Cocktails at Carben Food + Drink
Carben Food + Drink
Weekend Brunch at Carben Food + Drink
Carben Food + Drink
Foods from Carben Food + Drink

2018 Jul 9
I was here a few weeks ago with my girlfriend on a Friday. It was surprisingly quite slow, though we did go a bit late (8pm).

All and all the menu was fairly typical for a higher end restaurant. I enjoyed steak, she scallops. Both were great. The real star though was the vegetarian pie. It was a main, but they were nice enough to serve as a shared app. It was amazing. Some pureed sweet potato, a jelly of some sort. It was fantastic.

All and all a nice meal and wouldn't be in a rush to return, but can't go wrong here. Attentive service and a dynamite dark and stormy.

2015 Dec 9
We visited for dinner this past Saturday and had a great time! Although we had reserved conveniently with OpenTable, we received a confirmation call from the restaurant on Saturday afternoon. Wonder if we would have lost our table if we hadn't confirmed (a la Montreal's Joe Beef)? As a side note, the OpenTable app should really pop up a confirmation...

This long narrow restaurant is airy and can get quite loud. While chatting happily about the meal, my wife and I had to repeat ourselves several times. Then again, when you've been married as long as we have everything is a repeat anyway. :D

To the food! Our server pointed out an invisible line on the menu that separated starters from mains. We memorized its location and each selected one dish from above and one from below.

Appetizers (top row in pic):
Wood Ear Mushrooms ($16) - baby bok choy, eryngii, miso glaze, turmeric aioli, edamame, shiso - Spectacular!
Veal Sweetbreads ($16) - spiced parsley apple gel, red cabbage purée, sherry vinegar, puffed rice granola, parsnip - Tasty, prominent black pepper, quite chewy.

Mains (middle row in pic):
Lamb Rump ($26) - cauliflower espuma, bok choy, heirloom carrot, marinated Brussels sprouts, panisse - Amazing!
Short Rib ($25) - espresso celeriac purée, red pepper gel, pearl onion, sun chokes, leeks, smoked potatoes, jus - Very good, although the pearl onions were so sharp that we could still taste them after dessert.

Desserts (bottom row in pic):
Apples in Paradise ($10) - apple rose almond tartlette, rum raisin ice cream, white chocolate cremeux, mango pastry cream, spiced apple jelly, red delicious apple, shoyu caramel, mango paper, sesame brittle
The Orange Carrot ($11) - Swiss carrot cake, guava splash, vanilla cream cheese icing cloud, orange blossom water, guava jelly cubes, cinnamon feuilletine, Asian pear and thyme sorbet, carrot lace tuile
Both were excellent!

As you can see, prices are not low, but they aren't out of line considering the complexity and expertise evident in these plates. These are complex plates, both in their assembly and in their flavour profiles. If you enjoy Atelier and MeNa, you will like this place too. My only strange observation on our four appetizers and mains is that I found them all to be surprisingly chewy. In the case of the seared sweetbreads the slight stringiness was a little bit off putting, but with the lamb the chewiness was just awesome -- I was actually a little sad when the chewing was over. Great flavour!

The desserts were really special. Very much worth ordering!

My ideal meal from this particular menu would be the mushroom appetizer, the lamb main, and the carrot dessert.

Awesome place! Highly recommended.

2015 Nov 8
Apparently they've been slammed after back-to-back gushing reviews from Anne Desbrisays and Peter Hum, and deservedly so-- from my experience in Ottawa, Carben's is some real next-level stuff in both taste and aesthetic.

I'm not much into fish, so menu options were actually a touch limited-- but I was happy to go with the duck, which was as good as any I've ever had, likely better (though it's not a common order of mine).

The presentation was amazing-- slices of duck were served on five or so beds made up of mostly quinoa and radish, with a pineapple gel for dipping and greens and nuts around the rest of the plate.

Also saw the sturgeon, scallops, char and gazpacho (or something similar) plated-- the gazpacho came in a large bowl with a cracker raft balanced on the rim-- and everyone was wowed all around. I started with the miso-glazed mushrooms, which were actually unbelievable-- texture was perfect, and there was a turmeric aioli on the plate for dipping that had excellent flavour.

This place is one of the reasons I love Ottawa-- the flavour, presentation and style of the place is top class, but it's kind of tucked away as an island in an unassuming spot, and with no pretension. Everything was as fun to look at as it was delicious to eat, and we'll head back there soon for a more-than-nice night out.

2015 Aug 15
Went here for dinner after the positive review from Anne Debraisay in Ottawa Magazine.

Overall, very impressed.

We were well looked after by a friendly staff. Cocktail menu is interesting and both drinks we tried, Vahdo (sp?) and Paddington, were quite good. Wine list is a bit on the short side, you get the impression they would rather you go with the mixed drinks. Handful of good local beer available on tap and by bottle.

Dishes were generally very good. Wife won the ordering game, picking the mushroom starter and sirloin main. Both were delicious and generous.

I had the salmon carpaccio starter. The salmon was tasty, as was a really light avocado mousse. Roe gave the dish, for me, a bit of an unwelcome fishiness, but that's probably personal preference. Lamb main was also nice, reminding me (in a good way) of a donair... a fine dining donair. Deserts were well done.

Style is very much focussed on lots of techniques to deliver a range of tastes and textures on every plate. All together, this worked on each dish we tried. However, there can be a bit much sometimes and it becomes hard to fit all the pieces on your fork! Looking forward to seeing this place evolve. We'll be back.

2015 Jul 3
I walked by and was curious to check out the new place. I tried their salad, it had a fun molecular spin and tasty:)


2015 Dec 9
The small but excellent cocktail list consists of a good selection of classic cocktails and a handful of tasteful modern/hipster concoctions.

I had the Vahdo ($12, foreground in pic) - Buffalo Trace bourbon, brown sugar syrup, Earl Grey tea, black pepper. This was an excellent start to the meal!

My wife's classic Pisco Sour ($11) was equally well received.

Buffalo Trace is my favourite bourbon and I'm partial to classic cocktails featuring gin and whisky, so the Carben cocktail list is top notch in my books.

2015 Sep 12
At 10:30am on a rainy September Saturday we were the only brunchers in this fresh and comfortable space. Three or four more tables trickled in over the next hour while we were there. Ottawa has a lot of brunch options these days, but Carben is certainly one of the better ones.

My Burger ($18) was impossibly tall, with a gorgeous bun, thick and flavourful beef cooked medium well, pork belly, fried egg, pickled cucumer relish, on a bed of crispy fries. I say it was impossibly tall because I really don't see how anyone could eat this using the closed-sandwich method. I hacked away at it with knife and fork, causing the egg yolk to run over the wonderful fries. Really good!

My wife had the Eggs Benedict ($14) on house-made English muffin, with bacon, slow-poached eggs, creme-fraiche Hollandaise, and a couple of addictively crisp yet fluffy potato cakes. I tasted some of this and it was very good.

We both found our dishes to be a little on the salty side. Not so much to be a major problem, but enough that we mentioned it to each other. Generally speaking, we both enjoy salt in our food.

Given the great brunch experience we're looking forward to visiting again for dinner!