nota bene

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Nota Bene chef David Lee cuts ties with The Carbon Bar

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

For the past year, executive chef David Lee has been dividing his time between Nota Bene, the six-year-old power-lunch spot on Queen West, and The Carbon Bar, his younger, clubbier, barbecue-focused restaurant a few blocks east at Queen and Church. At present, Lee co-owns both places with partners Yannick Bigourdan and Franco Prevedello, but that arrangement apparently won’t hold up for much longer. According to a recent press release, Lee will soon be parting ways with his longtime partners, cutting all ties with Carbon Bar and turning Nota Bene into a one man show. The move marks the dissolution of a 15-year partnership between Lee and Bigourdan. The pair co-owned Splendido for seven years before opening Nota Bene to great acclaim in 2008. The restaurant’s been looking a little tired lately, so Lee’s plans for the business, which include a mid-year renovation and menu overhaul, couldn’t have come at a better time.

TIFF 2014

TIFF Spotted

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Spotted: Reese Witherspoon at Nota Bene

(Image: Kayla Rocca)

(Image: Kayla Rocca)

Shinan Govani tweeted Sunday night that Reese Witherspoon had been spotted enjoying an informal dinner at Nota Bene. There’s been no word on whether or not the Queen West restaurant was hosting a cast party for the movie Witherspoon had debuted earlier that day, The Good Lie, and Nota Bene won’t confirm the star’s attendance. Co-owner Yannick Bigourdan said in an email that he is contractually bound “not to talk about the event that took place last night at Nota Bene.”

You can find where your favourite A-lister was spotted on our TIFF celebrity map. See someone famous around town yourself? Let us know at tips@torontolife.com, or tweet with the hashtag #TIFF14spotted.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Summerlicious: dignified dining program or “cash-grabby food factory”?

(Image: Winter/Summerlicious/Facebook)

(Image: Winter/Summerlicious/Facebook)

The idea of dining out on the cheap is nice, but what is Summerlicious like from the restaurant’s perspective? Sure, bargain meals help bring in business, but there are not-so-great tradeoffs, like stress, boredom and uncertain financial rewards (it costs over $1,150 just to participate). So, is it worth it? We got in touch with some chefs and restaurateurs to find out.

The Loyalist

image“The Fifth has enjoyed a long relationship with Summerlicious. It has been very beneficial to us, because it exposes the restaurant to a new group of dinner guests. With the backing of the city and the media exposure, we get a chance to reach out to guests who may under normal circumstances not join us.”

—Brad Livergant, chef at The Fifth


The Pragmatists

(Image: Nota Bene)“At Nota Bene, we never felt that we had to create such a program. But then we had a conversation about Summerlicious and thought that maybe we were missing out on opportunities. It’s more about promotion for us, and in that regard I think it has worked very well. We’ve introduced a lot of people to the restaurant. The profit margins aren’t as great as they could be, but we consider it an opportunity for people to discover Nota Bene.”

—Yannick Bigourgan, co-owner at Nota Bene

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Restaurants

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Summerlicious 2014: our restaurant critic Mark Pupo picks his top 10 meals

(Auberge du Pommier/Facebook)

(Auberge du Pommier/Facebook)

Summerlicious meals can be hit-and-miss. That’s why we narrowed things down—first to the 67 spots recommended by our reviewers, and now to just 10 of the very best, selected with care by Toronto Life restaurant critic Mark Pupo. Restaurants start taking prix-fixe reservations tomorrow, June 19. With that in mind, read on for Pupo’s top Summerlicious picks.

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The Dish

Food Events

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Slurp Noodlefest moves to 99 Sudbury for its second—and final—edition

(Image: Igor Yu)

After a sold-out run at The Great Hall in March, Slurp Noodlefest is returning for a sequel on April 2o at 99 Sudbury. This time, ramen powerhouses Momofuku and Kinton will be serving their novel noodle dishes alongside the likes of Nota Bene, Yours Truly and, oddly, Pizzeria Libretto. Double Trouble Brewery and Chateau Des Charmes are joining Slurp vets Tromba Tequila and Dillon’s Distillery to provide libations. Once again, dishes will run $5–$10, and there’s a $10 entry fee. Ramen fanatics should move fast—the first Slurp sold out, and organizer Suresh Doss has pledged that after this, he’ll be “putting this ramen thing to rest.” Find out more »

The Dish

People

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The 15 Toronto restaurants recommended in Where Chefs Eat, a new culinary guidebook

Where Chefs Eat is a new 633-page collection of answers to a very simple question: where to go for a good meal? Those answers are from some 400 of the world’s top chefs, including Ferran Adria, Daniel Boulud, David Chang, Fergus Henderson and Rene Redzepi, as well as Toronto chefs Michael Steh, formerly of Reds, and Claudio Aprile, chef and owner of Colborne Lane and Origin. The guidebook is edited by Guardian critic Joe Warwick, who also co-founded the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s not only an inventory of the flashy big-name places in a city, but also of regular neighbourhood and cheap eats spots. There’s even a category for places the chefs wish they opened. We flipped through the tome to pull out the 15 restaurants in and around Toronto recommended by the world’s top chefs.

