Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Review: notion

Celebrated chef Dave Racicot brings notion’s sophisticated, imaginative cuisine to South Highland Avenue.




Photos by Laura Petrilla
 

 

Reinvented in an East Liberty location, the new incarnation of notion, which took an 18-month hiatus before relocating from Oakmont, has a more accessible menu that still expresses chef/owner Dave Racicot’s unique perspective.

Although he might not describe himself this way, Racicot is something of a food artist. At notion, the main ingredient of each dish is deeply considered, then layered and complemented with a number of elements — sauces, infusions, foams and gelées — to create complex dishes with playful contrasts of flavors, textures and hues. Every plate is a work of art. There’s also a touch of alchemy here, so notion may not be for everyone.

At notion, there are three menus: a four-course fixed price for $65, a six-course tasting for $85 and an eight-course for $105, which was added at press time. The entire table must order the same option so that service can be properly timed. For the four-course menu, choose an appetizer, fish, meat and dessert from three choices listed per category. The menu fluctuates when Racicot is inspired to design a new dish.

I recommend choosing one of the multiple-course chef tasting menus in order to better experience Racicot’s personal vision. Portions are reasonable, so you shouldn’t feel overstuffed. The $85 price is economical when considering the quality of food offered, particularly in comparison to similar meals in other cities.

Every dinner starts with two amuse-bouches, which set the tone for the meal. Though the offerings vary, I enjoyed the creamy white onion soup. Of the first courses, the tartare is sublime, featuring small rounds of iceberg lettuce on which you can make “lettuce wraps” of beef tartare with peanut sauce and Korean-inspired spices. Another intriguing starter was the barley risotto with espelette cream, manchego custard and thinly sliced cauliflower.



Among the fish courses, I enjoyed cod with fennel custard and breadcrumbs infused with squid ink. Other choices of finned fish have included halibut cheeks.

There are a few dishes where the manipulation of an ingredient is not an improvement. For example, the scallops are blended and reformed into short tubes, similar to gnocchi, and served in a light Parmesan broth. The interpretation of the scallops seems like a step down from the natural form.

As for entrées, the tender chicken was a highlight, served with a potato sauce and sautéed morel mushrooms. The wagyu beef with royal trumpet mushrooms and truffle cream was also very good.

The milk chocolate dessert is a mingling of flavors and textures; pieces of Nutella cake are served with banana pudding, orange purée and dehydrated chocolate. It’s hard to stop eating this dish. A more unusual dessert is the black sesame cake, which resembles pieces of sponge, served with a white chocolate sauce and accented with yuzu and coconut flavors; it will challenge your palate. The mignardises served at the end of the meal also change, but two previous offerings have been housemade truffles and coffee-infused macarons.

The interior of notion is done in soft tones of wheat and flax. The space is a one long room with banquettes and chairs providing seating for 28, so reservations are a must. The standout decoration is a multicolored glass light installation created by Pittsburgh Glass Center artists Heather McElwee and Chris Clarke; it stretches almost half the length of the restaurant’s ceiling. Racicot’s future plans include changing up the décor completely.

Service at notion is impeccable. Servers, who remain attentive, have tasted all of the food and can answer questions in great detail.

Notion is the kind of modern American restaurant now found in every major U.S. city; it’s edgy and creative. As our dining scene continues to thrive and expand, the timing of notion’s re-emergence couldn’t be more perfect. 

Dave Racicot | Chef/Owner, notion


What’s different about the new incarnation of notion?
It’s been a year-and-a-half since I closed the old notion, and I have to say [that] I think the new notion is much more focused. I really like the fixed menu format because I can offer a nice balance of food in appropriate amounts, so diners leave satisfied. I also like the dining room and kitchen because they are streamlined and more efficient. I love the new location; it’s really in the middle of everything.

How do you develop such complex dishes?
I always start with a specific food and visualize what could happen with it. For example, I could take asparagus, grill it and serve it with balsamic vinegar and salt, and it would be wonderful. But the expectations I place on myself and the expectations of my diners are to push it farther. I have a dish on the menu now that is asparagus with a sweet egg-yolk jam. Now, the egg is as important as the asparagus. It’s accented with mustard seed and caramelized sunflower-seed paste. I put a lot of thought and time into weighing the importance of different ingredients and tasting as I go.

