MARBEN: Marbelous

416-979-1990   |   $13-29 ‘mains’

Yes, I know the title is cheesy and ridiculous, but I really really like this place. I went for my birthday a few months back and everything  I tasted made me smile like a complete goof. Having finally returned, I’m happy to write this review and spread word about this spot you aren’t likely to walk into unless you know it’s there.

Photo Credit: Marben Site


Generally speaking, the menu is built for sharing but can be tackled the conventional ‘do you want a bite of MY food’ kind of way. I wouldn’t say it’s a french menu, but there’s a healthy dose of it throughout with added touches of Italy and east Asia here and there. The menu also changes quite frequently, and on my last visit featured ceviche, cotechino, plus other items not represented on yesterday’s menu.

This time I started with a side of the sage and brown butter gnocchi (above) with brussel sprouts and some crispy shallots and nuts on top. Gnocchi were soft and the brussel sprout (if you’re a fan) is always a welcome green taste. The crunch on top with the delicate pasta pillows below was well-paired. My two friends had the butternut squash soup, which they both heartily enjoyed on a very chilly night.

Next up were the mains. I’ve heard great things about the burger before arriving and had that reinforced when my friend commented the juiciness and fantastic sauce that dripped into the soft bun. She was very complimentary.

My other friend had the smoked pork chop (above, apologies for the candle-litness) with apple puree, caramalized onions, sage and pork jus. Suffice to say, it was obvious this would taste good before it came. Conventional flavour pairings worked well, but the execution of a beautifully smoky and juicy pork chop made this an even more successful dish.

My main was the sous-vide rainbow trout (above) topped with threads of fried leek and a barigoule sauce (essentially an earthy, vegetable-filled sauce). The great thing about a sous-vide protein is it creates a uniform texture throughout, so my fish had a great rare, buttery texture to it that made it melt in your mouth. The leeks on top (described as leek fries) didn’t really come off as leeks and I thought there could have been more of the vegetables from the barigoule on the plate. Still a tasty dish with great textures that I’d happily eat again.

Finally, we finished with desserts. We ordered two of the apple puddings (above) topped with mascarpone creme, some bailey’s caramel, and a touch of salt. The baileys was subtle but present, the apple pudding was warm, soft, but not falling apart, and the salt on the end was a smart finish. 

The other dessert was an earl grey creme brulee that was probably my favourite bite of the night. Even though I had a cold and needed to work a bit to find flavours all night, the earl grey was easy and delicious. Loved this dish.

Service and Ambience

On both my visits, I found our servers very friendly, laid-back (but attentive) and really knowledgeable. I liked how they let you know the cooking techniques behind some of the dishes when ordered, because there’s a big difference between a crispy, seared piece of trout and one that’s been sous-vide. 

From an ambience perspective, this place is…woodsy and warm. There’s wood everywhere: tables, walls, floors, in paintings, you name it. But once you get over it, it’s a very comfortable and lively atmosphere. The open kitchen with bar seating at the back of the room is also a nice touch.

The Reco?

If it’s not obvious by now something is wrong with you. You should definitely go. I’ve yet to have something I don’t like here, and it’s very unique in this city to have the range of comfort food to haute cuisine this place does at very reasonable prices. It’s not perfect, but it’s hard for me to name another place I’d rather have in my neighbourhood. Enjoy.

Other reviews:
Globe & Mail    |     National Post    |     Toronto Life 

Posted by: Jacob, Visited Jan 5, 2012

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