Thursday, October 6, 2011


Another unreasonably unseasonable wet & windy Friday evening in Toronto saw us buffeted back & forth along Spadina as we ran a few errands before stumbling into Marben like a pair of rain soaked yuppie soldiers back from the front line of the class war being waged deep in the bowels of the Eaton Center right by the MTO kiosk where J had to renew her sticker for another year.

When we arrived they warned us that we could only keep our table until 9:30. Given that it was barely 7 o'clock, we dismissed their pronouncement with an airy wave of the proverbial hand, two & a half hours seeming like more than enough time to take a couple of pics, stuff our faces & think of a few unnecessarily pretentious half baked allusions. Not having dined at Marben before we were unaware of the unhurried to the point of Zen nature of their service.

As you can see, almost everything on the menu bears the name of its creator; Denise's Beef, John's Burger etc, an affectation approximately as "charming" as the baby pictures of the staff which festoon their website. In retrospect, we may have had more luck had we had a two year old bringing us our drinks, as L ordered (let's just call her) Bertha's Gin & Juice but ended up with Edna's Vodka & Prosecco or something or other. Thankfully J's nameless blueberry lemonade arrived intact, & let's just be totally honest here, both were absolutely delicious. The lengthy gaps while we waited did allow us to ponder the logic of naming the dishes after their respective authors, after all, who is the true progenitor of Rodney's Oysters? Can Rodney really claim the credit, or does the buck stop with God for filling the ocean with oysters in the first place? Obviously a menu promising God's Oysters is going to have its work cut out managing expectations, & now we think about it, Allah's (praise be to him)  Pork Loin probably isn't going to fly either.

After nibbling on some bread accompanied with a mysteriously soy like oil & balsamic, our shared appetizer of pulled pork fritters arrived. So sumptuous were these fritters that a powerful rush of pure piggy goodness went straight to our collective cerebral cortex & rendered us incapable of describing them without resorting to cliche, so let us just say the pork was fantastically melt in the mouth succulent & the chipotle aioli had quite the kick. Although neither of them said it aloud, both L & J, as they glowered at each other like Spassky & Fischer in Reykjavik, were thinking the same thing: how much better a world this would be if they had this incredible dish all to themselves.

This misguided Commie pinko compulsion to share lunacy continued with the mains where we went with Dianne's roast beef, Giggie's white fish, & bastard gnocchi & roasted fingerling potatoes with Rosemary (the herb, not a person, presumably) sheeps' cheese. After a long wait, the waitress reconfirming our order, another long wait, the couple next to us getting our food, our food being whisked away again, followed by another long wait, it finally arrived. Obviously the food is going to have to be pretty spectacular to make up for such shenanigans, but once again, as much fun as it is to have a good bitch, everything so was so wonderfully flavorful, that neither of us gave one of Cassandra's flying figs about the service. In fact, it's only now that the glorious memories of the brown butter hollandaise, crispy brussel sprouts & heavenly whitefish have begun to fade slightly that we feel able to even broach the subject of the poor service, & we still feel a little bad for doing so, like the victims of some gastronomical Stockholm syndrome. 

We just about had time to squeeze in desert before our 9:30 curfew. We shared an ice cream sandwich & in a cruel twist of fate it was vastly inferior to everything else we had ordered, & yet there was so much of it that sharing was a necessity rather than an annoyance. It was perfectly pleasant in a self consciously post modern way, but after the dizzying highs of the rest of the meal it felt like a crashing return to earth, like watching a reformed Televison play a concert & when the crowd calls them back for an encore, Franz Ferdinand come on & play Marquee Moon.

Overall? We'll be back, definitely for brunch. Probably for dinner too. Oh who are we kidding Marben you cruel master, you treat us so bad, & we love you for it!

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