How important are aesthetics to the development of your dishes?
Ultimately, flavor is the most important thing; however, the aesthetics of the plate are very important to me. I don’t want the dishes to be too studied, but I want the guest’s first impression of the appearance of the dish to be positive.

Do you think you were destined to become a chef?
No, not at all. I did not come from a “foodie” family. I think when it comes to your career, you just need to pick something and then work really hard at it.

What are the differences between home cooking and restaurant cooking?
Home cooking is really about nourishment. You might do a nice job at plating up the food or preparing a nice dinner for your family. But I believe [the job of a chef] is to put good food on the plate.

 

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

The director of the forthcoming Mr. Rogers documentary sits down with the longtime Mr. McFeely and Pittsburgh Magazine.

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Chess enthusiast Ashley Lynn Priore hopes to enrich the Steel City’s involvement in one of the most classic and challenging of board games.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in June

We're obsessed with Greekfreez vegan frozen treats, taking a first look at the new menu at Independent Brewing Company and traveling to The Tavern on the Square. Plus, we talk to Poulet Bleu pastry chef James D. Wroblewski II.

Working in a Steel Mill Turns Fantastical in 'The Glass Lung'

Pittsburgher Anjali Sachdeva’s first book blends the normal with fantasy in nine short stories.

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.

Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in June

PM Nightlife Editor Sean Collier explores the popularity of Coughlin's Law on Mt. Washington and the future of Jump Cut Theater.

Pittsburgh's Can't Miss Concerts in June

The Pittsburgh music calendar is packed this month. Check out some of our suggestions for the best ways to spend those steamy summer nights.

June: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Undercover: What We're Reading in June

Reviews of Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance by Mark Whitaker and Abandoned Pittsburgh: Steel and Shadows by Chuck Beard

Perspectives: How Cold Is Too Cold for Spiders to Live?

A former Marine and Pittsburgh firefighter comes face-to-face with his biggest fear.

Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Faces Centennial Challenges

This year marks a milestone anniversary — and questions regarding the emerging digital economy — for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

CMU Launches America’s First Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Starting this fall, undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon will have the option to earn a degree in one of the world’s fastest growing fields.

Hog Wild at Fallen Aspen Farm

Owners Jake Kristophel and Desiree Sirois are committed to compassionate animal husbandry at Fallen Aspen Farm.

This is Where ‘Pittsburgh's Paul Bunyan’ Would Have Lived

The living emblem of Pittsburgh steelwork, immortalized in a Braddock statue, has been reborn with a titular space in Bloomfield.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

The director of the forthcoming Mr. Rogers documentary sits down with the longtime Mr. McFeely and Pittsburgh Magazine.

Comments

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Chess enthusiast Ashley Lynn Priore hopes to enrich the Steel City’s involvement in one of the most classic and challenging of board games.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Lorelei Will Open in the Former Livermore/Pines Space

Lorelei Will Open in the Former Livermore/Pines Space

The owners of Independent Brewing Company and Hidden Harbor plan to bring a beer hall and cafe to East Liberty.

Comments

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

Comments

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

Looking to switch up your physical activity now that it finally feels like spring? We found four sports you can play locally that you may never have considered.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

Comments

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Here We Go? Steelers Have More Than a New England Issue This Time

Here We Go? Steelers Have More Than a New England Issue This Time

At this time last year the Steelers perceived themselves, and rightfully so, as a team that was a mere win over the Patriots away from returning to the Super Bowl. This year, the focus is elsewhere.

Comments

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The Star Wars series experiments with telling an origin story, with mixed results.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As a film, there are issues.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Palate Partners School of Wine & Spirits offers a chance for brides- and grooms-to-be to explore libations before (or instead of) a night on the town.

Comments

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

It was always Ashley Watkins’ dream to have her grandfather perform her wedding ceremony — but a serious illness almost got in the way.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

Local interior designer Lauren Levant traveled to Italy for the influential Salon del Mobile show featuring the latest innovations in the furniture and design industry. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, these are the kitchen concepts she says will be making their way stateside.

Comments

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.

Comments