Restaurant: Cento Notti
Last visited: February 25, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Yaletown)
Address: 350 Davie Street
Train: Yaletown-Roundhouse Stn Northbound
Price Range: $20-30+ ($25-30 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Ambiance: 3 (depends when you go)
- West Coast/Italian cuisine
- Fresh house made pasta
- “Pop-up” restaurant
- Ocean Wise
- Night-club like on weekends
- DJ/Bottle service on weekends
- Vegetarian friendly
- Open late
- Daily Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
**Recommendations: Braised Lamb Cheek Mafalda, Bromme Lake Duck Cacciatore, Hand Rolled Gnocchi
100 Days then 100 Nights, and now Cento Notti, which means “100 Nights” in Italian. Same owner, similar concept, change in decor and different chef, which makes for a different experience right? Well I hope so because I can’t say I was too keen on 100 Days. It was the first pop-up restaurant to be introduced to Vancouver and now it’s on its third concept so I was looking forward to something new.
It was actually my fourth visit to Cento Notti. My first visit was for a media preview of their Dine Out Vancouver Menu, the second visit was to shoot Sh*t Foodies Say, and the third visit was for a friend’s birthday. On this occasion I was invited with Sherman (who I have to thank for the photos) to make pasta with the chef, so each of my visits have been experiences of very different nature. Needless to say, it’s hard to write at a neutral perspective, but I’ll come from an honest one.
Cento Notti is located inside the Opus Hotel and the room is quite posh and flashy as it breathes a particular Yaletown atmosphere. The lunch time tends to be a bit quieter, but dinner time picks up and the weekends are a whole other story. The weekends offer more of a night club like ambiance with a live DJ and table service (upon request), so just be prepared for the crowd and what you can expect.
It was my second time making fresh pasta and it went much more smoothly with the guidance of Executive Chef Paul Marshall. It also helped that I wasn’t 8, and with the right pasta equipment it was a lot faster than hand cutting each noodle strand by strand (which I did when I was 8). The ingredients and process were actually quite simple, and besides the kneading of the dough (which tends to be a work out for me) I enjoyed every minute of it.
There is something emotionally satisfying when you’re making your own food. Although I was doing this in a restaurant context, it felt “home made” to me. The noodles were fragile, thin and almost “cooling”as they draped over my hands like tassels on a dress. From there I would drape them over a string so they could air dry like laundry. The spaghetti, fettucine and gnocchi aren’t the only things being made here though, things like Burrata cheese, breads, bacon, and even sausages and cured meats are also being made in house. There is obviously passion in making the food here, which is always respectable and appreciated.
With my combined four visits to Cento Notti, I can say that I have my favourites. The house made aspect is all quite admirable, but there were a few dishes that could have used a bit of tweaking, and some things felt slightly pricey for what they were. The food is West Coast style Italian, so it’s not authentic, but approachable to the masses. I’m not really part of their typical clientele, but there are certain dishes I think are worth trying and going back for.
On the table:
- Roasted onion jam, rosemary oil $18
- By now I’m pretty sure everyone knows what this is, but if not, it’s an Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.
- I didn’t even know you could make your own burrata until I came here.
- I’ve tried the Italian burrata and the Californian burrata, but never a house made one.
- It was served with a house made buttermilk loaf that almost seemed like a brioche, but it was slightly dry although soft and airy.
- The roasted onion jam was fantastic and the caramelized sweetness and tang from balsamic accompanied the cheese well.
- This one happened to be infused with truffles and truffle oil which I think was even better.
- The skin of the cheese was really thin and it was stuffed with mozzarella cheese scraps, truffle bits and cream.
- The texture was very unexpected and it didn’t come across as the traditional burrata I am used to.
- It was quite chunky instead of creamy which is the result of a home made burrata. It was almost like a ricotta meets a fresh mozzarella.
- The flavour was mild as expected, and I could taste the truffle and it wasn’t too salty.
- I did enjoy it, but I enjoyed it more as a unique house made cheese than a burrata.
- It’s definitely shareable for 2-3, but I did find it on the pricey side and I thought it would be about $15-16.
- Arugula, candied hazelnut $12
- A beet and goat’s cheese salad is as common as a Caesar salad nowadays, but this one was actually done quite well and a bit different.
- The golden and red beets were tender and then slices of it were also deep fried/baked (?) which was the bonus.
- The goat cheese was in slices and crusted with herbs, so it was different than the expected crumbled goats cheese.
- It was quite heavy, rich, and pungent so you do have to like slightly stronger goat’s cheese to enjoy this. It had the richness of a full cream cheese.
- The candied hazelnuts added a nice crunch and sweetness to the beets and texturally the salad was great.
- The arugula was lightly dressed and it was simple, but good.
