NOTO, Edinburgh: a cool, classy taste of the Big Apple with a touch of exotic Asian spice
Chef Stuart Ralston is the renowned chef-patron behind the mega successful Edinburgh restaurant, Aizle, which he runs with his wife Krystal. It is listed in the Michelin guide 2020: “Well balanced, skilfully prepared dishes are a surprise as the set menu is a long list of ingredients” to create a six course dining experience.
Aizle has recently been named the Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award winner as the top fine dining restautant in Edinburgh and voted 5th best across the UK.
Five years after opening Aizle, he has recently launched an all day, casual dining concept, NOTO on Thistle Street, featuring an imaginative menu of sharing plates with a cuisine inspired by his time working in New York.
It is named in tribute to the late Bob Noto, a well known eccentric and man about town in New York City who became an inspirational friend when Ralston worked in NYC for four years, under several chefs including Daniel Humm & Gordon Ramsay and at the private members’ club, The Core.
The décor across two dining areas is fresh and minimalist, with decorative twigs and branches on the white walls, green plants, dark wood floor and tables, vases of feathery grasses – all bringing a sense of nature and the outdoors, inside.
There is an adjoining cocktail and wine bar where you can also sit on a stool to enjoy a wide array of drinks and order food.
Ken and I visited for a late lunch and instead of conventional starters and mains, the menu offers a diverse selection of small and larger plates ideally to share. We were advised to select two to three dishes each. The menu (on lovely textured parchment paper), is attractively designed with the ingredients of each dish set out in lower case – all very appetising.
We select three of the smaller plates, “north sea crab, warm butter, sourdough,” “berkswell cheese croquette (3pc)” and “jerusalem artichokes, truffled cheddar, walnut.” And one large dish, “squid, clams, XO, koshihikari rice.”
Like most restaurants offering Tapas and sharing plates, they are prepared and served in any order which adds to the surprise element of the foodie experience.
First, cocktails for an aperitif: a spicy Bloody Mary, (Blackwoods vodka, pickled celery) which hits the spot.
And for Ken a perfectly shaken Negroni which was invented by Count Negroni in Florence in 1919 – so celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
We settle in for a relaxing lunch with a quirky, varied music soundtrack playing in the background.
A large crab shell arrived with a creamy, buttery soup with thick chunks of crab, best eaten with chunks of bread rather than a spoon. The shell-bowl was quickly scraped clean.
The award winning Berkswell Cheese is made by the Fletcher family at Ram Hall farm, near Berkswell, West Midlands. Unpasturised ewes’ milk, from their own East Friesland flock, is used with a traditional artisan method made in small vats, and left to mature for at least 6 months. The taste is sweet and nutty similar in style to a Pecorino.
The small Berkswell croquettes were smothered in a fluffy white cloud of grated cheese, like a sprinkling of snow.
Soft, rich texture, tangy, smoky flavour = simply delicious. (Just not sure why there are three croquettes to share between two people, meaning we have to cut one in half.)
Then the Jerusalem artichokes oozing the gorgeous aroma of truffle even before tasting. Totally different from globe artichokes, these root vegetables are from the sunflower family and look like a piece of ginger. Imaginatively cooked, they were like mini baked potatoes stuffed with the pungent-scented cheddar cheese and sprinkled with walnut shavings. (also three to share).
Our three courses are slowly consumed with the topic of conversation firmly about the distinctive food and combination of ingredients. Cocktails finished, we now select a glass of Sicilian Cielo Bianco to sip with the final large dish.
The “squid, clams, XO and koshihiari rice” arrived in a large bowl with flakes of Japanese tuna (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna) – Katsuobushi – on the top. The warmth of the dish makes these wave and dance which was magical to watch.
The spicy condiment XO was created in Hong Kong, made with chilli, garlic, dried shrimp and cured ham, but vegetarians are offered a mushroom alternative. This gives this seafood risotto a real kick!. Koshihikari is a premium, small grain rice, soft, slightly sweet and is used for sushi. This Asian seafood risotto was simply divine, each flavour, texture and taste blending together in harmony.
The dinner menu offers a slightly larger selection of dishes with a real Fine Dining touch: “oyster, cucumber mignonette, dill,” “partridge sausage roll, apple & sage,” “ beef tartare” and “confit duck leg, Scottish mushrooms, fried egg”.
The kitchen has four full-time chefs, managed by Chef-patron Stuart Ralston and his Executive Sous chef Ash Fahy – (who both work on different days at NOTO and Aizle).
NOTO is open all day so ideal for lunch, brunch, afternoon/ evening meal or a leisurely dinner. With stools along the bar, you can eat here too or just a cocktail or drinks anytime; a tempting idea is to pop in for a glass of Cremant or Champagne and share a platter of oysters.
Expect a creative culinary feast, presented with such artistic style and relaxed sophistication in true NYC manner.
47a Thistle St, Edinburgh EH2 1DY
Open daily, 12 noon to 9pm (Fri-Sat till 10pm)
Bar open till late.
T. 0131 241 8518