Notion – A Return Visit

by Rodzilla on November 13, 2011 · 6 comments

1. tartare

Notion was one of the few Pittsburgh restaurants I kept up with while living in San Diego. Whether it be by Chef Racicot’s twitter account, the restaurants facebook page, or eating vicariously through a favorite reviewer – another visit to Notion became a top priority upon returning to the area.

I was joined by my best friend Kate for the Chef’s tasting menu. “Deal” is not commonly associated with fine-dining, but I really feel it is worth mentioning here. This type of experience for such a price seems beyond generous, and that’s before even considering the quality of the dishes. Speaking of which…

amuse - onion soup*

Amuse - onion soup - white chocolate, bay scallops, grapefruit

The amuse was really a bonus course. Barely seared bay scallops, roasted onions, and tart grapefruit were covered with a sweet white chocolate soup. The addition of crisp onion chips and chopped hazelnuts added a great textural element to this sweeter side of savory meal opener. A great start.

1. tartare

tartare - korean flavors, peanut, iceberg

I think the tartar may become a signature dish at Notion. It was the only menu item that had remained since my last visit, and even better than I remembered. Our great server, Kenneth informed us that the bulgogi sauce was actually inspired by GM Jennifer Jin’s family recipe. My compliments all around.

2. cauliflower

cauliflower - severeal forms, red curry, cider

Several forms of cauliflower referred to a base puree, pieces roasted with olive oil, and dehydrated florets placed on top. A warm apple cider was poured table-side to complete the dish. This was a deceivingly heavy course, but the spice from the red curry aioli moderated the richness. I still had to finish my dining companions portion…though there may have been a bit of suggestion on my part.

3. white Beans

white beans - cherry, molasses, ham, apple, rosemary

A thick base puree displayed the starchier characteristics of white beans. Sweet ham, tart granny smith apple, cherry and molasses gelee, and toasted rosemary crisps provided a great balance of textures and flavor. Meanwhile the maple bubbles added an additional sweet element without weighing the dish down. I’m always excited for new dishes, but I hope this one sticks around.

4. salmon

salmon - red onion, cucumber, cream cheese, rye

Like an avant-garde play on lox. This dish had all the classic components in more refined forms. Katy actually disliked salmon before trying this sous-vide prepared piece. Another standout.

5. ribeye

ribeye - cabbages, mushroom, vermouth

The final savory of the tasting was a nicely seared ribeye presented alongside a mushroom and cabbage farce. The crisped kale pieces we’re good enough to be bagged and sold on their own. The vermouth bubbles added a touch of sweetness to an otherwise aggressively seasoned dish. I’m a big fan of bold flavors, but I could see this being too much for someone sensitive to salt.

supplement - pork

supplement - pork - clams, grilled lettuce, parsley, brown butter

We decided to add a supplement for our true final savory course. Another dish with a seafood broth poured table side. I appreciated the oceanic flavors, and especially the beautiful presentation, but I wasn’t as impressed as I was by the items on the set tasting. Not a let down, but not a highlight.

6. milk chocolate

milk chocolate - coffee, rose water, lemon cake

This is a fine example of Racicot and team taking creative flavor pairings and somehow making them work. Prominent citrus flavors cut through the rich chocolate ganache and slightly bitter coffee flavors. I can’t say I got much from the rose water gelee, but I can’t say I missed it.

7. apple

apple - birch, licorice, parsnip

As successful as our first dessert was, this was hands down the winner. The airy licorice cake was lighter in both color and density, while the darker parsnip brought a buttery weight . Tart granny smith and sweet honey crisp apples came atop a birch custard before everything was drizzled with warm crème anglaise. A great seasonal dessert, and a great way to finish.

When I first visited Notion, I mentioned that a few of the dishes were among the best I ever had. After having a quite a few more memorable dining experiences, I’m happy to report that they have kept their position and I’ve found a few more favorites. Racicot’s style would stand out anywhere, let alone in an area that has not traditionally been a culinary hot spot.

Notion on Urbanspoon
If your interest in food stems beyond simple sustenance, I whole heartedly recommend a visit. I used to say “you won’t find anything like it near Pittsburgh“, I can now say that you won’t find anything like Notion for much, much further.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rosa

Everything looks incredible! And those are magnificent shots. Was the restaurant really well lit, or do you have some voodoo secrets?

2 Epicuryan

This meal looks amazing, glad to see Pittsburg isn’t totally devoid of fine dining restaurants. That tartare alone is intriguing enough to warrant a visit. I’d be sure to let you know next time I visit the area.

3 Bobby @ Gourmands Review

That cauliflower dish looked great. Did you get a new camera?

4 James

The cauliflower and the tartare look great! I’ll be sure to let you know if I’m ever in the area.

5 Lily

Wonderful review. I agree with others, the camera work is exceptional.

6 Rodzilla

Rosa – It’s a mix ;) but honestly the lighting is great. They have a really cool modern/minamalist design (a few pics in the first review) their GM was also very accommodating when it came to seating.

Ryan – it really is, if I recall correctly it was UE’s favorite item – if people don’t want to trust my palate, they can surely trust his.

Bobby – Nope, still rocking the s90. Ryan showed me a few tricks when we were at Blanca, and again the lighting was great.

James – this really is your type of spot, if you even get near PA you should check it out.

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