- Shaved blue cheese $16
- This is one of their signature dishes and these were also the noodles I was making. I’m not sure if they were “my noodles”, but you know what I mean.
- It’s not the authentic Italian Spaghetti Bolognese, but a West Coast version so it’s more heavily sauced too.
- The noodles cook for a very short time since they’re fresh, but personally I wouldn’t mind them even a bit less cooked.
- The spaghetti was not only fresh, but so thin that they came across as overcooked even if they’re not, so I did miss a firmer bite. Perhaps a slightly thicker noodle might have done it, like a Linguine Bolognese.
- I would have loved some fresh basil on top, but there was basil in the sauce.
- The meat sauce was made with veal, pork neck and beef trim which are excellent cuts to use for bolognese, but it didn’t taste as meaty as it sounds because the meat was finely ground and it wasn’t particularly hearty.
- It wasn’t a very meaty sauce, but it was fresh with onions, tomatoes and garlic and it wasn’t too salty, which is good because the additional strong bite of shaved blue cheese on top was salty enough.
- I could have used more of that buttery rich blue cheese, but I savoured what I had.
- Preserved lemon, leeks, white wine butter $24
- I got to make the Fettucini as well, but I can’t say I was a fan. It wasn’t the noodle or the sauce, but the clams.
- The clams were a bit small and almost flat and they were a bit fishy tasting and just didn’t seem all that fresh.
- The noodles were buttery soft and a bit more heavily sauced again which I didn’t mind.
- The sauce was a classic white wine beurre blanc sauce and there was a nice freshness and acidity from the preserved lemon.
- The leeks gave it a nice caramelized sweetness and there wasn’t a strong lemon juice flavour as much as their was a lemon peel (not zest) flavour. It wasn’t bitter, but it was apparent.
- Again since the noodles were fresh they were a bit soft, but I was expecting still a firmer bite as I’ve had house made fettucine noodles before. I’m not sure if thicker “height-wise” (rolled a couple times less) would do it.
- I just felt it was a bit overpriced for the quality of clams too.
- Roast garlic, beech mushrooms, brussels sprouts $22
- Lamb cheek? Sign me up!
- I loved this one. It was a very saucy, rich and hearty dish, and it was perhaps slightly over sauced, but the noodles were really firm and al dente which I liked.
- The lamb cheeks were generous and decadent and melting in my mouth and fall apart tender as I gently touched it with my fork.
- They were glazed with a sweet and tangy demi glace or red wine reduction, and it was nice and syrupy.
- I could see some finding the dish salty, but I have a high tolerance for salt so it was okay for me.
- I also really like sauce so I’m not too bothered by the amount, but it was a lot of sauce.
- I would have loved it with morels (although pricier) and had the brussels sprouts been crispy and served on top they would have stood out more, but overall it was an excellent pasta and I would order this again.
- Tomato Pomodoro, fresh basil, Tuscan olive oil $17
- This was a great gnocchi and I wish it was offered with a traditional rose sauce too.
- The sauce was a bit watery, but it was fresh with pureed roma tomatoes and some fresh herbs. It didn’t taste bland, but it was just thin.
- The gnocchi was incredibly tender, pillowy light and soft and although they had no fork ridges, they were texturally good and not doughy or dense.
- I would have loved some whole basil leaves on this too though.
- I would also recommend trying the gnocchi from Federico’s Supper Club – see Gnocchi Pomodoro and the ones at La Quercia are also amazing – see here.
- I don’t really remember what this one tasted like because I never gave it a number rating, but it’s not on the menu anymore anyways.
- The version above was from the Dine Out Vancouver menu and they offer a slight variation of it now called Seared Steehead Salmon with roasted tomato risotto, and spot prawn shaved asparagus salad $25
- I love Steelhead Trout and I loved that they served it with a crispy skin.
- This was moist and juicy, especially since it had some of the belly, so I hope they can keep the execution consistent.
- I think there are going to be complaints that there are some bones in it though.
- Chef explained that the bones were difficult to remove due to the cut of trout and how it had to be presented, but without being told this, there might be some issues.
- It was topped with an escovitch (pickled salad) which is really common in Hispanic cultures and the Caribbean, but it’s more common to have it with deep fried fish.
- The risotto was al dente, creamy, and strong with Parmesan cheese with a little acidity of tomato and I enjoyed it. I hope this is consistent too since risotto isn’t forgiving.
- Sliced breast & braised leg duo, taleggio polenta $32
- This was tied with the Braised Lamb Cheek Mafalda as my favourite dish.
- I almost cried when Chef told me that people were still warming up to the idea of duck here. It was perhaps a bit exotic for the clientele, which is a shame because it was no doubt a highlight.