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Licious

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Alternalicious: a roundup of Winterlicious 2013’s prix fix rebels

Bent’s braised spiced short ribs, one of the critic-endorsed picks on their Susurlicious menu (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Winterlicious can be a double-edged sword for diners. Yes, there’s the prospect of great deals that you’d never get otherwise—except during Summerlicious—but the crowds are thick, the servers are frazzled and the ’licious menu doesn’t always measure up to the usual fare. For years, some restaurants have opted to keep the deals but skip the chaos, responding to Winterlicious with prix fixes of their own. We’ve rounded up the best of them below.

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Restaurants

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The Momofuku Effect: How David Chang took over the city’s menus long before Momofuku even opened its Toronto doors

The Momofuku Effect

(Photographs courtesy Momofuku)

The New York mastermind behind Momofuku is one of the most copied chefs of the last decade. His brand of fusion—Asian street food elevated to fine dining—has been inspiring Toronto chefs for years. In fact, if you’ve eaten at the restaurants below, chances are you’ve already tasted Chang’s influence. Here, eight Momofuku signatures and their Toronto counterparts.

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TIFF TIFF Star Spotting

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SPOTTED: Rob Zombie has dinner on Queen West, terrifies hundreds

(Image: Matt Carr/Getty Images Entertainment)

Horror aficionado (and “Dragula” singer) Rob Zombie was spotted holding court at Nota Bene last night prior to the midnight premiere of his film, The Lords of Salem. The former rock star mustve been in a hurry to waltz—er, mosh?—along the red carpet, because he was barely there for an hour.

Find this story on our Star Spotting Map, where we plot the locations of celebrities spotted around Toronto. Seen a celebrity? Let us know at tips@torontolife.com

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Restaurants

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Friday Night Bites: Nota Bene, Marben and Scaramouche

FRIDAY NIGHT BITESIt’s 4 p.m. on Friday, and you don’t have a dinner reservation. Still, there’s no need to fret (or waste your night waiting for a table). We just called some of the city’s hottest restaurants and found three that can squeeze in two for dinner tonight. Now it’s up to you to get dialing and snag a table before they’re all gone. Today: Nota Bene, Marben and Scaramouche.

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Restaurants

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Splendido announces its new chef de cuisine: Tom McHugh

Back in May, we told you about Patrick Kriss’s decision to leave his chef de cuisine gig at Splendido (where, in addition to running the busy kitchen, he oversaw our writer’s 12-hour stage) to take over the kitchen at Acadia following Matt Blondin’s departure to work at David Chang’s upcoming Momofuku restaurants. Now, over at Toronto.com, Corey Mintz is reporting that Splendido has officially named Kriss’s replacement: Tom McHugh, most recently the sous-chef at the Trump Tower’s Stock, and previously sous-chef at Nota Bene, which, of course, was launched in 2009 by three former co-owners of Splendido. Round, round, round they go. [Eat]

The Dish

Restaurants

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Toronto Taste 2012: We catch up with the chefs and owners of Buca, Nota Bene, Splendido, Salt and many more

Buca’s Rob Gentile, C5’s Corbin Tomaszeski and Union’s Teo Paul (Images: Renée Suen)

This past Sunday marked the 22nd edition of Toronto Taste, which saw 2,000 food enthusiasts gathering at the ROM to meet some of Toronto’s top chefs while munching on their creations. Over 60 restaurants and 30 beverage purveyors were present at the annual fundraiser, which raises money for Second Harvest, a food rescue program that delivers to various social service agencies. This year, guests were greeted with everything from house-cured meats and fish to lobster and steak (not necessarily together). We caught up with Buca’s Rob Gentile, Nota Bene’s David Lee, Petite Thuet’s Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich, Splendido’s Victor Barry, Top Chef Canada judge Mark McEwan and many more for the latest on their various ventures.

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Restaurants

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All-Beef Party: Toronto’s 25 best burgers ranked in order of heart-stopping, messy magnificence

25 BEST BURGERS

Nine years ago, Mark McEwan scandalized Torontonians with his $35 truffled Bymark burger. That was before words like “grass-fed,” “heritage” and “dry-aged” entered into the burger lexicon. The city is now crammed with craft burgers, and carnivores no longer flinch at steep price tags. Competitive chefs bring in whole cows from nearby farms, bake their own buns, smoke their own bacon (twice), replace ketchup with tomato chutney and source the most pungent cheeses they can get their patty-flipping hands on. Thankfully, the mom-and-pop shops haven’t been artisinalled out of business—there are still plenty of sublime greasy-bag burgers around, as well as a few new-school diners ironically replicating them. Here, the very best of the city’s boundless burgerdom.

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Restaurants

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Delica’s Devin Connell on the city’s freshest, liveliest flavours

Devin Connell

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Zagat’s 2012 survey picks Toronto’s best restos and settles that pesky average tipping question

Scaramouche’s Keith Froggett (Image: Renée Suen)

Online restaurant review sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon may have cut into the crowd-sourced territory that Zagat once owned, but the yearly survey still has some clout—and the power to get diners in the door. The 2,266 food-loving Torontonians who voted in this year’s survey were crazy for Keith Froggett, giving fine dining restaurant Scaramouche top honours for food and also placing Scaramouche’s pasta bar in the top 10. But the winners weren’t all about linen tablecloths and tasting menus: The Burger’s Priest, with its epically greasy Vatican City burger, broke the top three for best food, while pan-Asian chain Spring Rolls was voted most popular restaurant (proving that democracy isn’t foolproof).

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