After a hectic day of travel and train picnics on my way to the Scottish capital, I was in dire need of a relaxed, laid-back restaurant where I could put up my feet. I'd heard about an independent, Asian fusion eatery that seemed to tick all of those boxes, so when I finally arrived at my destination, I knew exactly where I was heading first. And, thankfully, visiting Noto in Edinburgh felt like slipping into a warm bath, and not just because of the candles.
Heading into the restaurant on Thistle Street, we were met with glowing interiors, including an intimate scattering of tables and chairs. It had taken a muted approach to decor, boasting walls trimmed with wooden foliage and dreamy bundles of dried flowers on each table. It’s romantic, but not gaudy in the slightest, pairing candlelight with exposed lightbulbs and an unimposing neo-soul playlist.
We explored the menu and received in-depth personal recommendations from our waiter ("around five" dishes would suit two people), who swiftly served us a glass of sauvignon blanc (£11.50) and a homemade soft kombucha (£6). The kombucha was zesty, sharpened with yuzu and accompanied by a cube of crystallised stem ginger: a strategic palate-cleanser between dishes.
Our waiter promised that by beginning with the North Sea crab (£11) and finishing on the chocolate, miso and hazelnut dessert (£9), we couldn’t go wrong. The crab arrived in its oval shell, the delicate meat suspended in brothy, buttery goodness and garnished with dill. Spooned onto a slice of sourdough, it was a great start to the meal.
Next came the perfectly tender Wye Valley asparagus with cheddar (£9), a dish that managed to make this occasionally clumsy cheese taste delicate (no offence, Cathedral City). It was such a triumph that we ordered a side of sourdough bread, which came alongside an Edinburgh Butter Company sample and yet more cheddar dip (£6).
The Arbroath smokie croquettes with katsuobushi (£9) were a welcome interruption and a sophisticated introduction to Noto’s subtle, Asian touches. Unlike the bulky hefts of potato that ‘croquette’ often applies to, these were bite-sized, crispy on the outside and impossibly fluffy inside. The smoky haddock was subtle, elevated by wisps of dried Japanese tuna and leading to a brief altercation about whose the last croquette was (a testament to their more-ish-ness).
The final pair in this procession were my favourites: grilled pork belly (£10), served alongside tangy white kimchi and crystallised cashew nuts, and three glorious little towers of fried potato rosti (£10), piped with truffle cream cheese and chives. Here, similar to the crab, I was struck by the innovative presentation of each dish, though at no point was substance sacrificed for style. The pork was skewered, brilliantly charred, and glazed with a sticky sweet sauce – one for the meat-eaters who don’t fancy the braised wagyu cheek (£28).
After a brief intermission and a sip of kombucha came our pudding, the chocolate, miso and hazelnut dessert I mentioned earlier. We delighted in cracking the crystallised chocolatey sheet over a bed of mousse using our spoons, finding crunchy hazelnuts and a sleek drizzle of miso caramel.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Noto has mastered the art of elegant small plates that truly satisfy, inviting you to master the art of sharing in return. Be prepared to clash forks over buttery crab, or brush hands reaching for a rosti, though there’s probably still more on its glorious way. Seasonally inspired with an Asian flair, this is a must-try for those seeking an intimate and innovative dining experience.
💰 The damage: £81.50 for two, plus service.
📍 The location: 47a Thistle St, Edinburgh EH2 1DY
👌 Perfect for: Intimate date nights.
⭐ Need to know: For more upmarket eats, check out Noto's sister restaurant, Aizle Edinburgh.