Exterior patio and entry to Marben, Toronto


Address:  488 Wellington Street West, Toronto

MJ Ratingheart 15xheart 15x (2 out of 3 hearts)

Features:  When my pal Andrew said we’d be sampling some contemporary Canadian cuisine, I had no idea what to expect. Canadian cuisine — what is it? Marben was about to school my palate.

The exterior of Marben sports an industrial brick look, but inside were exposed beams and posts, giving it a homey lodge ambiance. We grabbed a booth across from the bar just inside the door, but if you’d like a more interactive dining experience, ask for a seat at the counter looking at the kitchen.

Price Range:  Moderate. Starters range from $5 (bread and hummus) to $18 for a charcuterie board. Entrees range from $17 (grilled octopus salad) to $38 for a beef rib eye. Wines by the glass are $10-12 (bottles start at $45), a diverse beer selection is available for $6-8, along with creative cocktails in the $12-15 range.

Personal Notes:  Let the tasting begin!

The beverage selections we tried:

  • Pinot Gris, Blue Mountain, Okanagan Valley – I’m not a Pinot Gris fan, so this just didn’t hit the spot.
  • Thomas Lavers Dark and Stormy – Made with Gosling’s dark rum, draught ginger beer, and lime, this was a tasty little treat. I’m not a ginger beer fan so wouldn’t have ordered this without serious nudging. And I would have missed out on a wonderful blend of flavors that tickled the palate and were a perfect precursor to the food selections to come.

Beetroot Tartare – Made with carrot, celeriac, mint, capers, mustard seed and served with a black olive “yolk”. I didn’t know what to expect when these arrived at the table – and, oh my, was I in for a treat. Slurp the olive yolk right down and let it explode it your mouth. Oh my, what I surprise.

Tequila Ceviche Cones – Ceviche, avocado, cilantro, finger lime caviar, tokiko, chili, tequila assembled and presented in an organic corn tortilla. The tequila kick takes a potential bland combination and give it real appeal. You’ll want at least two cones for yourself.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad – Ontario heirloom “tomato”, black olive crumble, fresh herb and lemon goat cheese with grilled sourdough alongside. On the plate, and in the photos, it really does look like a cherry tomato. But it’s not. It’s even better. It’s goat cheese rolled into a ball, then dipped multiple times in a tomato sauce until it looks like a tomato. You’ll need to see it, and taste it, to believe it, so put this on your to-order list.

Asparagus, Spiced Quinoa and Citrus Salad – Tossed with marcona almonds, preserved lemon, grapefruit, orange, roasted red pepper, cherry tomato, red onion, chive, hazelnut oil, and arugula. It was fresh and tasty.

Grilled B.C. Spot Prawns – Prepared with a sauce of roasted red pepper, tomato, and grapefruit. An outstanding presentation with delightful flavors. After the “tomato” referenced above, this was my favorite menu item. I’d order them again. And again and again.

Pan Seared Rainbow Trout – Served with basil gnocchi, potato truffle emulsion, snap peas, marcona almonds, and basil sprouts. Fresh and tasty, although not a personal favorite.

If you thought I wouldn’t be able to handle dessert after all those tasty samplings, you’d be wrong. The sampler trio included chocolate fudge with candied walnuts, white chocolate truffles, and raspberries. I could have stuffed those white chocolate truffles into my pocket and taken them with me. They were that good. Seriously, if I could figure out a way to get them delivered to my home, I’d have a standing order.

Marben’s is well known for its burger. While it wasn’t on our tasting menu, I’ve heard people rave about it. When you’re hungry for some comfort food, stop off and give it a try.

NOTE:  I was a guest of Marben for a tasting of their menu.

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