- I don’t even think I’d consider this a Cacciatore and it was pretty much its own dish.
- The switch up from the standard chicken was great and the sauce was less tomato and vegetable based to stand up to the stronger meat.
- It was rich and hearty and easily a gourmet comfort meal perfect for the cold weather… which is also why it’s being taken off soon. So hurry and try it before Spring is here!
- Brome Lake Duck is perhaps one of the most beloved ducks in Canada from Quebec and it’s a natural duck that can cook to a medium-well and still be tender.
- I’ve had poorly executed Brome Lake Ducks before though, but this one was excellent.
- The duck breast was sliced thin which is important and the skin was crispy and the fat not chewy, but well rendered. It was moist and perfect.
- The braised duck leg was even better (being dark meat) and beautifully roasted and braised with a crisp skin and juicy fall off the bone meat.
- The duck leg was incredibly tender and I didn’t touch my knife once. The meat just shredded easily and wrapped around my fork like a ribbon.
- It was heavily sauced in a rich demi glace or red wine reduction that was similar to the one in the Braised Lamb Cheek Mafalda.
- This syrupy sauce had more acidity from some tomato paste and sweetness from some caramelized onions too. It reminded me of a beef bourguignon sauce.
- The cheesy, garlicky, creamy, rich polenta just soaked up the sauce so well and it was velvety and decadent with the duck.
- The big leaves of celery garnish caught me off guard though and I was hoping for another herb.
- The dish could be considered pricey, as I guessed $30, but it comes with the breast and leg and regardless it was great.
- Everyone raves about this and loves it, but I’ve been eating frozen tiramisu and frozen fruit cakes since I was a kid, so it wasn’t particularly new for me although I did still like it!
- It was almost like a semifreddo and if you like tiramisu for the rich creamy texture, fluffy marscapone and slightly cheesy flavour, that’s not what you’re going to get here.
- This was strong with chocolate and coffee more than heavy with marscapone in flavour.
- The whip was also more like whipped cream than marscapone too, so I did miss the marscapone which is the best part of a tiramisu for me.
- At times the lady fingers can be dry due to the freezing, so I did miss the moisture of a soaked lady finger from a non-frozen tiramisu.
- The bar on top looked like a brownie, but it was actually a very light and dry espresso like biscotti.
- I wouldn’t mind it a bit more moist especially since it’s frozen.
- BC berry salad, brulee top $8
- The version above was from the Dine Out Vancouver menu and they offer a slight variation of it now called “Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake”.
- The lemon tart was sweeter than it was tangy and it was actually not very tart at all. I do prefer a zing in lemon tarts.
- I did love the creme brulee crispy top it had and the tart contrast of plump and juicy Amerena cherries (?) were a nice alternative to a typical raspberry coulis.
- The dollop of marscarpone creme was much stronger with marscarpone flavour than the one served on the tiramisu and I really liked it with the lemon tart. I do wish it was the same one served with the tiramisu too though.
- Red wine cherries, olive oil gelato $8
- I love olive oil cakes and olive oil in desserts so this caught my attention immediately.
- I was expecting it to be warmed up, but it was served room temperature.
- There was also a nice drizzle of good fruity olive oil on top so you have to be okay with the idea of sweet and somewhat “salty”.
- One of my favourite olive oil desserts is the Olive Oil dessert from Cioppino’s, which is worth trying.
- If the cake wasn’t dry it would have been very good, but the dryness was hard to overcome since the cake was fairly large and a bit dense rather then spongy.
- The cake wasn’t too sweet and had a strong olive oil flavour which I loved, so you have to expect that. The extra drizzle of fruity olive oil just intensified it.
- The outside was all caramelized and crunchy with a sugary crust and that was as good as any muffin top, but it was just the inside.
- The cherries were more bitter than tart from being soaked with red wine and it was noticeably boozy.
- Amerena cherries would have been great for a stronger tart cherry flavour.
- I would have loved some lemon zest in the cake for a bit more brightness and it would complement the olive oil well.
- The olive oil ice cream was rich and creamy and it helped with the moisture, but I could have used more of it.
- Vanilla gelato $10
- This dessert has been around since 100 Days opened and it is a favourite. I first had it at Hub Restaurant & Lounge which got the idea from BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery in the US.
- As much as I love a good pizookie, I found this one really pricey.
- A $10 dessert I find more suitable for fine dining, and this one probably takes less effort and the ingredient cost is likely less than any of their other desserts.
- Pizookies (half baked cookies) are always delicious, and this one was cakey and crispy on the outside, but a bit overcooked and almost a fully baked cookie.
- The ice cream was a bit icy and for $10 some real vanilla bean seeds would be a bit expected.
- As much love as I have for this delicious dessert, I just feel like it should be around the $8 mark like the others.