Novel the Restaurant

We had the opportunity to go out tonight, and I got to pick the restaurant. I have been looking forward to visiting Novel based on a Feast Magazine article 3 years ago. For those in a hurry, I added this to my good restaurant list, but not on my must return list (yes I have lists of restaurants, specifically a kanban with To Visit, Cheap (under $50 for the family), Places to Return, Places Visited, and Don't Return).

The pre-experience

My wife is partially sighted. Having a menu online is very beneficial to her so she can use her tools in her space instead of being forced to navigate a limited space with the stress of needing to make a decision in a reasonable time frame. The menu was not designed to express what the sections represented, thus preventing some decisions from being viable before visiting. This is a little thing, but I don't understand what the benefit of the layout was,. I feel there are graphic designers that could give them the ascetic they want while still giving the customer a better experience.

We created a reservation since we had a show scheduled for later that evening. The website didn't really express what style of dining we should expect, or in other words when do we need to arrive to make our show on time. We guessed based on the prices that it would be a fine dining experience and therefore a appropriate delays would be injected and opted for an early seating.

Having the expectations of your restaurant on your website also allows me to know what style of clothes to wear. While a lot of restaurants have moved to the "whatever you want" I actually like dressing up and will take advantage of a reason to do so. On the other hand if I am going to an activity before or after the meal it is very convenient to know if I need to bring a change of clothes. I don't need anything firm, but a statement of what the average customer wears helps me out.

I have decided that the Yelp reservation system is one of the least user friendly options, and Novel happens to use it. I forgot that my son was not going to attend with us, and needed to edit the reservation, but to do that they force you to re-select all the options even though I only wanted to update the number of guests. It isn't awful, but I like most of the other reservation systems I have interacted with better.

The service

We had a wonderful waitress. I really appreciate her asking if we have any allergies or sensitivities upon being seated. We don't have any, but it was obvious that she was prepared if we had been. She took the time to explain how the menu was laid out. There was only one other customer present when we arrived, but the place filled quickly. Our service never wavered the 2.25 hours we were there. While I know she had other tables, we never felt the loss.

After getting our drinks she as also astute enough to casually ask about our day and evening thus finding out that we had a schedule. Diner took exactly the amount of time to get us to our destination on time. I was very impressed.

The food

We love eating family style, all the food in the middle of the table and people grab what they are most interested in. The waitress suggested this style of eating, even though I don't think that the menu was really designed for it. Fortunately for me both of my guests are smaller eaters than I am so I was able to taste everything on the table.

We started with the bread service. I suggest you do also. The bread was hearty and fresh. It was served with butter and hummus. The hummus was the clear winner if there was a competition. My daughter especially liked having the bread with both, but I didn't feel it improved the hummus by adding the butter. There was enough spread to use only one option if you lean heavily one way or another.

My daughter got a mocktail. The options on the menu didn't sound good, but the waitress got a small list of flavors my daughter likes and the bar tender created a delightful concoction that she enjoyed a lot. I am not currently allowed to drink because of a medicine I am on for a few more days, but the drinks being served were both beautiful and according to the customers very tasty. We have been to a lot of restaurants with actively bad bar tenders, but I look forward to trying the wares of this one if we return.

The second course was a cold corn soup with lobster, and a fried pork pie. I suggest both of these. The cold corn soup lived up to its name. I can't think of a much better option on a hot summers day. I know that we went in Fall, but it was still in the upper 80's today. I love layers and surprises, and this dish had both, with a yellow sweet top and a green bottom that had just enough bitter to accentuate the sweet. The lump crab was a great way to add texture in parts without taking away from the liquid parts of the soup. The fried pork pie on the other hand had a delicate crust and was really stuffed with a type of pulled pork. I enjoyed the hot sauce on the side, but my guests avoided the condiment. The pie was served with picked vegetables on a liver pate. The pate was the exact opposite of the pie, extremely soft, deep flavor, and sparing. I felt the best way to enjoy them was eat the pie, then the pate, then finish with the vegetables as a bit of a pallet cleanser.

Our third course was pasta. The ladies really enjoyed the rabbit tortellini, and I have to agree it was very nice. The pasta was obviously freshly made and the rosemary broth worked very well with the delicate rabbit flavor. I personally thought the tagliatelle with lamb prosciutto was the better dish. While we were told these were relatively small dishes, we all greed that they were a full pasta serving.

The fourth course was a pork chop that my daughter declared the best pork chop that she has ever eaten. I am not as convinced it was the best I have ever had, but I also can't think of which one would have been better. It was a double bone Duroc pork chop that had a wonderful glaze. Even with three of us sharing it, there was plenty to go around. It was served with a spicy pork belly braze, that I thought was just as good as the chop itself. I convinced my wife to try it despite her worries about the spiciness and she appreciated me doing so.

The fifth course was desert. We got the chocolate mousse cake, not the most adventurous item we had this evening, but I love mousse and I heard they had a pastry chef, so I had high hopes. My hopes were not realized, the mousse was dense and I like mine finer. There was a distinct flavor of coffee, not uncommon in chocolate deserts, but a flavor I don't really like. The menu didn't mention coffee so it may have just been an extra bitter cocoa crumble, but it tasted like coffee enough I find it hard to believe.


So, that was a pretty glowing review for a restaurant that I said I only labeled as good, but not an I absolutely need to go back. I guess I should explain.

When I go out I am looking for 3 things. First I want great food. Novel gave me food that I very much enjoyed, but I thought it was just under great. I believe I would have even promoted it up to great if I hadn't recently had better food for a lower price.

Second, I want a unique experience. That may be going out with a group and the restaurant allowing us to be able to hear each other. Novel gets extra points for this, while the decor is the modern chic they have installed elements to help dampen the echos and that made our experience, even when the restaurant was full, very pleasant. Novel is in a little building on the edge of the down town high rises. It is unique in that way, but feels like it is from the suburb instead of the city, and unfortunately for them live in the suburbs.

Third, I want to have a good time for a price that doesn't break the bank. Novel deserves every penny I gave them, but I have recently been to two other restaurants that have significantly better food one for a lot lower price and one for a little more. Another restaurant we recently visited has approximately the same level of food, but is in a castle and also happens to be cheaper. With these options being readily available it makes it difficult for me to elevate this restaurant to the level of needing to go back in the near future.