After weeks of back and forth conversations on Twitter, Foodie Parent’s Night Out had finally arrived. Joined by a few other parents, we followed our culinary noses all the way down to Queen and Church to dine at the much buzzed about The Carbon Bar.
Where to Eat in Toronto: The Making of The Carbon Bar
Toronto’s The Carbon Bar opened in December of 2013 and is the mastermind of chef David Lee, Yannick Bigordan, and Franco Prevedello – the team behind Nota Bene. The space cost 3 million dollars and took one-and-a-half years renovate. A bright neon sign adorning the wall is a relic from the building’s not to distant past. In the late 1980s it was the home of Citytv’s Electric Circus. Previous to that, it was a rehearsal space for a Disney cruise line. Today a collection of Disney figurines pays homage to the days of yesteryear.
Moving on to the present, at night, The Carbon Bar is dark and has all the grittiness that you’d expect to see at a trendy Brooklyn nightclub. The music is live (as in it’s current) and the people inside are well-heeled and beautiful. Think: Downtown Bay Street Boys looking to wind down with some beautiful Uptown Girls.
Exposed brick walls are visible throughout and sunken leather booths give the space a contemporary bistro feel. If you look up you’ll notice spherical lighting descending from the ceiling. And at the back, there is a staircase leading to a private dining area on the second floor.
The menu is contemporary American strongly influenced by the cuisines of Latin America and the Deep South.
Chef David Lee makes a bold move by messing with grits. Order the Wild Mushroom ‘n’ Grits ($19) and you’ll see and taste what I mean. The grits are refined down to a nano-like granular level and smoothed out to a creamy texture. Our table enjoyed this innovative concoction.
Kale seems to be the veggie du jour and it didn’t disappoint when it was showcased in TCB Caesar ($11). By pairing the salad with fried tongue, chances are you’ll probably never look at Caesar salad the same way again.
The Pit Master Platter is an assortment of wood-fired pork ribs, sausages, buttermilk fried chicken and pickles ($27). The Carbon Bar’s ribs and brisket are dry rubbed with sea salt and black pepper and the smoke of white oak and cherry wood enhances the flavours of this carnivore-friendly platter. Honourable mention: the espresso dipping sauce is a flavourful take on BBQ sauce.
Octopus & Lobster Gumbo ($23) is a hallmark of the Deep South. Here, the okra is well cooked and the balanced texture and seasoning of the octopus and lobster creates a pleasant seafood dining experience.
While the Hamachi ($14) is very good, you’ll be wondering why it’s on the menu as it seems out of place thematically.
Dessert options at The Carbon Bar are limited, but what is available is delicious. The bitter chocolate, pecan ganache, bourbon caramel bar is perfect if you’re looking to cap the night off with a sweetener. However, the Banana Toffee Cream Pie ($16) on its own is lovely but it’s a little too rich to be followed by a meat-laden meal.
The alcohol menu includes what is expected at a typical downtown restaurant. Plus, the wine and beer list heavily favours American labels. A must-try is the Risk and Reward, a smooth, intoxicating blend of Kraken spiced rum, Aperol, Amaro Montenegro and bitters ($14).
A normal couple can get away with spending $150, including tax and tip. Seeing as my friends and I were here to gorge our foodie fest set us back $100 per person.
The Carbon Bar is a great environment that can provide some wonderful surprises for the palate. The wallet may take a beating, but the experience is worth it.