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- Beautifully modern and discerning, Nota Bene provides the perfect setting for special occasions and casual dining alike. What makes the experience at Nota Bene so incredible is the total lack of pretense in a restaurant that could easily come across as pompous, and still attract a devoted clientele.
You might find yourself dining with a local politician or celebrity, and a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, all in the same place. The price is accessible, the quality of the food impeccable, and the service instant without being overwhelming.
We started the evening with Chef David’s lobster tacos and the margarita fiesta specials. The lobster tacos were served in a lettuce shell, with a chipotle cream, veggies and cilantro ($8). They tasted like something you would find in a great coastal city, and not at all heavy. The lobster special is a great way to settle in to a long evening of wonderful food. The margaritas were phenomenal, served on the rocks with Avion tequila. We tried a couple of the cocktails and loved “Chef David’s” traditional margarita with smoked sea salt. The blueberry and pine tips margarita sounds like a bit of an odd marriage, but worked so wonderfully together that we ordered another.
For appetizers we started with the Hamachi ceviche, which is a yellowtail Pacific fish, infused with coriander, lime, avocado, and jalapeño ($16). This dish came highly recommended by our server, and was absolutely worth the hype. The jalapeños offered a very spicy take on the dish, tempered by the avocado and lime.
Next we tried the cavatelli pasta, with a truffle-scented mushroom Bolognese ($16). This dish was surprisingly soft and creamy without any cheese in it, and the truffle mushrooms were divine. We also had the crisp duck salad with sumac green papaya slaw and cashews ($15), and although I am self-admittedly duck averse, I am told it was perfectly crispy and flavourful, and ending up being the favourite appetizer of the evening for my companion.
For our mains we ordered two Nota Bene favourites. I went with the wild Digby sea scallops with avocado purée, Thai curry paste, mango, papaya and peanut salad ($28). For such a tropical sounding dish, the scallops actually had a very Canadian East coast feel to them, the avocado puree adding a creamy compliment to the scallops. Nota Bene specializes in preparing excellent seafood, and I would absolutely come back for this dish again.
We also tried the braised beef short rib with corn truffle, pickled red onions, queso añejo and coriander ($29). The short ribs were tender, succulent and combined with the sharp taste of the queso añejo and the acidity of the pickled red onion, they were layered with flavour and flat out delicious.
With dinner, we ordered a glass of Ontario Pinot Noir and an Argentinean Malbec. The wine list at Nota Bene is extensive, with the full spectrum of bottles, ranging from the $70 to several hundred.
For dessert we sampled sticky toffee pudding ($12) and S’More ice cream ($10). Needless to say, the sampling turned into finishing. Both desserts were exploding with flavour, the pudding a great combination of traditional pecan praline and spotted dick ice cream, taken with a strong espresso; this is dessert to die for. The S’More ice cream was a fun take on the campfire favourite, with a chocolate and graham cracker crumble.
Go try Nota Bene, twice. Once to become familiar with all that this brilliantly conceived restaurant has to offer and then a second time to cement the relationship in your black book of regular haunts. Service, quality and ambience are all top rate, yet you still feel the passion Nota Bene has for creating a wonderful experience and forming personal relationships with its guests.
See you there…
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- You’re downtown, you’re headed to a game and you need to grab a bite to eat before you head there. You take stock of your options and think, “These places all look kind of similar – where should I head?” Might I suggest you check out Joe Badali’s, an Italian-themed restaurant on Front St. West, steps from both the Rogers Centre and the ACC. The spacious bar/restaurant has something for everyone, a key to success for large groups that often book parties there.
A friend and I popped in the other day to check out their fall/winter brunch menu. Given our choice of bar, table or booth, we opted for a cozy booth in the middle of the restaurant and were given three menus from which to choose our meal. A bit overwhelming, perhaps, but our waiter explained that one menu was strictly for their new pescetarian promotion where you can choose the fish you’d like and how you’d like it cooked. Feeling like it was a little early for ahi tuna, my companion and I went for the brunch options: I had the eggs benedictano and he had the steak frites, ordered medium rare. To accompany our selections, we ordered the pear and cranberry cider and the maple bourbon lemonade. (Both drinks made by the fabulous bartender, Katie, who also makes mean After Eights and Monte Cristos.)
A plate of house- made bread was brought to the table, accompanied by olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Warm, crusty and soft on the inside, we polished off that complimentary snack pretty quickly while we sipped our delicious drinks. The wait staff is clearly comfortable with time crunches of customers and took into consideration that the tables around us had a short amount of time to eat before they needed to head elsewhere. The service was swift and friendly for them, while it was a little more relaxed for us – though by no means slow or lackadaisical.
When our brunch plates arrived, we were eager to dive in. Neither my companion nor I had been to Joe Badali’s in quite some time and wondered how brunch would stack up. The portions were a good size and, importantly, cooked as they should be. My egg yolks were runny and the Canadian back bacon was a great salty accompaniment. The ciabatta base was a nice touch, as it worked well to absorb the leftover yolk on my plate. The home fries might have been a bit crispier, but the peppers and onions were crunchy contrast to the creaminess of the eggs. As for the steak frites, the steak was indeed medium rare and had been rested properly before being brought to the table. By the end of the meal, only a few pieces of diced fruit were left in our respective cups.
Since we felt like indulging at this particular brunch, we allowed ourselves to split a very generous portion of white chocolate mousse cake with strawberry topping. Not overly heavy, it was actually quite a nice way to wrap up a meal. As mentioned earlier, we also tried the After Eight and Monte Cristo specialty coffees. Topped with whipped cream and a cherry, these were decadent and deliciously boozy. We allowed ourselves a few minutes – and a couple of glasses of water – before attempting to get up.
When asked about the capacity of the place, we learned that Badali’s can hold up to 750 people, making it a great place for large parties. We also discovered that they set up a secluded patio in the summers, blocking off the adjacent parking lot in order to make it a pleasant place to escape the downtown crush. If you happen to be in the area – say, before a concert, a Leafs, Raptors or Jays game – check out Joe Badali’s. You’re bound to find something for everyone at reasonable prices. And if you’re in the mood for a drink, I highly recommend checking out either the maple bourbon lemonade or pear and cranberry cider. Had it been later in the day when we went, I suspect there may have been a few more rounds of these!
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