, there's a refined take on s'mores ($12) featuring a quenelle of chocolate ganache with fleur de sel as well as roasted marshmallow, milk ice cream, caramelized milk powder, Graham Cracker crumbs and tangy seabuckthorn.

Nota Bene TorontoPhotos by Hector Vasquez.


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