After a year and a half of renovations, the Carbon Bar (@TheCarbonBar) finally opened on Queen East in December. Serving up Southern-inspired fare, this new restaurant is brought to you by the Nota Bene team – Yannick Bigourdan, David Lee and Franco Prevedello.
The restaurant, located at Queen and Church, occupies a gorgeous space with sky-high ceilings that span two stories. The space features a bar area near the front of the restaurant and a dining room with dark red booths and modern spherical lighting that hangs from the ceilings.
It had been a long week for all of us so drinks were a must:
The Alibi – tequila, chartreuse, lemon, buckthorn guajillo chili syrup ($16). While I enjoyed it, I was expecting a bit more heat from the chili syrup but I guess it’s not a very spicy chili pepper.
The Deal Closer – tequila, Campari, cardamom grapefruit bitters & ginger beer ($14). Mike said it sounded better on paper and wished that the ingredients were more pronounced – without knowing what was in it, he would never have guessed there was ginger beer, campari or cardamom grapefruit bitters.
The Heart of Gold – bourbon, port, Martini Bianco, Chartreuse & orange bitters ($14). I didn’t have any of this one but our friend ordered a second one so it must’ve been good.
Carbon Bar’s food menu consists of several sections – “First Up” (appetizers including indulgent high-calorie items as well as lighter options such as sea scallops and hamachi tartare), “From the Wood Fire Pit”, “The Plates” (non-BBQ items) and “Fixins” (sides).
We started off with two orders of the Crisp Chicken Skins – with sweet chili vinegar ($6 per order). Since there were five of us, our server recommended getting two orders. When it first arrived, we inquired about our second order but it turns out, one order only comes with two chicken skins. They were incredibly thin, crispy and definitely tasty but I found the price a little too steep for the portion size.
With all the meat-heavy dishes that were coming our way, we wanted something on the lighter side and chose the Raw Salad – avocado, pear, radish, shaved coconut, corn nuts, coriander & lime vinaigrette ($12). The plate was beautiful with a wonderful combination of colours and shapes.
I loved the crispy and crunchy elements in the dish but wished there was more of the creamy avocado for some contrast. The dressing was quite tart so I’d only recommend ordering this if you’re a fan of sour flavours.
The kitchen brought out some complimentary Split Pea Fritters – with pico de gallo. They made for a great bar snack but the thing that stood out the most for me was the side of delicious pico de gallo.
Another complimentary item we received was the Cheese Croquettes – with apple-chipotle sauce. These deep-fried nuggets of gooey cheese were well-fried with a crisp exterior which wasn’t too greasy. Just be careful when biting into them as they’re served piping hot!
You can’t come to the Carbon Bar without ordering something from the wood fire pit. Since we wanted to try as many items as possible, we ordered the Pit Master Platter – ribs, beef brisket, jalapeno sausage & pulled pork ($29 per person; minimum of two people). The platter pictured below was for two people. Like the chicken skins, I was a little shocked at the portion size…it’s not a lot of food for almost $60!
Anyway, if I had to choose, my favourite component was the brisket which had a nice fattiness to it. But was it some of the best I’ve ever had? No. The pulled pork was served dry with sauce on the side for dipping. It was decent by nothing particularly memorable. As for the ribs, they definitely weren’t fall-off-the-bone tender (which I typically prefer) and I found them a touch too salty. Like the pulled pork, the ribs were served with the sauce on the side which I found a little too tangy for my liking.
We noticed that the Goat Ribs ($18) are only available on Fridays and since we were dining on a Friday, we couldn’t pass them up. The dish came with several ribs as well as a small tenderloin. The ribs themselves were quite small and didn’t have a ton of meat on the bones. Nevertheless, the goat was incredible – tender and wonderfully fatty. I liked the fact that it wasn’t covered in any sauce as it allowed the flavour of the meat to shine (they had a gamey flavour which reminded me of lamb). This was definitely my favourite dish of the evening.
In addition to the wood pit items, we ordered the TCB Burger – pork cheek, havarti, pickles, mustard & fries ($19). The juicy patty was cooked perfectly and the combination of it with the havarti cheese made it one solid burger. The bun was also quite nice as it held up well against the juicy patty.
A non-meat entrée we ordered was the Blackened Sea Bass – yucca, chili lime, coriander & tomatillo chutney ($22). I only had a small bite of this and didn’t find it to be anything special but the rest of the table seemed to enjoy it more than I did.
As far as fixins go, we ordered the “Hot Mess” – sweet potato, cheese curds, crema, pickled jalapeno & chopped brisket ($11). C’mon, with ingredients like this, it couldn’t possibly be bad. The Hot Mess was essentially a loaded baked potato but with sweet potato instead. It was a pretty darn good (but heavy) side.
To end off the meal, we ordered a few desserts to share. The first dessert we shared was the Carbon Chocolate Bar – bitter chocolate, pecan ganache, bourbon caramel ($3 each). As advertised on the menu, these little bites were “just a taste” and a nice way to finish off the meal if you’re stuffed but still want to end off with something sweet.
Up next was the Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream – rice pudding, barberries, wild blueberries, candied sunflower and pumpkin seeds, spiked eggnog ($9). The ice cream had a very intense pumpkin flavour and while the rice pudding wasn’t mind-blowing, I enjoyed the bits of candied sunflower that were sprinkled over it.
The last dessert we tried was the Banana Toffee Cream Pie ($16 for two people). The pie consisted of chunks of bananas and a generous amount of cream sitting on top of a nice pie crust. Even though we didn’t detect any toffee, the table still enjoyed this dish.
So, there were some memorable dishes but there were also some misses for me. I also found the prices to be on the high side, especially for the portion sizes. Overall, it was a good meal but not amazing.
At a glance:
• Southern-inspired fare/bbq brought to you by the Nota Bene team
• Gorgeous space located on Queen East (at Church)
• Open for dinner (until late) Mondays to Saturdays; closed Sundays
• Prices are on the high side, especially for the portion sizes
• Loved the goat ribs which are only available on Fridays
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 3.5 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars