Sherman's Food Adventures: Cento Notti

Cento Notti

* Restaurant is now closed*

For the longest time, I had planned to visit Elixir at the Opus Hotel in Yaletown. That was well over 7 years ago, when I lived a stone's throw away. Apparently, I took too long because it closed in 2010 and gave way to a popup restaurant called 100 Days which later became 100 Nights. In fact, I attempted to get into 100 Days one time after hockey, which never worked out. I finally gave up and now the place has morphed into Cento Notti. Mijune and I were graciously invited for a meal and to make fresh pasta in their kitchen (with Executive Chef Paul Marshall, formerly of the Italian Kitchen). Well, Mijune made fresh pasta, I just took photos. She's more photogenic anyways... In addition to fresh pasta, they make their sausages in-house as well (to Mijune's delight... ahem...).

After the pasta-making and sausage-gawking (by Mijune only), we settled in for dinner. We started with their House-Made Burrata with rosemary oil, buttermilk bread and a side of roasted onion jam. Unlike a typical burrata, this one was prepared with truffles and has a texture that was more chunky and stringy. The whole thing was encased in mozzarella and received a drizzle of salted rosemary oil. It was an unexpected surprise when I first spread it onto the slice of bread. The texture really threw me off, however, I really liked the taste. The salty-woodsy-cheesiness really went well with the sweetness of the onion jam. Then, we were presented with 2 pastas. We tried the Spaghetti Bolognese first and it was pretty good. Due to the nature of fresh pasta, we can never expect it be super al dente. With that in mind, I found the pasta to be texturally fine. The bolognese consisted of pork neck and veal which had been cooked until it was super tender. I found the sauce to be on the saltier side, but at the same time very flavourful. Lots of sweetness from the carrots and tang from the tomatoes.

Despite the good pasta, we were disappointed with the Savory Island Clam Fettucine Vongole. Let me rephrase that. The one thing that ruined what was an otherwise solid dish was the clams. For some reason or another, the clams were mushy and fishy. What made it bizarre was that each and every clam had opened. So they were not dead. Maybe a bad batch? So ignoring the clams, the sauce consisting of preserved lemon, leeks and white wine butter was quite tasty. I loved the acidity and tang from the lemon which helped break up the buttery sauce. Now, if we had left the meal right there with those 3 items, I'd have to admit that there would be some indifference. However, we asked for one more item in the Bromme Lake Duck Cacciatore for variety purposes. Thank goodness we did because it was friggin' fantastic. There was sliced duck breast with a braised leg resting on top of taleggio polenta. First of all, the seared duck breast was perfect. It appeared they sous-vide the duck and then seared the skin. Hence the meat was super moist and tender while the skin was crispy and nicely rendered down. The braised duck leg was moist and mostly tender. The skin was beautifully prepared where most of the fat had rendered leaving a gelatinous texture. There was a depth of flavour which was rich and flavourful. Lastly, the polenta was super tasty and went well with the braised duck meat. The taleggio added a nice cheesy flavour and some texture as well.

Of course with Mijune around, we couldn't leave without dessert! We had their signature Warm Jumbo Cookie first, which was a leftover item from 100 Days and Nights. This large treat was prepared in an iron skillet and topped with vanilla gelato. Although I thought it was a little on the sweet side, I did enjoy the contrast between the crispy exterior and soft interior. It was certainly warm (actually hot) and the gelato made it even better. For our second dessert, we had the Sponge Cake with macerated cherries and olive oil gelato. I found the sponge cake itself a touch dry, yet the crunchy exterior sprinkled with sugar was yummy. The cherries inside added some tart sweetness while the macerated cherries (with rum?) on top added some brightness. The olive oil gelato was good texturally and it helped alleviate the dryness of the sponge cake. Not a bad end to a relatively decent meal. The highlight for sure was the duck, which unfortunately will be taken off the menu for the spring (so go get it now!). Too bad about the clams, maybe it was just bad luck. A real plus is that the new chef, Paul Marshall, has made it his mission to make as many things in-house as possible, which bodes well going forward.

*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*

The Good:
- Many ingredients made in-house such as the pasta
- Most of the prices are okay in relation to the area
- Some may not like it, but I love the funky interior

The Bad:
- Some items are priced a touch high
- To some, the place may be confusing: is it a nightclub, fine dining restaurant or is it casual?

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