Friday night I thanked Nellie for putting up with four years of MBA nonsense by taking her to dinner at Nota Bene (not that a meal should cover it, but she’s easily bought off). It was our first time, and we were anxious to try it to feel the contrast with David Lee’s other restaurant Splendido. Which we loved. Duh.
We arrived early to have a drink at the bar. Best way to start the night off right for patrons: make their first drinks big ones. My Oban on the rocks was enough for two, and Nellie’s glass of Cabernet Franc was a solid one. Just as we were wondering if we should check in for our table, a server collected us and brought us into the main room. Both it and the bar are really quite nice, a good mix of polish and vibrancy.
Before I get to the food, I have to mention the service. At Splendido the service is as much part of the meal as the food, and they take care of you in every way possible. Nota Bene was slightly different: while the service was still excellent, it seemed like they were trying to remain as unobtrusive as possible, and let the food speak for itself. Servers, the sommelier, plate runners…we must have had a dozen different people come by the table, and never for more than a few seconds. If someone saw our wine glasses were half empty, they’d stop and pour, even if they’d never been to our table. The sommelier picked up my card and brought it to the station. It never felt rushed (the meal was 2.5 hours; how could it?), just efficient. It’s a tough balance to strike, but I appreciated it.
Now then, the food: I had the mozzarella di bufala w/ sundried tomato, grilled radicchio & olive oil to start; the grilled rock cornish hen w/ rosemary, lemon & bacon; and the flourless chocolate fudge cake w/ dulce de leche ice cream for dessert. Nellie had the mafalda pasta w/ truffle-scented mushroom bolognese to start; the mediterranean sea bass w/ forest mushrooms, potato gnocchi & basil pesto; and the small cheese plate (and Tawny port) for dessert. Well, she thought it would be small, but they brought three fairly large hunks of cheese for her enjoyment. One was roquefort, one beemster extra old and the other was…well, she can’t remember, but she seemed happy with it. This whole affair (after my initial glass of Okanagan Meritage and Nellie’s glass of Prosecco) was washed down with a bottle of 2007 Tenuta Maiolo Campania Lugana, a recommendation from the sommelier, and one that worked quite well.
The food was, as expected, exquisite. I can’t speak for Nellie, but my appetizer was delicious, my main was perfectly sized and seasoned (bacon + green beans…who knew that combination worked?!?) and my dessert was absurd. All things considered — food, service and the relatively low cost compared to similar dining experiences I’ve had elsewhere — it was a fantastic meal, one I’d like to repeat.