And so it was that MJ and I found ourselves waddling down King Street after feasting at two restaurants in under 4 hours. I had planned a rather extravagant culinary tour for us over the past few weeks which would feature three of Toronto’s top restaurants. We had started off in Greece at Volos then rolled into Spain at Patria. Our final bow would be at the newly relaunched Marben on Wellington which offers a unique take on contemporary Canadian cuisine with a Mediterranean twist.
I first visited the restaurant back in 2010 when my family sipped and nibbled through a memorable Marben brunch. A favourite stop on the Toronto dining scene for the past six years, Marben has recently embarked on a new chapter. With a reworked “modern Canadian” menu created by new Executive Chef Rob Bragagnolo, remodelled décor throughout and a fully renovated lower level, the changes come at a time when the city’s dining landscape is in full bloom.
Raised in Toronto to a traditional Italian household, Bragagnolo was classically trained in Switzerland and staged at restaurants throughout Italy and Spain. He honed his skills for 10 years on the island of Mallorca where he developed a love for Spanish cuisine and the Mediterranean style. Marben has also recently hired a new general manager and beverage director Dan Gütter who brings a wealth of experience to the table after working at Toronto’s Momofuku, The Drake Hotel and Auberge du Pommier. The duo certainly wows.
For our final feast we let the Chef know we needed him to be gentle with his offerings as we didn’t want to explode. Who actually eats three massive restaurant meals in a day? MJ and I both commented on how amazed we were that we still had an appetite. That day we relied on the noble Virtue’s of perseverance, professionalism and pacing.
Every dish that Chef Rob whisked under our noses was sensational. He does a great job at using fresh local ingredients while playing around with molecular gastronomy. He started us off with a beet tartare which we chased with a delicate “olive yolk,” which caused our eyes to bulge with delight. It’s charming when food makes you laugh. Tequila ceviche cones offered a sublime citrus kick with creamy avocado. The tomato and goat cheese salad is full of its own surprises that I dare not give away (but please do flip through my photos for the big reveal). Grilled B.C. spot prawns remind us what fresh out of the ocean should taste like while a pan seared rainbow trout humbly steams over a rich potato-truffle emulsion.
The final bite of our King West restaurant marathon of a feasting day featured chocolate fudge with candied walnuts and a “roll your eyes into the back fo your head until your skull cracks,” white chocolate truffle.
Blue Mountain, Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley
Thomas Lavers Dark and Stormy
gosling’s dark rum, draught ginger beer, lime
carrot, celeriac, mint, capers, mustard seed, black olive “yolk”
Tequila Ceviche Cones
organic corn tortillas, daily ceviche, avocado, cilantro, finger lime caviar, tokiko, chilli, tequila
Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad
ontario heirloom “tomato” black olive crumble, fresh herb and lemon goat cheese, grilled sourdough
Asparagus, Spiced Quinoa and Citrus Salad
marcona almonds, preserved lemon, grapefruit, orange, roasted red pepper, cherry tomato, red onion, chive, hazelnut oil, arugula
Grilled B.C. Spot Prawns
roasted red pepper sauce, tomato and grapefruit
Pan Seared Rainbow Trout
basil gnocchi, potato-truffle emulsion, snap peas, macrona almonds, basil sprouts
A Sweet Finish
chocolate fudge with candied walnuts, white chocolate truffle