Our dinner at Nota Bene, 180 Queen Street West, was alright but alright at one of "Canada's Best New Restaurants" is ludicrous. Maybe Toronto Life Magazine had set my expectations too high but fishy fish and bloody birds can hardly been viewed as "Best". If that was their best, I'd hate to see their worst.
The good was a Boston bibb salad with shavings of Parmigiano dressed in a Champagne vinaigrette ($12) that was on key. The dressing caressed the picture perfect greens making it exactly how a salad should be - light and fresh.
The bad was the rest.
Florida soft shell crab ($16) was fishy and we all know that fish and seafood should never taste or smell fishy. It's legs were crispy but it's body was water logged. Tartar sauce? Get out your magnifying glass because all you're going to see is a smear of it hiding under a couple of lettuce leaves.
Braised beef short ribs ($24) were stringy but tender. They were dropped on another smear - this time is was a parsnip puree. The ribs got a sprinkling of jus. I say sprinkling because there was so little sauce that it was gone half way through and all I was left with was a dry rib. It was either ask for more sauce or stop eating. I stopped. The accompanying salad - greens, cucumber, cornichon and pickled horseradish was so full of vinegar that it made my tongue scream.
Roasted rock cornish hen ($24) was dumped onto smashed potatoes making it a visually unappealing dish. The poor hen was spread eagle. Let me take this opportunity to add that this was not the only dish that was poorly presented. The crab was served in an awkward bowl with too high edges. The French style onion rings ($8) were piled so high that the top of the tower crumbled when the waiter placed them down resulting in an oniony mess that he proceeded to clean up with his hands. He was rightfully embarrassed. And why did the short rib have two carrots across the top of it? It was stupid.
Back to the hen. The meat was nicely infused with thyme but way over salted and some parts were underdone. Birds do not look good in pink.
In other news, the dining room is sort of plain and too bright to be romantic. It feels like a big square. The service is efficient but like the decor, it is plain. Servers are like robots in bad uniforms. Who designed those?
Besides the unchangeables, perhaps it was an off night but nonetheless I left questioning the praise and sighed as I walked out the door - just another misguided meal.