Cover photo by Lisa Ray

Defeated by meat

Last night we tried the hot new place in our ‘hood: The Carbon Bar. We’d had plans to do so just before the new year but one of our party wasn’t feeling up to it. Turns out the same thing could have (should have, maybe…Nellie was already feeling sick by mid-afternoon) happened last night, but we were determined to finally try this place. We met our friends JP & Sue for an early dinner.

First: the space is amazing. Crazily high ceilings, warehouse-sized floor plate, and little hints of the building’s past lives — Electric Circus writ in neon, Disney figurines, glowing Baby Blue signs, etc. It’s an impressive place, no doubt.

The place has built its reputation on meat. Well, among foodies anyway; it’s also become something of a hot spot for clubby types, but David Lee’s grilling has attracted people — like us — looking for his take on southern bbq. And man, did we get some of that. Here’s what we ploughed through:


  • Crisp chicken skins w/ sweet chilli vinegar
  • Cabrito Papusa (goat-stuffed masa tortilla, tomatillo salsa, guajillo date jus)
  • Charred sea scallops w/ brisket espuma, dill pickle, parsley, rye caraway croutons, mustard, horseradish


  • Pit master platter: pork ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork ssäm, jalapeño sausage, roasted turkey, pork crackling


  • “Hot Mess”: sweet potato, cheese curds, crema, pickled jalapeño, chopped brisket
  • Pork & beans
  • CB slaw

Beer (mostly; Nellie drank wine and JP tried to order a Mill Street IPA but was handed a Tankhouse)

The starters and sides were good. The platter of meat, however, was spectacular…there wasn’t a single thing on there that wasn’t amazing (well, maybe the pulled pork, but it was still damned good). The brisket might have been the best we’d ever tried, and I would have eaten a pound of that sausage. Unfortunately Nellie had gone from feeling poorly to almost passing out during the meal, so she couldn’t really partake. Given that, despite looks of longing from JP and I, we didn’t even try to finish it. Half of what was left is in my fridge right now, just waiting for me to eat it. Anyway, we had to cut the night short because Nellie needed to get to bed, but it was a pretty impressive first visit. We’ll definitely be going back.


Cover photo by Lisa Ray (yes, that Lisa Ray…she was there last night too)

Note well

Friday night I thanked Nellie for putting up with four years of MBA nonsense by taking her to dinner at Nota Bene (not that a meal should cover it, but she’s easily bought off). It was our first time, and we were anxious to try it to feel the contrast with David Lee’s other restaurant Splendido. Which we loved. Duh.

We arrived early to have a drink at the bar. Best way to start the night off right for patrons: make their first drinks big ones. My Oban on the rocks was enough for two, and Nellie’s glass of Cabernet Franc was a solid one. Just as we were wondering if we should check in for our table, a server collected us and brought us into the main room. Both it and the bar are really quite nice, a good mix of polish and vibrancy.

Before I get to the food, I have to mention the service. At Splendido the service is as much part of the meal as the food, and they take care of you in every way possible. Nota Bene was slightly different: while the service was still excellent, it seemed like they were trying to remain as unobtrusive as possible, and let the food speak for itself. Servers, the sommelier, plate runners…we must have had a dozen different people come by the table, and never for more than a few seconds. If someone saw our wine glasses were half empty, they’d stop and pour, even if they’d never been to our table. The sommelier picked up my card and brought it to the station. It never felt rushed (the meal was 2.5 hours; how could it?), just efficient. It’s a tough balance to strike, but I appreciated it.

Now then, the food: I had the mozzarella di bufala w/ sundried tomato, grilled radicchio & olive oil to start; the grilled rock cornish hen w/ rosemary, lemon & bacon; and the flourless chocolate fudge cake w/ dulce de leche ice cream for dessert. Nellie had the mafalda pasta w/ truffle-scented mushroom bolognese to start; the mediterranean sea bass w/ forest mushrooms, potato gnocchi & basil pesto; and the small cheese plate (and Tawny port) for dessert. Well, she thought it would be small, but they brought three fairly large hunks of cheese for her enjoyment. One was roquefort, one beemster extra old and the other was…well, she can’t remember, but she seemed happy with it. This whole affair (after my initial glass of Okanagan Meritage and Nellie’s glass of Prosecco) was washed down with a bottle of 2007 Tenuta Maiolo Campania Lugana, a recommendation from the sommelier, and one that worked quite well.

The food was, as expected, exquisite. I can’t speak for Nellie, but my appetizer was delicious, my main was perfectly sized and seasoned (bacon + green beans…who knew that combination worked?!?) and my dessert was absurd. All things considered — food, service and the relatively low cost compared to similar dining experiences I’ve had elsewhere — it was a fantastic meal, one I’d like to repeat.