On a very, very cold winter night, I decided to go check out this restaurant called Marben on Wellington Street that a friend had recommended to me a few days prior. It’s not situated in a place where you would think most fine dining restaurants in Toronto would be as its building complex is within a residential area surrounded by apartment complexes and a few small local businesses. There is also street parking and a public parking lot that is almost right across the restaurant so if you are getting here by car, finding a spot to park should not be a problem at all.
When I stepped inside the restaurant, the host immediately asked if I made a reservation. I unfortunately did not for my party of two as this was a very last minute decision to come here and he actually told me after that they were fully booked for the night. At this point, I thought we were out of luck and would need to come back on a different day, however he very quickly said that there were two seats available at the Chef’s table and asked if we were ok with sitting there. And our answer? Of course! We were immediately seated at the Chef’s table within 15 seconds of walking into the restaurant with no reservation so there was no wait time for us at all. The Chef’s table is where you sit directly in front of the kitchen overlooking the chefs cooking and plating your food right in front of your eyes. You are basically a fly on the wall if you ever wondered what went on behind the closed doors of a very busy restaurant kitchen. You can even hear the expediter call out the customer’s orders as they come into the kitchen one by one. It was fun to see.
After a few minutes of settling down at our seats and looking at the menu, one of the chefs came by our table to introduce himself and we had a great little conversation on just how cold outside it was that night. We asked him if he had any recommendations on the menu and he responded with “Everything is good here. We cook everything here with love.” We would soon find out if that was going to be true or not.
He asked us as well if it was our first time eating at Marben in which we responded back saying it was. After saying that, to our surprise he went back to the kitchen and grabbed us an appetizer saying it was on the house! We were not expecting this at all, but was certainly most appreciative of it. Now I’m not sure if this is only for newcomers or just for the chef’s table because the two people sitting beside us at the chef’s table also received the same dish on the house, but either way by doing so made our first impression of the restaurant and service a very good one.
The free appetizer given to us was the Tequila Ceviche Cones and normally would cost $12 on the menu (however I believe you get 3 or 4 cones with that order). Now I was actually going to order this myself so I was very happy when I got it for free. As you can probably imagine after looking at the picture below, it tastes like a spring roll with my most favourite aspect of it being the avocado inside. The cone was extremely crisp and crunchy on the outside and all the ingredients inside was very fresh and mixed well together. I was yearning for more of it when this dish was finished.
Filled with Avacado, Tobiko, Cilantro, and Jalapeno - Cost FREE!
The actual appetizer we ordered and paid for was the Lobster Paella ‘Croquetas.’ It comes with 3 “croquetas,” but we paid an extra $4 to get a 4th one between the two of us. Whereas the first appetizer was extremely light, this appetizer was much heavier to eat. A croquetas is a small bread-crumbed fried food roll containing some sort of main ingredient inside. In this case it was lobster. It comes with a paprika aioli dipping sauce that is yellow in colour, almost mustard looking. The size of each croquetas was consistent and the lobster was well cooked inside. My only critique with this dish is without that extra spice from the sauce, if you were to just eat the lobster croqueta alone it would taste just a little bland inside. Be that as it may, when paired together with the sauce, this appetizer is a solid one especially for the price you are paying for to eat lobster.
Lobster, Saffron, Paprika Aioli - Cost $11
My main course I ordered was the Smoked Risotto with Seared Scallops. The presentation of the dish was very well executed and very clean. At first the dish does seem very small as the risotto does not fill up the entire plate, but after each bite I took I realized how it was a good portion size as it did make me full quite quickly. The risotto was rich and creamy and the two scallops had a nice sear to it on the top. Since the risotto and scallops have a pretty neutral colour to it, I loved how the garnishes like the greens and seabuckthorn adds a pop of colour to the dish.
Chorizo, Seabuckthorn, and Hazelnut - Cost $23
To finish off my meal, I opted to get the Dulce de Leche, Panna Cotta for dessert. My eyes were drawn into this dessert because one of the main ingredients in this panna cotta is apple, and I personally love apples in my desserts. The apple flavour in this is subtle though so don’t expect an apple explosion inside your mouth when you eat it. The panna cotta is very smooth and although the berries don’t really elevate the dish much, it adds a nice touch to its presentation.
Apple Petals, Apple Butterscotch - Cost $8
Marben is a hidden gem just slightly off the beaten path in the heart of downtown Toronto. The food is delicious and scrumptious while the restaurant decor and atmosphere is inviting and down to earth. The waitress we had was on point the entire night in re-filling our empty glasses of water as she was very attentive to see when it was empty and filled it right back up without ever having to ask. Marben already left a great impression on me after being seated at the chef’s table along with the free appetizer, but the most important thing I’ve come to a conclusion to is that I completely agree with what the chef said to me in the beginning. Everything here is cooked with love.
(416) 979 1990
Hours: Monday (Closed); Tuesday, Wednesday & Sunday (5pm to 11pm); Thursday, Friday & Saturday (5pm to 1am)
The Everyday Foodie Report Card
Overall: 99% Everyday Foodie Satisfaction