On a semi-warm but still cold April evening, and a night where my spirits needed lifting, JH took me to try Le Notre Bistro, located right at the corner of Harbord and Manning. The restaurant used to be Ici Bistro, which JH and I loved. Yunaghi followed after Ici. We had been to all three (JH did not go to Yunaghi), and for some reason the atmosphere felt the same for all three experiences – quiet, subtle and cozy. I could be imagining things though – the former two experiences had taken place many years ago.
Anyhow, Le Notre is a warm and cozy bistro, serving a mix of French and Italian dishes. We were seated in a two-person table close by the window. We were one of the first customers, so the host was fairly attentive. The restaurant is fairly small with only 25 seats. There is a table for four by the immediate window, a high top by the window, seats by the bar and facing the kitchen, and a row of small tables (where we sat). The walls are a beautiful marine blue, and I loved the scattering of photographs all over the walls. The tables were covered in standard white tablecloths, and the décor was otherwise minimal.
Our host was very prompt in providing us with water and menus. He diligently walked us through the wine and food menus as well as the specials, providing us with helpful suggestions. At the same time, he provided us with an amuse tray of chips, sausages and dill pickles to ‘tease the appetite’.
JH and I stared at the menus for a while. There was a four-course tasting menu for $55 a person ($90 with wine pairing), but neither of us were that overly hungry (even if it was just four courses). While we shied away from drinks, we ordered the following dishes:
- Tartine ($8)– this was blue cheese on sourdough with an arrangement of arugula and other microgreens. JH and I both liked that the blue cheese taste was not too strong. For some reason I was expecting something else, and then realized I might have mixed this up completely with tartare.
- Pappardelle au Confit de Canard ($24) – the pasta and accompanying duck and tomato ragout was good. Nothing amazing, but a solidly cooked pasta. We did not really like it that it came divided up into two portions. I think it would have presented much better as one dish, with two small plates for sharing. The way they divided it up also felt like it was a much smaller portion than it really was.
- Viande du Jour (Somewhere in the $30s) – There were three meat specials – a Tagliata (which we ordered), a Hangar steak with frites, and a tenderloin. Once again, JH and I were both probably not really focussed, but we expected something different from the way the Tagliata was described. It actually came out and tasted like Hangar steak. Microgreens were piled on top of the steak, so it felt like a steak salad. It was cooked well and delicious.
- We also ordered frites ($5) and roasted cauliflower with 5-spice yogurt ($6). – The frites were really good, but the cauliflower felt a bit undercooked.Other little details:
- Parking – We parked for free along Herrick and Euclid, but we saw some closer neighbourhood parking on Manning.
- There is no dress code, but it is a nice bistro. They comb your tables with the brush, and the restaurant does feel like it warrants more than running shoes or t-shirts.
- I made a reservation through OpenTable. The restaurant called to confirm my reservation earlier in the morning.
- They take cash, credit, debit.